Friday, December 7, 2012

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Rivermen

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Langley Rivermen
When: December 7, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

A night after more overtime magic in the North Okanagan, the Smoke Eaters return home for the first time in two weeks to face a club they haven’t seen in almost a full calendar year. Garrett McMullen played hero last night, converting off a smart pass from Braden Pears 13 seconds into 3-on-3 extra time to lift Trail over Vernon 2-1. It was the Smokies’ 5th overtime win this season, and McMullen’s second OT goal.

Tonight, Trail will try for a third consecutive win against a Langley club that has the second fewest away victories (2) in the BCHL this season. It also marks the first chance for Smokies blueliner Valik Chichkin to face his old mates; he was acquired in late October for Tanner Clarkson, who was released by Langley last week after scoring only once in eight appearances.

This evening’s game also marks the beginning of a stretch of six contests that sees Trail play at home five times. If the Smokies are to keep in the Interior division race (they enter play tonight tied with Vernon for fourth with 27 points), it’s imperative they keep finding success at home. with 15 of the final 24 regular-season games slated for Cominco Arena, home ice might well become an advantage down the line.

Last Meeting: The Rivermen eked out a 5-4 win way back on January 29th at the Langley Events Centre. These two sides will meet again in Langley in late January of 2013.

Our Opponent: Langley have made several changes in recent weeks, including the signing of Castlegar defenseman Tanner Johnson at the December 1st deadline. The 17 year-old collected his first BCHL point last weekend. The Rivermen’s top five scorers are all committed to college, including 35-point man Mario Puskarich (Vermont) and Austin Azurdia (UConn), whose buzzer-beater early in the season was the talk of the hockey world for more than a week. Captain Thomas Nitsche (Colgate) anchors a big back end. 19 year-old James Barr has gotten the bulk of the work in goal ahead of Darren Hogg, who was a member of the Nelson Leafs two seasons ago.

In the Press Box: Defensemen Braeden Jones and Shane Poulsen, forward Bryce Knapp and goaltender Adam Todd remain out, while forward Jesse Knowler is questionable. Langley blueliner Aaron Dolby will miss out tonight.

Broadcast Info: Watch tonight's game on FAST Hockey pay-per-view or listen live at Smokies Ustream. Pregame coverage begins at 7:20 with the opening faceoff set for 7:30.

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