Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Coquitlam Express
When: December 1, 7:00 pm
Where: Poirier Sports & Leisure Centre, Coquitlam
The Smoke Eaters go in search of the season split against the Express on Teddy Bear Toss night in Coquitlam this evening. Trail will spend most of the day travelling from Powell River before hitting the ice in the Lower Mainland against an Express team that also lost last night, 4-2 to the Surrey Eagles.
The Smokies maybe deserved better in a 4-3 loss to Powell River. Again, the game came down to mistakes (two too-many-men penalties, one bad pinch and a handful of soft defensive zone clearances) and the Kings took advantage. No question Trail will again need to keep things simple in light of a short bench and a talented top six on the opposing side, but this club needs to remind themselves they can skate with any team in the BCHL, and not let recent results bog down team morale.
Garrett McMullen had a strong showing last night in Powell River with a goal and an assist, as his line with Scott Davidson and Brent Baltus combined for 6 points. 8 of the captain's 11 goals this season have come away from home.
It's also crucial for Trail to stay out of the penalty box tonight. The Smokies are 1-12-0-1 on the road when conceding a power-play goal (5-14-0-1 overall). After an early hiccup, the PK unit was good against the Kings, with the likes of Bennett Hambrook and Tyler Berkholtz again sacrificing their bodies with numerous blocks.
Last Meeting: The Express scored inside the opening two minutes, and Daniel Urbani shut the door on the Smokies in a 4-0 win October 12th in Trail. The Smoke Eaters' last visit to Coquitlam was in December of 2010, a 3-2 overtime victory thanks to a Ryan Aynsley winner.
Our Opponent: The Express have had injury troubles themselves this season, and come into play tonight three points back of Prince George for third in the Mainland division. Coquitlam is one of only three teams in the BCHL with a home record (5-7) below the .500 mark. Northern Michigan commit John Siemer (34 points) leads the Express in scoring, he has 6 points in two previous meetings with the Smokies while fellow forward Phil Zielonka has burst onto the BCHL stage with 12 goals in 14 games. Coquitlam shook their blueline up recently, picking up hulking defenseman Brad Ryan from Prince George in exchange for two players; Ryan was named first star on his Express debut too. Cole Huggins' .926 save percentage is nothing to sneeze at either, but the 20 year-old made way for rookie Urbani earlier this season when these two clubs collided at Cominco.
In the Press Box: Trail are without goaltender Adam Todd, defensemen Marley Keca, Braeden Jones and Shane Poulsen, and forwards Ryan Edwards, Jesse Knowler and Bryce Knapp. Keca serves the last of his three-game suspension tonight while Edwards is attending to a personal matter; the rest are injured. AP goaltender Cody Boeckman (KIJHL Nelson) will dress for a second consecutive game, as will defensemen Chandler Bruyckere (VIJHL Oceanside) and Matt Carr (KIJHL Fernie). Coquitlam's only listed injury is to forward Malcolm McKinney, though defensemen Cam Marks, Cal Hofford, and forward Alex Kerfoot all did not dress last night.
Broadcast Info: Tonight's game will be available on FAST Hockey pay-per-view, or listen live at Smokies Ustream. As mentioned on last night's broadcast following a 10-15 minute internet outage during the first intermission and early second period, we may well be switching free audio feeds, but that will not occur until next Thursday's game in Vernon at the earliest. By the way, the show starts at 6:50 tonight with puck drop at 7:00.