Sunday, October 14, 2012

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Centennials

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Merritt Centennials
When: October 14, 5:00 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

It’s the third meeting of the season between these two Interior rivals, with the Smokies entering play Sunday one point ahead of both Salmon Arm and Vernon for the final playoff spot in the division. Yes, it’s early, but the Smokies have played more games than each of their Interior opponent, so yes, it’s important to earn points, even in October.

The Smokies come into tonight’s game against Merritt in need of an offensive explosion. But despite having scored only 2 goals in their past three outings, Trail should feel relatively confident in their ability to produce offensive chances. The Smokies fired 39 shots at Coquitlam goaltender Daniel Urbani on Friday night.

One offensive facet that needs a jumpstart is the power-play. Trail has scored a league-low 4 man-advantage goals, and have not scored a power-play goal since the 3-0 shutout over Vernon on September 29th. On the flip side, the Smokies’ penalty-kill has been much more effective over the past half-dozen games, and after a horrendous start is creeping toward the 75 percent mark.

Despite the 4-0 setback Friday night against Coquitlam, Trail played relatively well, limiting the Express’ quality chances while enjoying extended periods of sustained pressure in the offensive zone. From my vantage point, it feels as though all this team needs is a goal or two to lift the whole team’s spirits and get back to the success enjoyed at the tail end of September.

Last Meeting: Despite scoring an early goal, Trail fell 6-2 in Merritt on September 15th thanks in part to a pair of goals from Dane Birks. The Cents lead the season series 2-0.

Our Opponent: Merritt (6-3-1, 3rd Interior), snapped a two game losing streak last night with a 4-2 victory at home against Powell River. The hard-working Centennials are led up front by ex-Langley forward Sebastien Pare (who scored a hat-trick against Trail in an exhibition game this past August), and former 30-goal man Derek Huisman, who came to the Nicola Valley from Chilliwack last season. Goaltender Tyler Steel has carried the bulk of the load in goal for the Cents, he signed with Brown University earlier this month, becoming the third committed player (Birks and d-man Dylan Chanter the others) on Merritt’s roster.

In the Press Box: Both teams are without any listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: Watch tonight's game live on FASTHockey pay-per-view, or listen online at Smokies Ustream. Pre-game show gets underway at 4:55 with the opening faceoff set for 5:00.

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