Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Vees

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Penticton Vees
When: November 21, 7:00 pm
Where: South Okanagan Events Centre, Penticton

After a busy two days off the ice, the focus shifts to the South Okanagan Events Centre as Trail goes in search of a third straight victory tonight.

To a man, the Smokies know they'll need to at least match their effort in a 5-2 win Saturday to earn a second straight triumph over the Vees, and a first win in Penticton since the 2010-11 season. Trail raced out to a 4-0 lead in the first 23 minutes of Saturday's home win, improving their exemplary home record to 8-3.

Tonight's game should mark the full-time debut of new defenseman Bennett Hambrook, who was acquired from Salmon Arm yesterday. The ex-Silverbacks captain played 2 games with the Smokies as an AP during the 2009-10 season, and if social media is any indication, the Kimberley native is chomping at the bit to get into the lineup with his new team.

Trail could also welcome back Marley Keca tonight after the nineteen year-old missed the last three games with a slight knock. Keca was back on the ice at practice Monday and tells me he's feeling much better.

I figure Adam Todd has done just about everything he can to earn a second straight start between the pipes tonight. Todd made 36 saves in Saturday's win and now holds a 3-0 record in black and orange since being acquired from Alberni Valley last month. He gives the Smokies a much different look in goal than Lyndon Stanwood and after a shaky start to life with Trail seems to be getting ever more confident with each save.

The Smokies must be mindful of discipline tonight. Trail has only won once on the road this season when surrendering a power-play goal, and have given up man-advantage markers in each of their last three games. I really liked the Smokies' commitment in the defensive zone last Saturday, but as the game wore on, the Vees' adjustments and tired legs (remember, Trail dressed only five defensemen) led to increased Penticton chances.

In all, the Smoke Eaters should be at their peak, confidence-wise, heading into tonight's game. After a first 16 games that saw this club hold 2-5 and 5-11 records, the fact that a win tonight would move Trail to within 1 point of second place in the Interior division is nothing short of remarkable.

Last Meeting: Trail scored three times in the opening 8:35 en route to a 5-2 win Saturday. Connor Collett scored the eventual game-winner on a rebound. The season series is tied 1-1 and after tonight's game, these two teams will not meet again until February 23rd, 2013.

Our Opponent: Penticton has dropped 5 of their last 7 games, but possess one of the most skilled lineups in the BCHL. Recent additions Brock Balson and Sean Flanagan (both from Salmon Arm) will only further perpetuate that notion. Calgary Flames rookie camp attendee Wade Murphy is Penticton's scoring leader (29 points) sitting only two points back of the Warriors' Marcus Basara for the league lead. He's also riding a 17-game point streak. Brad McClure leads Penticton in goals with 14. Penticton's mobile defense is led by Troy Stecher, who joins Trail's Shane Poulsen as co-defensive scoring leader (14 points each) for tonight's fixture. I wonder whether Nic Renyard will get another opportunity to show his stuff in goal tonight for Penticton. The rookie netminder has been quite good in both appearances he's made against Trail, and shut the door on the Smokies Saturday after coming on in relief of Chad Katunar.

In the Press Box: Trail remains without defenseman Braeden Jones and forward Bryce Knapp (both on IR). As mentioned, Keca could well return tonight. Penticton will again be without 13-goal man Michael Rebry.

Broadcast Info: Catch tonight's game on FASTHockey pay-per-view, or listen along live at Smoke Eaters Ustream. Tonight's pre-game show begins at 6:50, with the opening faceoff set for 7:00.

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