Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Merritt Centennials
When: December 18, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail
The Smoke Eaters close out the 2012 portion of this season’s schedule with another big Interior division matchup against the Merritt Centennials. Two days after a disappointing home loss against Nanaimo, Trail will surely be cognisant of the fact that nothing less than a full sixty-minute effort will get the job done tonight, and that a win over the Centennials would allow the club to end the year on a positive note ahead of a near three-week break between games.
Riley McDougall scored the lone goal for the Smokies Sunday. It was the Calgary product’s first tally since returning to Trail. McDougall and fellow forward Connor Collett (who were teammates two seasons ago with AJHL Okotoks) have started to show chemistry and zip on a line with Adam Wheeldon, a combination that may well have been Trail’s best line on Sunday. Tonight will again require scoring by committee, but the Smokies will have to work against a stingy Merritt club that has conceded the second-fewest goals in the BCHL.
Last Meeting: Merritt has won all four meetings between the two clubs during this regular season, most recently a 3-1 decision November 10th in the Nicola Valley. Trail’s last win against the Cents came in November of 2011 on a game-winner from Marley Keca.
Our Opponent: Only Cowichan Valley has played fewer games (28) than Merritt’s 29 entering play tonight, but the surprising Centennials find themselves 3 points clear of West Kelowna for second in the Interior division. Shifty playmaker Regan Soquila leads the team with 30 points (21 of which are assists), while ex-Chilliwack sniper Derek Huisman is the only Merritt skater with more than nine goals (11). The Cents are built from the goal outward, with Tyler Steel not only carrying the load between the pipes, but doing so with a 2.67 GAA and .910 save percentage. Merritt’s defense has size; watch in particular super 17 year-olds Dylan Chanter (UNH commit) and former Smokies AP Dane Birks. The son of Trail’s head coach was named in the most recent NHL Central Scouting rankings for the 2013 Entry Draft.
In the Press Box: Defensemen Braeden Jones and Shane Poulsen, forwards Brent Baltus, Jesse Knowler and goaltender Adam Todd remain out for Trail. The Centennials do not have any listed injuries.
Broadcast Info: Tonight's show on FAST Hockey pay-per-view and Trail Smoke Eaters Ustream begins at 7:20, with play-by-play set for 7:30.