Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ West Kelowna Warriors
When: October 5, 7:00 PM
Where: Royal LePage Place, West Kelowna
For the fourth time in 15 days (and third straight Friday night), the Smokies and Warriors renew acquaintances as Trail kicks off a two-game swing through the Okanagan. The Smoke Eaters are flying high heading into tonight's game, having swept a three-game home stand thanks in part to some overtime magic from Tyler Berkholtz on Tuesday night.
The road, though, has been a different animal so far this season. Trail has collected only two points away from home this season (September 14th in Prince George), and have surrendered 22 goals in their last three away fixtures. You'd have to think, though, that having two wins against a tough Warriors side will serve as an additional shot in the arm for a club eager to change their approach away from Cominco Arena's friendly confines.
Lyndon Stanwood was Trail's best performer through the homestand, and needed to be. The 19 year-old has surrendered only 5 goals in 4 home-ice starts, and seemed more aggressive in the crease over the weekend and on Tuesday. Trail won all three games at home despite being outshot each time.
It was also nice to see Berkholtz rewarded for being the Smokies' most consistent skater to start the year. The 20 year-old leads by example by working hard in the corners and being physical, and for my money probably leads this forward group in blocked shots and faceoff percentage.
Last Meeting: Berkholtz's goal at 2:11 of overtime lifted Trail to a 3-2 victory over the Warriors Tuesday at home. Connor Collett had his best game in orange and black with a goal and an assist while Scott Davidson also scored. Brennan Clark and Marcus Basara had the Warrior goals. Trail leads the season series 2-1.
Our Opponent: No doubt West Kelowna will be licking their chops to get back at the Smoke Eaters tonight in their own rink. The Warriors enjoyed long spells of offensive possession Tuesday but couldn't solve Stanwood after Basara (with his third goal against Trail this year) put West K up 2-1 late in the first period. His line with David Pope and Seb Lloyd created chance after chance Tuesday (as did the top unit of Max French, Reid Simmonds and Brett McKinnon), and the Smokies know all too well the danger of allowing West Kelowna's skilled forwards extended shifts in the offensive zone. On the back end, watch for Josh Monk to log 25 or more minutes tonight. The 20 year-old was seemingly on the ice every other shift Tuesday and is a strong, physical puck-moving blueliner.
In the Press Box: The Smokies, for only the second game this season, do not have any listed injuries. To get down to numbers, Trail has had to part ways with 17 year-old forward Anthony Conti. The Vancouver product did not register a point during his time with the Smokies but has all the tools to be a physical forward in this league in years to come. Best of luck this season Anthony!
Broadcast Info: Catch tonight's game on FASTHockey pay-per-view, or listen live on Smoke Eaters Ustream. Pre-game is set for 6:55 with the opening faceoff at 7:00.