Sunday, September 30, 2012

Smoke Eaters 3 Kings 2

Jake Lucchini fires home his first BCHL goal during Sunday's second period (Randy Emery photo)

A last-minute winner from Brent Baltus helped the Smokies to their third home victory in as many tries, 3-2 over the Powell River Kings Sunday.

Baltus one-timed a hot pass from the right corner from linemate Scott Davidson for his second goal of the night, as Trail won for the second consecutive outing and for the first time at home against the Kings in five years.

Powell River opened the scoring 5:07 into the first period, as James Neil fired a puck past Lyndon Stanwood from the right circle. The Smokies would equalize before the opening frame was out, though, as Baltus ripped home a snapper from the slot on a nifty feed from Davidson to up his goal-scoring streak to three games.

Trail would score the only goal of the second period on a 2-on-1, as Connor Collett found rookie Jake Lucchini streaking down the right wing. The local product showed great patience, sliding the puck past Kings goaltender Jonah Imoo into the back of the net for his first goal in orange and black.

Powell River threw everything at the net in period three, and equalized at the 11:16 mark of the period as Jarryd Leung found the puck on his stick at the side of the goal after a point shot deflected multiple times on its way to the net. And while the Smokies were outchanced through the final twenty minutes, they managed to find the back of the net thanks to Baltus with 48.6 seconds left on the clock.

Despite having been shut out twice in a row, the short-handed Kings came to play today. Stanwood had to make 37 saves to record his fourth victory of the season, and the Kings got ever more tenacious in the offensive zone as time went on.

Baltus continues to impress for Trail. The 20 year-old put in a lot of work over the off-season, and seems not only more dangerous on the ice, but more savvy too. Aside from some tense moments in the third, the Smokies put in another strong performance Sunday, and after a less-than-stellar start to the three-game weekend, Trail can hold its heads high and take the momentum from two weekend wins into another big divisional matchup on Tuesday.

My Three Stars:
1. Brent Baltus, Trail
2. Jarryd Leung, Powell River
3. Scott Davidson, Trail
Up Next: Trail will try for its fourth straight home-ice win to start the season with another matchup with the West Kelowna Warriors on Tuesday. Puck drop is at 7:30.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Kings

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Powell River Kings
When: September 30, 3:00 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The Smokies go for a third straight home win this afternoon against an unfamiliar opponent in the Powell River Kings. Hot off the heels of last night's shutout victory over the Vernon Vipers, Trail is expected to again turn to goaltender Lyndon Stanwood against a Kings team that is looking to finish a tough road swing on a positive note.

Trail scored early, and defended well in last night's victory, getting first-period goals from Luke Sandler and Scott Davidson (for Davidson, his first in the BCHL). Stanwood made 33 saves to collect his first Junior "A" shutout while Brent Baltus also scored his second goal in as many games.

The Smokies will need to continue the strong special teams play this afternoon, too. Last night's game featured 13 power plays and not only did the home side score twice with the man-advantage, they also held Vernon off the scoresheet on each of their power-play opportunities.

Smokies captain, and former King Garrett McMullen should feature on the wing again today. A new-look partnership with Jesse Knowler and Austin Adduono paid off for head coach Bill Birks, as Trail's leading goal-getter repeatedly found space down the flanks and created several opportunities for himself off the rush.

Speaking of former Kings, new defenseman Braden Pears seems to be settling into his new environment nicely. The Victoria product was acquired from Coquitlam mid-week, and has recorded an assist in each of his two games as a Smoke Eater.

Last Meeting: These two teams haven't met since October 29, 2011 in Powell River, a game the Kings won 3-2 in overtime on a winner from Daniel Schuler.

Our Opponent: The four-time defending Coastal champs are looking to get back into the win column after a rough start to their three-day, three-game swing. Powell River has been shut out in each of its last two games, Friday night in Chilliwack (3-0) and yesterday in Penticton (4-0). Forwards J.P. Villeneuve and Matt Scarth have led the way offensively thus far for the Kings with 3 goals and 6 points each, while Boston College commit Evan Richardson is only a point off the pace despite having missed 4 of Powell River's 9 games. The Kings are solid between the pipes too, with both Jonah Imoo and former Kimberley Dynamiter Braeden Ostepchuk posting goals-against averages over .900.

In The Press Box
: Trail will be without forward Bryce Knapp who remains on the injured list, but clears tomorrow. Scarth, Richardson, and defenseman Jordan Paddock all missed out for Powell River in their loss last night to the Vees.

Broadcast Info
: Join me for all the action from Cominco Arena on FASTHockey pay-per-view, with your regular audio stream also running on the Smokies Ustream channel. The show begins at 2:55 with puck drop set for 3:00 PM.

Smoke Eaters 3 Vipers 0

Trail's Scott Davidson lifts his first BCHL goal over the shoulder of Vernon goaltender Joe Young (Randy Emery photo)

Talk about a turnaround.

The Smokies put together their most complete effort of the young season Saturday, scoring early and riding a red-hot goaltender to a 3-0 shutout win over the Vernon Vipers at Cominco Arena.

Lyndon Stanwood made 33 saves to collect his first-ever BCHL shutout, while Luke Sandler and Scott Davidson opened their Smoke Eaters accounts as Trail won for the second time in as many tries on home ice this regular season.

The Smoke Eaters opened the scoring just shy of the two-minute mark on a great solo effort by Chicago native Sandler. He drove the net from the right corner and outwaited Vernon goaltender Joe Young before tucking the puck into the left corner of the net.

A late first-period power-play would provide another net present. A sharp cross-ice feed from Garrett McMullen to Davidson wound up in the cage after the 17 year-old settled the puck, walked in, and lifted a shot over Young's shoulder for his first BCHL goal.

A scoreless second period would see Vernon's bench shortened through three separate ten-minute misconduct penalties, including one to captain Brett Corkey after he scrapped McMullen while defending defensive partner Marc Hetnik. And despite being run over midway through the period by Vernon forward Brendan Persley, Stanwood stayed strong in the Smoke Eater goal, making 13 middle-frame saves to keep the Vipers off the scoresheet.

After killing off a pair of early penalties, the Smokies would add insurance on the man-advantage late in the third. A Braden Pears point shot deflected off a Viper player to a waiting Brent Baltus at the side of the net. The 20 year-old tapped in his second goal in as many games, and Trail defeated the Vipers for the first time since November of 2010.

Defensively, the Smoke Eaters were very sound tonight. Vernon's best chance came midway through the second period, when Adam Tambellini struck the cross-bar after being left alone in the slot with the puck. Pears and fellow 19 year-old Marley Keca are proving to be valuable additions on the back end, each logging upwards of 25 minutes and keeping a steady influence on their younger teammates.

I continue to be impressed by the two-way play of Tyler Berkholtz, too. The overager was Trail's best face-off man on the night and recorded at least three key deflections on the PK as Trail improved to 10/11 while short-handed on home ice this year. McMullen seemed to have an extra gear, offensively too, after being shifted to the wing on a new-look line with Jesse Knowler and Austin Adduono.

Stanwood was, in a word steady. Like last Friday's performance against West Kelowna, he was sound positionally, and had excellent rebound control too. He wasn't forced into many tough saves, either.

My 3 Stars:
1. Lyndon Stanwood, Trail
2. Scott Davidson, Trail
3. Adam Tambellini, Vernon

Up Next: The Smokies wrap up the three-in-three weekend tomorrow afternoon against the Powell River Kings at Cominco Arena. Please note the game time of 3:00 PM.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Vipers

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Vernon Vipers
When: September 29, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

It's a new day for the Smoke Eaters as they prepare to welcome Vernon to the Cominco Arena for the first time this season. The three-game weekend did not start as planned last night in West Kelowna, as the Warriors scored early and often en route to a 9-2 rout at Royal LePage Place.

But with the memory of that loss still fresh in their minds, Trail will have no choice but to focus on the present tonight against a Vipers squad that has managed only two wins out of its first six games. The Smokies can take real encouragement out of the fact their best performance so far this year has come on home ice. It's a trend that will have to continue through the rest of the weekend with two high-powered opponents set to visit the Silver City.

The additions of Marley Keca and Braden Pears to the Smokies' back end will pay dividends for a club that has surrendered the second-most goals in the BCHL this season. The two have combined for over 240 games of BCHL experience, and Pears has taken part in two Fred Page Cup finals with Powell River in 2010 and 2011.

The line of Garrett McMullen, Brent Baltus and Scott Davidson continues to click along, too. McMullen and Baltus had the Smokies' lone goals last night: the pair have accounted for almost half of Trail's total goals this season.

Last Meeting: The Wesbild Centre again proved a tough building to win points for Trail last Saturday night. Colton Sparrow and Jedd Soleway each scored twice as the Vipers won 7-2.

Our Opponent: The Vipers come into tonight's game fresh off a defeat of their own, 5-2 at home last night against the Prince George Spruce Kings. Vernon sits two points up on Trail in fourth in the Interior divison, with 2 wins and 2 overtime points to show for their travels thus far. Cousins Adam Tambellini and Aaron Hadley have led the charge offensively so far with 7 and 6 points respectively (each had a goal in last weekend's matchup too). Castlegar's Ryan Renz has four assists from the back end so far this season and leads Vernon's blueliners in scoring. Former Swift Current Bronco Austin Smith has carried the mail so far between the pipes for Vernon, with Union College commit Joe Young having played only nine minutes so far this season.

In the Press Box: Trail remains without forward Bryce Knapp, who has been practicing with the team and is awaiting his removal from the 30-day injured list effective October 1st. Vernon's Mitch McAllister and Braedan Russell are both out injured.

Broadcast Info: Tonight's game is available on FASTHockey pay-per-view, you can also listen live on the Smokies Ustream channel. Tonight's broadcast gets underway at 7:25.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Warriors 9 Smoke Eaters 2

Max French and Brett McKinnon each had 4-point nights as West Kelowna struck early and often in a 9-2 win over the Smokies at Royal LePage Place.

The Warriors scored 4 times inside the first 8 minutes, shell-shocking the visitors and chasing Trail starter Braden Krogfoss before Garrett McMullen drew Trail back to within 3 before the opening frame was out.

West Kelowna would tack on two more in period two, outshooting the Smokies 29-8 in the process.

Period three saw much the same, as the Warriors tallied three times (twice on power-plays) before Brent Baltus rounded out the scoring with less than five minutes left.

Tyler Briggs made 12 saves on his return from injury, while Lyndon Stanwood made several big saves in the Trail goal in relief.

In all, it was the type of game this team needs to forget, especially in light of a busy weekend still yet to come that will demand much more if Trail is to find success.

My 3 Stars:
1. Max French, West Kelowna
2. Brett McKinnon, West Kelowna
3. Ambrose Firkus, West Kelowna

Up Next: Trail returns home to face the Vernon Vipers Saturday at Cominco Arena. Game time is 7:30.

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Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Warriors

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ West Kelowna Warriors
When: September 28, 7:00 PM
Where: Royal LePage Place, West Kelowna

A busy stretch of four games in five days begins tonight as Trail travels to West Kelowna to face the Warriors for the second time this season. The Smokies will be looking for a repeat of last Friday's 3-1 home-ice win and should be feeling relatively confident after a strong week of practice and the addition of three new players this week.

Defensemen Marley Keca, Braden Pears and Austin Adduono will be given every opportunity to make an immediate impact tonight. Keca and Pears are both expected to log big minutes on the back end while Adduono, a 72-point man in the SIJHL two seasons ago, will play top-6 minutes up front.

All three could be key to kickstarting Trail's special teams too. It's no secret the BCHL's 14th best power-play and worst penalty-kill need to improve, and a good chunk of this week's practice time has been devoted to the kind of quick puck movement offensively, and sound positioning defensively, that will transform early hiccups into long-term stability.

Castlegar's Jesse Knowler (a relative newcomer himself), will try to replicate the successful outing he had last week against West Kelowna. The 18 year-old scored twice on his debut, and the following night tallied an assist in Vernon on a nice pick-pocket job behind the Vipers net that was converted by linemate Tyler Berkholtz.

We could also get another look at rookie goaltender Braden Krogfoss this weekend, given that Trail is playing a three-in-three. The 17 year-old hasn't featured since the 4-1 loss to Merritt at the BCHL Showcase, and all coyness aside, I'd say there's a strong chance he'll get some action against either the Warriors, Vipers or Kings.

Last Meeting: As mentioned earlier, Knowler's two goals helped Trail to a 3-1 victory over the Warriors last Friday night at Cominco Arena. Brent Baltus had the other Trail goal while Lyndon Stanwood made 35 saves between the pipes (17 alone in the third period). Marcus Basara had the lone Warrior tally.

Our Opponent: After wowing scouts, fans, and BCHL opponents alike at the Showcase in Chilliwack earlier this month, the Warriors have failed to win a game since. Granted, West Kelowna have played only three times in the past three weeks (twice against Penticton), and an injury to #1 goaltender Tyler Briggs also comes into play in West Kelowna's record thus far. That said, this club is dangerous, with the likes of Max French (5 goals in 5 games), 18 year-old Seb Lloyd (7 points) and former Nelson Leaf Brett McKinnon (6 points) leading the charge. West Kelowna took 5 of a possible 6 points from the Smokies at Royal LePage Place last season, the lone setback a 3-2 Trail overtime win on November 6th, 2011 in a wild game that was ended on a winner from Clayton Chessa.

In the Press Box: Trail remains without forward Bryce Knapp, who has been practicing but remains on the injured list until October 1st. Forward Tanner Clarkson left the team after Saturday's loss in Vernon and is suspended as he awaits a trade. The Warriors do not have any listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: Watch tonight's game on FASTHockey pay-per-view, or listen live on the Smoke Eaters Ustream channel. Pre-game begins at 6:55, with the puck drop at 7:00.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Smokies Add Three

A big boost up front, and on the back end for the Smoke Eaters, as the club has brought three nineteen year-olds into the fold. Defenseman Marley Keca and forward Austin Adduono have both returned to the club after USHL tryouts in Indiana and Fargo, respectively.

Keca is entering his second season in Trail after scoring 19 points in 39 games last year, while Adduono, a former SIJHL Rookie of the Year, was signed during the summer after putting up 13 goals last season with Wichita Falls and Dawson Creek of the NAHL.

Trail has also traded for defenseman Braden Pears from the Coquitlam Express. The Victoria native brings plenty of BCHL experience to the table, notably two appearances in the Fred Page Cup finals with Powell River in 2010 and 2011.

The full release from the team is available here.

Both Adduono and Pears were at practice at Cominco Arena this afternoon in another high-tempo on-ice session. Both are skilled, proficient skaters, and along with Keca will be relied on as leaders with this group. (Keca, by the way, is meeting the team tomorrow in West Kelowna). Adduono is a shifty forward who will be given every opportunity to score goals in all situations, while Pears has so far shown considerable offensive potential in addition to being steady in his own zone. Keca is a reliable top-4 defenseman as well with a physical edge, something Trail's back end will certainly benefit from.

All three new acquisitions should play tomorrow against the Warriors, I'll have a full preview here tomorrow morning before we hit the road.

With the new additions, the Smokies have had to complete a pair of other transactions. Defenseman Wayland Williams was released yesterday and is expected to join Corpus Christi of the NAHL, while fellow blueliner Matt Alexander was shipped to the MJHL's Portage Terriers for futures. I wish both the best of luck as their respective hockey journeys continue.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Smokies/Warriors Highlights

In case you missed Friday's game against West Kelowna, I've put together a highlight package for your viewing pleasure. I know my predecessors have done a great job in the past of putting clips together and after being put aside last season, I'm happy to announce that home game highlights will be a regular feature on the blog and the Smoke Eaters website again this season.

Also for your enjoyment, some audio tidbits from the weekend are now up for grabs.

For Bill Birks' thoughts before Friday's game, click here.

To hear Adam Wheeldon's take on Friday's win, click here.

For a pre-game conversation from Saturday with Brent Heaven, click here.

I also chatted with Vipers forward Aaron Hadley before Saturday's game, to listen, click here.

And belatedly, my conversation with BCHL Commissioner John Grisdale prior to last Saturday's game in Merritt is now available. To listen, click here.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Vipers 7 Smoke Eaters 2

Vernon got two-goal performances from three different forwards to dispatch the Smokies 7-2 at Wesbild Centre Saturday.

Adam Tambellini, Jedd Soleway and Colton Sparrow each scored twice while Brendan Persley added three points in his return to Vernon as the Vipers secured their first win on home ice this season.

Vernon opened the scoring on an awkward bounce 1:14 into the game. A Tambellini point shot deflected off a Trail defenseman's glove and past a prone Lyndon Stanwood.

The two teams traded chances until the 5 minute mark of the second, when Soleway fired home a wrister from the left circle. 1:46 later, Sparrow opened his 2012-13 account after a rebound bounced him in the low slot.

Tyler Berkholtz would score his first as a Smoke Eater with just under 5 minutes left in the middle frame, as a turnover found its way to him in the left circle.

Soleway would score Vernon's fourth goal shortly thereafter on a sharp cross-crease feed from Persley.

Berkholtz started the third on the right foot for Trail, converting a pick-pocket job by Jesse Knowler 1:12 into the final frame, but Vernon's special teams would kick into high gear from then on.

Sparrow and Persley would score power-play goals, before a Tambellini short-handed marker rounded out the scoring with 6:45 left.

Stanwood made 34 saves in the Trail goal, while Austin Smith stopped 20 shots for his second BCHL win.

The Smokies battled hard before frustration set in through the latter part of the third and to me, deserved a better fate. 3 power-play goals against were the result of quick puck movement and puck possession by Vernon, who looked full of energy after a week-long layoff.

My 3 Stars:
1. Jedd Soleway, Vernon
2. Adam Tambellini, Vernon
3. Colton Sparrow, Vernon

Up Next: Trail will travel to West Kelowna for a rematch with the Warriors next Friday. That game marks the front end of a busy, three-in-three weekend that sees the Smokies welcome Vernon and Powell River next Saturday and Sunday.

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Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Vipers

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Vernon Vipers
When: September 22, 7:00 PM
Where: Wesbild Centre, Vernon

The Smokies are flying high after last night's emotional comeback win against West Kelowna, and head to the North Okanagan in search of their third win in four games. Trail rode a two-goal effort from new arrival Jesse Knowler, and a sensational 35-save performance from Lyndon Stanwood to hand the Warriors their first regulation loss of the season.

The task doesn't get any easier tonight, as Trail and Vernon lock horns for the first time this year. The Smokies have failed to win at Wesbild Centre since 2008, and though the Vipers have only 1 win out of their first four games played, their pedigree speaks for itself.

Trail's special teams seem to be settling into form, if last night's game was any indication. Brent Baltus' second-period goal was Trail's first power-play goal since the Showcase opener against Cowichan Valley, and both the PP and PK units looked much more confident, and composed as Trail held the Warriors to one power-play goal on five chances last night. Strong special teams (and discipline) will certainly be key to any success in Vernon tonight.

Last Meeting: Trail's last visit to Vernon was on February 7th, a game the Vipers took 3-1 on the strength of two first-period goals. Clayton McEwan scored the only Smokies goal that night.

Our Opponent: Vernon enters tonight's game in search of their first home win of the season, and have been idle since an OT setback at Wesbild Centre against Salmon Arm last Saturday night. Each of Vernon's three defeats have all come by one goal, two requiring extra time as well. Castlegar native Aaron Hadley leads the way offensively for the Vipers alongside Adam Tambellini with five points each. Former Smokies AP Craig Martin scored in Vernon's opener but has been held without a point since. The Vipers could welcome back forward Brendan Persley this evening after he was let go by the WHL's Tri-City Americans earlier in the week. Former WHL goaltender Austin Smith has carried the load thus far for the Vipers, posting a shutout last Friday night in Salmon Arm.

In the Press Box: Trail remains without the services of forward Bryce Knapp until the end of the month, while Joren Johnson and Michael Bell were scratches last night against West Kelowna. Vernon is missing defenseman Mitch McAllister and forward Braeden Russell, both with upper-body ailments.

Broadcast Info: Tonight's game will be available on FastHockey pay-per-view, as well as on the Smokies Ustream channel. Join me for all the action from Vernon beginning at 6:55.

Smoke Eaters 3 Warriors 1

Jesse Knowler marked his BCHL debut in style with a pair of goals as the Smokies upended the West Kelowna Warriors 3-1 in front of over a thousand fans at Cominco Arena Friday.

In his first game with Trail, the 18 year-old potted the game-winner late in period two, then added an empty-net insurance marker as the Smokies started their home schedule on the right foot against a division rival.

It was West Kelowna who got things going in the first period, though. The Warriors moved the puck around the perimeter while on the man-advantage before Marcus Basara fired a one-timer home just shy of the 8-minute mark to put the visitors ahead 1-0.

Trail would answer back on a power-play of their own in the opening minute of the second, though, as a Shane Poulsen point shot took a deflection, then landed on Brent Baltus' stick. The Nanaimo product tucked his first goal of the season past Warriors goaltender Garrett Rockafellow for Trail's first power-play goal in four games.

After an open second period, Knowler would stake Trail ahead 2 minutes before the intermission. His wrister from the low slot trickled into the back of the net.

The third period saw the Warriors enjoy a decided advantage through the first 13 or 14 minutes, as West Kelowna peppered Smokies goaltender Lyndon Stanwood with 17 shots in all in the final frame. Stanwood, though, was terrific, holding the visitors at bay and earning the number one star with a 35-save performance.

With home fans watching for the first time in this regular season, the Smokies put out their best effort so far of the young campaign. The top line of Baltus, Scott Davidson and Garrett McMullen were dangerous all night, as was a new-look unit of Knowler, Tyler Berkholtz and newcomer Luke Sandler, who was robbed by Rockafellow in the first period on a breakaway. Surely like last Friday's comeback in Prince George, tonight's game will serve as a positive learning experience for Trail's younger players, and a confidence boost for the whole team knowing they'll face the Warriors three more times between now and October 5th.

My 3 Stars:
1. Lyndon Stanwood, Trail
2. Marcus Basara, West Kelowna
3. Brent Baltus, Trail
I should point out Knowler's game-winning goal was initially credited to Adam Wheeldon in-rink, but was changed later in the game without me realizing. Safe to say, Knowler deserves at the very least an honourable mention for his effort tonight.

Up Next: The Smokies hit the road tomorrow morning for a visit with Trail's Craig Martin and the Vernon Vipers. Gametime from Wesbild Centre is 7:00 pm.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Warriors

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. West Kelowna Warriors
When: September 21, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

It feels like its taken forever to arrive, but the home opener is finally here as Trail gets set to tangle with the new-look West Kelowna Warriors tonight at Cominco Arena. Unlike in years past, the Smokies' early schedule has been heavy on travel with each of the first four games coming away from home. Trail and West Kelowna are set to become well-acquainted, too, with tonight's game marking the first of four meetings between tonight and October 5th.

Smokies fans should get their first look at newcomers Jesse Knowler and Luke Sandler tonight after both were picked up in separate acquisitions mid-week. Former Okotoks Oiler Connor Collett should also make his home debut after posting an assist over his first two games as a Smoke Eater last weekend. Captain Garrett McMullen is off to a great start up front with four goals in four games; McMullen had the overtime winner last Friday in Trail's first victory of the season, 4-3 over Prince George.

Locals Jake Lucchini, Scott Davidson and Mitch Foyle will all play in front of their hometown fans for the first time tonight. Davidson tallied a pair of assists through the first four games and earned a scholarship to Quinnipiac University before the start of the season.

Last Meeting: The Warriors won 5 of the 7 meetings between the two teams last season, most recently a 5-4 decision in West Kelowna on February 25th. Graduated Smoke Eater Erik Cooper scored twice for Trail in a game that saw the Smokies dress only 13 skaters because of injuries.

Our Opponent: The Warriors haven't played since last Friday's overtime loss to the Penticton Vees, but despite the layoff remain one of the form teams in the BCHL. West Kelowna started the year with a bang, posting 6-0 and 6-1 wins at the BCHL Showcase. Captain Max French is on fire, having scored 5 goals in the Warriors' first three games. New goaltender Tyler Briggs, an off-season acquisition from the AJHL, has been rock-solid between the pipes as well. The 20 year-old has posted a 1.59 goals-against average and stingy .949 save percentage through his first three appearances in BC.

In the Press Box: The Smokies remain without the services of forward Bryce Knapp for about another week. The Fort Frances, Ontario product has resumed practicing with the team. West Kelowna does not have any listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: For out-of-town fans, tonight's game will be available on FastHockey and Smokies Ustream beginning at 7:25. As was the case last week in Prince George and Merritt, the opening faceoff will be delayed by between five and ten minutes for player introductions.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Smokies Add Pair Of Forwards

Knowler made 57 appearances in the WHL with Prince Albert last season (photo from

The Smokies' early-season roster-tinkering continued Thursday with a pair of new forwards added to the mix. Trail has picked up 18 year-old Castlegar native Jesse Knowler after he was re-assigned by the Western Hockey League's Prince Albert Raiders earlier in the week. Knowler played 57 games last season with Prince Albert but might be better known among junior hockey enthusiasts in this neck of the woods for his effort with the Castlegar Rebels during the 2011 KIJHL playoffs, in which he tallied 17 points (including 4 game-winning goals) in 19 games as a 16 year-old. Knowler will be a welcome addition to Trail's forward punch to be sure.

Also in town is 19 year-old Illinois import Luke Sandler, who the Smokies acquired yesterday from Cowichan Valley for the rights to Travis Stephens. Sandler had 3 points in 4 appearances with the Caps this year and brings with him 75 games of USHL experience in Des Moines, Fargo and Tri-City. At 6'2", the Chicago native will also provide some size and grit down the left wing for Trail.

To make room for Sandler and Knowler, the Smokies re-assigned forward Brenden Heinrich to the Rebels.

Both new skaters are expected in the lineup for tomorrow night's home opener against West Kelowna, as the Smokies enter a stretch of 8 games that sees them face only the Warriors, Vernon Vipers, Powell River Kings, and Penticton Vees. There are no easy games in this league for sure, and I know everyone within the club would like nothing more than to see a big crowd at Cominco tomorrow night as the journey continues.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Centennials 6 Smoke Eaters 2

A promising start was quickly erased as Merritt celebrated its 40th anniversary with a 6-2 win over the Smokies at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.

Trail captain Garrett McMullen put the visitors ahead within 90 seconds, intercepting a long pass in neutral ice, then slapping a puck past Cents starter Tyler Steel for his fourth goal in as many games.

Merritt struck back quickly on a power-play, as Dane Birks wristed one over the shoulder of Lyndon Stanwood at 5:17, before Bennett Huber put the home team ahead 4:05 later.

The Centennials would break the game open in period two with two goals in a 34-second span. Derek Huisman was set up alone in the slot on the power-play for his first in a Merritt sweater, before Silvan Harper put home a rebound off a Birks point shot to extend Merritt's lead to 4-1.

Birks would add a second goal on a third-period power-play, before Trail's Brandon Egli and Cents forward Brendan Lamont traded goals to round out the scoring.

Discipline again reared its ugly head for Trail, as the Smokies were short-handed 8 times, surrendering 3 power-play goals. As was the case last night, McMullen and linemate Brent Baltus were workhorses at both ends of the ice, with new acquisition Connor Collett also adding his first BCHL point on Egli's goal.

My 3 Stars:
1. Dane Birks, Merritt
2. Derek Huisman, Merritt
3. Regan Soquila, Merritt

Up Next: At long last, Trail will play its home opener Friday, September 21st against the West Kelowna Warriors. Gametime is 7:30.

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Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Centennials

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Merritt Centennials
When: Saturday, Sept. 15, 7:30 PM
Where: Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, Merritt

Good morning from Williams Lake, where the Smoke Eaters enjoyed a good night's rest after last night's comeback win in Prince George. Garrett McMullen played OT hero as Trail won for the first time this season.

Tonight, the Smokies will take part in another home opener as they wrap up a stretch of four straight games away from home in Merritt. No doubt the team is full of confidence after last night's win, the key will be to continue building momentum through tonight's game.

Trail's penalty-killing, identified as an area of concern after the BCHL Showcase, was much scrappier and much-improved last night, denying the Spruce Kings on each of their 6 power-plays including a long two-man advantage that stretched from the end of the second period into the third and, looking back, proved to be a turning point in the game. That trend will need to continue if the Smokies are to collect points tonight in what's sure to be a rowdy atmosphere in Merritt. Trail could get some reinforcements on the blue line tonight as well, as defenseman Braeden Jones is eligible to play after serving the back end of a two-game suspension last night.

Last Meeting: The Centennials broke open a tight game in the third period on power-play goals by Sean Maktaak and Sebastien Pare to upend Trail 4-1 last Sunday at the Showcase in Chilliwack. Shane Poulsen, who had last night's equalizer in Prince George, scored the only goal despite the Smokies putting 20 shots on Cents goaltender Tyler Steel in the third period. Tonight's game marks the fourth meeting already this year between these two sides, including pre-season play.

Our Opponent: The Centennials have been idle since Sunday's victory in the Fraser Valley, and are in the midst of a two-game in seventeen-day stretch after a busy opening weekend. Nonetheless, we can expect Luke Pierce's squad to bring their work boots tonight, and to be motivated too given the pageantry scheduled for tonight's game. Not only is it Merritt's home opener, it's also the celebration of the team's 40th anniversary in the BCHL, with a host of dignitaries expected in-house. On the ice, Trail will need to be cautious of last weekend's two-goal man Pare, while 30 goal-scorer Derek Huisman is also a constant threat. Former Smokies affiliate Dane Birks had three assists against Trail in his Centennials debut.

In the Press Box: As mentioned, Jones is eligible to slot back into Trail's back end after serving his suspension. Forward Bryce Knapp is on the injured list and did not make the trip this weekend. The Centennials have no listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: Tonight's game will be available on FastHockey pay-per-view, you can also listen live on Smokies Ustream beginning at 7:25. As was the case last night, the opening faceoff will be delayed because of home-opener ceremonies.

Bits 'n Bites: Former Smokies captain Logan Proulx scored in Selkirk College's 4-3 pre-season win over Thompson Rivers University last night in Castlegar. All signs point to Jeff Dubois' team making a lot more noise in the BC college circuit this year, and for fans in the West Kootenay the Saints offer a different brand of hockey than do the Smokies or our local junior "B" teams. Best of luck to Selkirk as they build toward the regular season.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Smoke Eaters 4 Spruce Kings 3 (OT)

Garrett McMullen scored Trail's first and last goal as the Smokies rallied for a 4-3 overtime win in Prince George Friday.

The Trail captain knocked down a clearing attempt, took two steps and fooled Spruce Kings starter Liam McLeod with a long wrister 3:56 into overtime to give the Smoke Eaters their first victory of the 2012-13 season.

Things started out well for the home side, as PG took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission on a wrap-around from Bryant Christian and a last-gasp one-timer by Cam Lawson as time expired in the opening frame.

McMullen would put Trail on the board on a one-timer of his own early in period two, converting a pass from Scott Davidson from behind the PG net. 65 seconds later, AP callup Justin Rai would restore the two-goal advantage for the hosts, a lead they carried into the third period.

But despite a lengthy 5-on-3 thanks to two checking to the head penalties on Trail, the Spruce Kings could not widen the gap. Less than a minute after Trail regained full strength, Tanner Clarkson wired home a puck that bounced to his stick in the left-wing circle to cut the Spruce Kings' lead to 3-2.

Defenseman Shane Poulsen would level the score midway through the third on a long wrister for his second goal in as many games.

Prince George was unable to capitalize on a late third-period power-play, as Trail's forecheck grew stronger and more effective as the game crescendoed into extra time.

It was that forecheck that led to McMullen's winner, as Trail won against Prince George for the first time in 8 tries.

Like last Sunday's game against Merritt, the Smokies got better as they settled into the game. Trail's penalty-kill was also much-improved, as the club collapsed well and limited Prince George's chances from high-percentage areas in the offensive zone. It was a real character win for a Trail squad that features 12 rookies and a real boost to the club's collective confidence.

My 3 Stars:
1. Garrett McMullen, Trail
2. Cam Lawson, Prince George
3. Shane Poulsen, Trail

Up Next: The Smokies will spend the night in Williams Lake before traveling to Merritt for another date with the Centennials Saturday. Faceoff from the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena is at 7:30.

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Spruce Kings

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Prince George Spruce Kings
When: Friday, Sept. 14, 7:00 PM
Where: Coliseum, Prince George

Life on the road continues for the Smokies on a sunny Friday morning here in Prince George. The team travelled yesterday in an all-day bus marathon from the West Kootenay, arriving in PG at 11:00 last night.

The Smokies had one new face on board the bus after a pair of mid-week transactions, too. 19 year-old forward Connor Collett was picked up from the AJHL's Okotoks Oilers in exchange for the rights to holdout defenseman Max Mowat. The Calgary native has two full seasons of junior "A" experience under his belt, scoring 26 points with the Oilers last season. Collett should draw into the lineup tonight for Trail pending inter-league paperwork.

Another move made this week sees 20 year-old forward Alex Holland moved to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks for 19 year-old Travis Stephens. Holland did not score a point in two appearances over the weekend, while Stephens had 34 points last season split between Cowichan Valley and the Silverbacks.

No doubt with new bodies in the dressing room, the message could well be one of simplicity tonight for Trail. And after a weekend that saw the Smokies surrender 6 power-play goals on 12 opportunities, discipline will no doubt be imperative if Trail wants to walk out of the Castle with 2 points.

Last Meeting: The Spruce Kings swept the 7-game season series last year, their most recent triumph being a 4-3 overtime victory in Trail on March 3rd. Myles Fitzgerald scored the winner for PG while Garrett McMullen had a pair of goals for the Smokies.

Our Opponent: Much like the Smokies, the Spruce Kings made quite a few changes over the summer. Gone are the likes of Paul De Jersey, Michael Colantone and Oilers draftee Jujhar Khaira (all college), as well as the pesky Fitzgerald triplets (Victoria), hulking former Smokie blueliner Ben Matthews (college) and starting goaltender Ty Swabb (AJHL). In all, Prince George's top ten scorers from 2011-12 are in different cities, but the Spruce Kings have done well in replacing them (if a 2-0 showing at the Showcase is any indication). Ex-WHLer Lyndon Martell (who scored twice last weekend) headlines a cast of newcomers that includes offensively-minded Ontario defenseman Mitch Eden and Bradley Ryan. Returnee Kirk Thompson has jumped out to a great start to the season between the pipes with a pair of victories, he posted a 38-save shutout against Trail during exhibition play August 29th in Chase.

In The Press Box: Trail will be without newcomer Stephens as well as injured forward Bryce Knapp, who is on the injured list after picking up a knock during pre-season play. Defenseman Braeden Jones will serve the second of his two-game suspension tonight. Prince George defenseman David London is also on the injured list, the Spruce Kings have recalled affiliate forward Justin Rai from the PJHL's Richmond Sockeyes.

Broadcast Info: Tonight's game can be seen on pay-per-view via FastHockey beginning at 7:00 PM. My broadcast on FastHockey and Smokies Ustream will begin at 6:55, though given that tonight's game is Prince George's home opener I've been told the opening faceoff may not take place until about 7:10.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Showcase Audio

A wide variety of samplings from the weekend's action in Chilliwack.

Before Saturday's game against Cowichan Valley, I chatted with:
- Smokies assistant coach Brent Heaven (click here to listen).
- Cowichan Valley head coach Jim Ingram (click here to listen).

Prior to yesterday's matchup with Merritt, I spoke to:
- Brent Heaven (click here to listen).
- Centennials coach Luke Pierce (click here to listen).
- BCHL communications director Brent Mutis (click here to listen).

Also belatedly, the following interviews are now uploaded from the pre-season home and home against Merritt.
- for Smokies forward Brent Baltus, click here.
- for Merritt forward Sean Maktaak, click here.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Centennials 4 Smoke Eaters 1

Sebastien Pare opened and closed the scoring as Merritt upended the Smokies 4-1 in Chilliwack Sunday.

The Centennials forward, who scored a hat-trick against Trail in pre-season play last week, opened proceedings with a wrister from the right wing that handcuffed starter Braden Krogfoss. Merritt would add a second goal later in the frame, as Silvan Harper converted an end-board carom.

After a scoreless second, Trail would claw back to within one 1:13 into period three as Shane Poulsen glided down the left wing at the end of a power-play and snapped a puck short-side on Cents netminder Tyler Steel.

Merritt's two-goal lead would be restored minutes later on a 5-on-3, as Sean Maktaak converted a cross-crease feed from Regan Soquila for his second goal in as many games.

Pare would round out the scoring on another Merritt power-play after a long, cross-ice feed from former Smokies AP Dane Birks, who had two assists.

Trail was unable to generate much offensively through the first two periods, but came on with force in the third out-shooting Merritt 20-4. As was the case last night, untimely penalties proved costly as the Cents took advantage on third period power-plays.

The Smokies will surely use three full days of practice to their advantage ahead of another two-game away swing next weekend. No doubt the BCHL Showcase has served as a real eye-opener for everyone as the regular season kicks into gear.

My Three Stars:
1. Sebastien Pare, Merritt
2. Tyler Steel, Merritt
3. Shane Poulsen, Trail

Up Next: Trail will pay their only visit to Prince George this coming Friday to kick off a two-game trip. Game time at the Coliseum is 7 pm.

Bits 'n Bites: Smokies forward Jake Lucchini left the game in the second period after taking a stick in the face from Pare. The 17 year-old took several stitches in the mouth but otherwise was unharmed.

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Smokies/Centennials Lineups

Here are the line combinations for this afternoon's game between Trail and Merritt at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack.

Smoke Eaters:
9 - Baltus, 23 - McMullen, 21 - Davidson
19 - Holland, 17 - Clarkson, 12 - Berkholtz
22 - Wheeldon, 25 - Lucchini, 24 - Bell
14 - Jmaeff, 16 - Foyle, 20 - Heinrich

8 - Egli, 10 - Leposavic
6 - Williams, 5 - Johnson
7 - Alexander, 4 - Poulsen

35 - Krogfoss
33 - Stanwood

12 - Soquila, 9 -Huisman, 17 - Lamont
18 - Schaefer, 10 - Fletcher, 11 - Pare
21 - Wight, 14 - Bruce, 16 - Maktaak
25 - Klinger, 28 - Huber, 8 - Harper

2 - Martin, 6 - Lohan
24 - Sabourin, 4 - Chanter
22 - Saunders, 7 - Birks

35 - Steel
1 - Sanderson

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Centennials

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Merritt Centennials
When: September 9th, 2:30 PM
Where: Prospera Centre, Chilliwack

Right back to work for the Smoke Eaters as they face a familiar foe today in the Merritt Centennials. After a tough outing last night against Cowichan Valley, it's a perfect opportunity to salvage the weekend with a strong effort today.

Today's game will mark an opportunity for Braden Krogfoss to get his first start between the pipes. The 17 year-old came on in relief in the third period yesterday, surrendering three goals as the Smokies took several penalties due to frustration.

Trail will surely have a much better idea of their opposition given the two pre-season meetings last week, but as we found out last night, the regular season is a different animal altogether.

Last Meeting: The Smokies and Cents split the aforementioned pre-season home-and-home over the long weekend, with Merritt winning 4-2 on home ice last Friday, the Smokies winning 8-3 at Cominco Arena last Saturday. The last regular season meeting between the two sides was March 10th in Merritt, a game the Centennials won 5-2.

Our Opponent: The Cents are hoping to get into the win column for the first time this year as well, after 3 third-period goals paced Prince George to a 4-1 victory yesterday. Merritt will rely on 65-point man Derek Huisman, who was an offensive dynamo on Chilliwack's top line last season. Linemate Sebastien Pare (formerly of Langley), scored a hat-trick in Merritt's 4-2 pre-season win over Trail on August 31st. The Centennials have also recently signed former Smokies AP defenseman Dane Birks, who was trying out with the WHL's Spokane Chiefs. The 17 year-old did not dress yesterday.

In the Press Box: Trail will make three changes today, one forced due to Braeden Jones' late major penalty last night. Defenseman Wayland Williams will slot in, as will AP forward Matti Jmaeff. Anthony Conti will not dress today while Bryce Knapp remains out with a knock.

Broadcast Info: Today's game will be available on Fasthockey pay-per-view with audio on Smokies Ustream: pre-game show goes at 2:25 with the opening faceoff from Chilliwack is set for 2:30. I will also be covering the Centennials' radio feed on Q101 due to Cents' play-caller Graham Turnbull being ill. Get well soon Graham and I hope to see you in Merritt next weekend.

Capitals 8 Smoke Eaters 1

A five-goal third period paced Cowichan Valley to an 8-1 victory in the Smokies' season-opener Saturday at the Save-On Foods BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack.

The Capitals opened the scoring on an early first-period power-play, as Keyler Bruce deflected a point shot over the pad of Trail starter Lyndon Stanwood.

The game remained tight through the second 20 minutes as well, despite the Caps taking a 3-0 lead inside the first 8 minutes of the middle frame on tallies by Eli Jarvis and Jarrett Brown. Trail got on the board midway through period two on a nifty centring feed from Brent Baltus to Garrett McMullen.

Period three, though, got away from the Smokies. Four of Cowichan's five goals were on special teams, the lone even-strength marker being Jamie Waddington's tap-in off the end glass that chased Stanwood in favour of Braden Krogfoss

The Smokies were guilty of several frustration penalties in the latter half of the third period, including a checking-to-the-head major incurred by Braeden Jones that sent Trail's rookie defenseman to the dressing room early. Cowichan Valley finished the evening 4/8 on the power-play.

It definitely wasn't the start that the Smokies were hoping for, but this group will have an opportunity to salvage the weekend tomorrow afternoon against Merritt. The club learned quickly that mental lapses over the course of half, or an entire period, can be devastating: it's up to the players now to take that experience and carry it over through tomorrow, and on to the rest of the BCHL season.

My Three Stars:
1. Keyler Bruce, Cowichan Valley
2. Jarrett Brown, Cowichan Valley
3. Derek Dun, Cowichan Valley

Up Next: The Smokies go right back to work Sunday afternoon in another Showcase tilt against the Merritt Centennials. The Cents dropped their opener Saturday against Prince George, so we could well see two clubs desperately looking to avoid falling to 0-2 to start the year.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Smokies/Capitals Lineups

Here are the line combinations for tonight's game between Trail and Cowichan Valley from the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack.

Smoke Eaters:
9 - Baltus, 23 - McMullen, 21 - Davidson
19 - Holland, 17 - Clarkson, 12 - Berkholtz
22 - Wheeldon, 25 - Lucchini, 24 - Bell
11 - Conti, 16 - Foyle, 20 - Heinrich

8 - Egli, 10 - Leposavic
3 - Jones, 5 - Johnson
7 - Alexander, 4 - Poulsen

33 - Stanwood
35 - Krogfoss

13 - Hanes, 8 - Iacobellis, 91 - Waddington
18 - Bruce, 7 - Cooper, 9 - Grant
22 - Nicholson, 19 - Jung, 16 - Sandler
23 - Berra, 15 - Jarvis, 17 - Cathers

24 - Paterson, 2 - Scammon
4 - Mueller, 6 - Brown
27 - Everson, 25 - Bechtel

34 - Dun
33 - Orth

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Capitals

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Cowichan Valley Capitals
When: Saturday, September 8, 6:30 PM
Where: Prospera Centre (Secondary), Chilliwack

Nearly six months ago, the Smoke Eaters' 2011-12 season ended at Prospera Centre ice. A new beginning gets underway tonight at the inaugural BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack as Trail takes on former head coach Jim Ingram and the Cowichan Valley Capitals. The Smokies cut the long trip west in half Friday, spending the night in Princeton before an anticipated early-afternoon arrival in the Fraser Valley later today.

The Smokies will ice a much different roster than the one that closed out last season: only 8 returnees from 2011-12 will sport the orange and black tonight. This year's group is hungry for early success, and there is an expectation amongst the players and staff that Trail collect points both this weekend and on a two-game swing next weekend in advance of the home opener against West Kelowna September 21st.

Last Meeting: The Smokies and Caps met only once last year, a 7-1 Cowichan Valley win on October 30, 2011. The game marked the tail end of an arduous coastal road trip for Trail that was precipitated by an early departure from the Sunshine Coast and punctuated by bus problems on the way home.

Our Opponent: The Capitals are gunning for another playoff run in the Island division this season, after a 7-game thriller against the Surrey Eagles last year that featured ups and downs before the Eagles eventually advanced to the Coastal final. Cowichan Valley have brought in several new faces to help them along their way, including former Kamloops Blazers forward Ryan Hanes and U-Mass Lowell commit Corey Scammon. Returnee Derek Dun is expected to shoulder the load in goal for the Capitals, while ex-WHL'er Matt Grant and Mikael Jung have proven their ability to be dangerous on every shift and will lead a new-look forward group that lost the likes of former Smokie Logan Proulx over the off-season.

In the Press Box: The Smoke Eaters will start the season with an affiliate in the lineup. Forward Matti Jmaeff has been recalled from the KIJHL's Nelson Leafs, he will slot in for rookie Bryce Knapp who is out with a slight knock. The Smokies have also added 6'4" 17 year-old Michael Bell to the roster. The Maple Ridge native split last season between the WHL's Everett Silvertips and the major midget Vancouver NE Chiefs. He could well draw in tonight.

Broadcast Info: As will be the case for every game this season, tonight's contest is available on FastHockey pay-per-view, as well as a free audio feed on the Smokies' Ustream channel. Join me for all the action beginning at 6:20.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Davidson Commits To Quinnipiac

Davidson (16) tries to stuff home a puck against Merritt last Saturday in pre-season play (Randy Emery photo)

Awesome news from the Smokies this morning, as local forward Scott Davidson has committed to NCAA Division I Quinnipiac University. The 17 year-old had a dynamite camp and pre-season, tallying 7 points including a 5-assist effort last Saturday night against Merritt, this after making only 11 regular-season appearances with Beaver Valley of the KIJHL in 2011-12.

The full release from the team is posted here.

This news should give Davidson a real shot in the arm heading into this weekend's Save-On Foods Showcase in Chilliwack, where he will make his BCHL debut against the Capitals and Centennials. It's also a real boost to a franchise looking to re-assert itself in a tough Interior division, and to the fans in Trail who now will get to watch a local kid for two seasons before he embarks on a collegiate career south of the border.

Davidson is the second member of the 2012-13 Smokies to have a college commitment under his belt, joining overage forward Alex Holland, who committed to Merrimack earlier this year. He's also the second local Smokie to commit to Quinnipiac in recent years, joining current Bobcat freshman Travis St. Denis, who spent 3 of his 4 BCHL seasons with the orange and black.

Way to go Scott!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Smokies Announce Opening-Day Roster

Tyler Berkholtz will be one of four 20 year-olds up front for the 2012-13 Smokies (Randy Emery photo)

The Smoke Eaters have finalized their 2012-13 opening day roster five days ahead of the official start to the regular season in Chilliwack. As announced at the start of training camp, 20 year-old forward Garrett McMullen will serve as captain for a group that includes only 8 returnees from 2011-12.

For a full release issued on the part of the team, please visit the Smoke Eaters website here.

Here's a breakdown of who will sport the orange and black come this weekend at the Save-On Foods Showcase.

Forwards (13)
9 - Brent Baltus (1992, Nanaimo, BC)
11 - Anthony Conti (1995, Vancouver, BC)
12 - Tyler Berkholtz (1992, Penticton, BC)
14 - Dan Holland (1993, Woburn, MA)
16 - Mitchell Foyle (1996, Fruitvale, BC)
17 - Tanner Clarkson (1993, West Kelowna, BC)
18 - Bryce Knapp (1994, Fort Frances, ON)
19 - Alex Holland (1992, Woburn, MA)
20 - Brenden Heinrich (1994, Kimberley, BC)
21 - Scott Davidson (1995, Trail, BC)
22 - Adam Wheeldon (1994, Nelson, BC)
23 - Garrett McMullen (1992, Rochester, NY)
25 - Jake Lucchini (1995, Trail, BC)

Defensemen (7)
3 - Braeden Jones (1994, Edmonton, AB)
4 - Shane Poulsen (1994, Kamloops, BC)
5 - Joren Johnson (1994, Shoreacres, BC)
6 - Wayland Williams (1994, Canton, MI)
7 - Matt Alexander (1994, Thunder Bay, ON)
8 - Brandon Egli (1994, Victoria, BC)
10 - Djordje Leposavic (1992, New Westminster, BC)

Goaltenders (2)
33 - Lyndon Stanwood (1993, West Vancouver, BC)
35 - Braden Krogfoss (1995, Cloverdale, BC)

If last week's 4-day swing was any indication, this will (like last year), be a very tight group on and off the ice, and a talented bunch to boot. We'll find out for real starting at 6:30 PM Saturday when Trail faces Cowichan Valley in their Showcase opener.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Smoke Eaters 8 Centennials 3

Trail's Djordje Leposavic falls as he watches his third-period shot sail into the Merritt goal (Randy Emery photo)

The Smoke Eaters picked the perfect time to find their offense, scoring 7 unanswered goals to dispatch the Merritt Centennials 8-3 Saturday in BCHL pre-season play in Trail.

Captain Garrett McMullen led the way for the Smokies with a hat-trick (including a short-handed marker in the final minute of the second period that served as the game-winner), while local forward Scott Davidson chipped in 5 assists.

The Smokies got started early, as McMullen pounced on a loose puck in the crease just 27 seconds into the game. Merritt replied quickly on goals from veteran defenseman Richard Sabourin and rookie forward Bennett Huber to take a 2-1 lead into the intermission.

The Cents would extend their lead 2 and a half minutes into the second thanks to Kurtis Klinger, who buried a rebound past an outstretched Lyndon Stanwood.

The two sides would change goaltenders midway through the game, with Stanwood replaced by Braden Krogfoss and Merritt's Russell Sanderson making way for Phoenix Logan-Hill, and Trail got to work immediately after.

New blueliner Djordje Leposavic scored the first of two goals on the night on a Trail power-play, sneaking down the left wing after a give-and-go with Brent Baltus to backhand past Logan-Hill from a sharp angle.

Trail would tie the game 4:17 later on a low slapper from Braeden Jones that found its way into the net through a bevy of traffic. Then, while short-handed, McMullen created a turnover at the Trail line and raced down left-wing to slap the go-ahead marker off Logan-Hill's glove and in.

The third period would provide the Smoke Eaters more chances to sync up their offense. Leposavic fired a picture-perfect wrister glove side on Logan-Hill for Trail's 5th goal 3:44 into the third, before Matti Jmaeff cut hard to the net from the right side and tucked home a five-hole forehand.

Rookie Bryce Knapp and McMullen would round out the scoring, and Krogfoss would stop all 22 shots he faced in the Trail goal to preserve the Smokies' first victory of the pre-season. 

The Centennials iced a young lineup (much like Trail did in Merritt on Friday), but nonetheless they created several dangerous opportunities. Sabourin was a workhorse on the back end and the forward core was led by returnee Brendan Lamont, who tallied two assists.

The win is surely relief for everyone in the Smokies camp however, despite it being pre-season. After a long road trip that netted no victories and where the team struggled to find offense, Saturday's second-half explosion will act as a big confidence boost for Trail as they head into the regular season.

My 3 Stars:
1. Scott Davidson, Trail
2. Garrett McMullen, Trail
3. Djordje Leposavic, Trail

Up Next: The Smokies play the first four games of the regular season on the road, beginning with the Save-On Foods BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack next weekend. Trail will face Cowichan Valley Saturday, September 8th at 6:30 before a rematch with the Cents the following afternoon.


Trail: Stanwood, Krogfoss, Jones, Alexander, Johnson, Leposavic, Clayton, Egli, Baltus, Berkholtz, Jmaeff, Davidson, Clarkson, A. Holland, Knapp, Lucchini, Wheeldon, Foyle, Heinrich.
Merritt: Sanderson, Logan-Hill, Saunders, Lisowky, Lohan, Klimek, Chanter, Ryan, Wight, Klinger, Huber, Lamont, Maktaak, Schaefer, Heinen, Sandor, Cuglietta, Sabourin, Willcox, Patterson.

First Period
1. TRA McMullen (Baltus, Davidson) 0:27
2. MER Sabourin (Sandor, Heinen) 4:19
3. MER Huber (Lamont, Ryan) 17:38
Penalties: Lamont MER (interference) 5:25; Maktaak MER (hooking) 8:18; Alexander TRA (slashing) 9:15; Clarkson TRA (cross-checking) 19:51.

Second Period
4. MER Klinger (Lisowky, Lamont) 2:32
5. TRA Leposavic (Baltus, Davidson) 11:18 (pp)
6. TRA Jones (Davidson, McMullen) 15:35
7. TRA McMullen (unassisted) 19:08 (sh)
Penalties: Lisowky MER (tripping) 10:48; Lucchini TRA (hooking) 17:47.

Third Period
8. TRA Leposavic (Foyle, Lucchini) 3:44
9. TRA Jmaeff (Davidson, Baltus) 8:30
10. TRA Knapp (Johnson, Lucchini) 12:46 (pp)
11. TRA McMullen (Baltus, Davidson) 13:53
Penalties: Alexander TRA (high-sticking, roughing), A. Holland TRA, Lohan MER, Willcox MER (roughing) 5:09; Chanter MER (unsportsmanlike conduct) 12:25; Cuglietta MER (charging) 19:25. 

Shots On Goal: Merritt: 8-14-16-38; Trail: 8-15-14-37
Goal: Merritt: Sanderson, Logan-Hill (9:42 second); Trail: Stanwood, Krogfoss (9:07 second).
Power Play: Merritt: 0/4; Trail: 2/5.
Referee: Eric Dasti
Attendance: N/A

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Smokies/Centennials Lineups

Here are the line combinations for tonight's exhibition game between Trail and Merritt at the Cominco Arena.

Smoke Eaters:
18 - A. Holland, 17 - Clarkson, 12 - Berkholtz
9 - Baltus, 23 - McMullen, 16 - Davidson
19 - Knapp, 20 - Lucchini, 21 - Wheeldon
24 - Foyle, 14 - Jmaeff, 25 - Heinrich

8 - Egli, 6 - Leposavic
3 - Jones, 5 - Johnson
4 - Alexander, 7 - Clayton

33 - Stanwood
35 - Krogfoss

21 - Sandor, 9 - Ryan, 19 - Heinen
18 - Schaefer, 14 - Huber, 17 - Maktaak
11 - Klinger, 25 - Willcox, 16 - Lamont
10 - Wight, 22 - Cuglietta, 28 - Patterson

2 - Saunders, 7 - Chanter
24 - Sabourin, 4 - Lohan
6 - Klimek, 3 - Lisowky

1 - Sanderson
31 - Logan-Hill

Don't forget, if you can't make it down to the rink tonight, tune in live to the Smoke Eaters Ustream channel to catch all the action. The broadcast begins at 7:25.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Centennials

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Merritt Centennials
When: September 1st, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

Smokies fans will see a much different group tonight than the one that took the ice in last night's 4-2 loss in Merritt, as Trail play their only home pre-season fixture tonight at Cominco Arena. Only six veterans were dressed in last night's encounter in the Nicola Valley, which quickly became four after an ejection and goaltending change as the plucky Smokies hung in with a hard-working Merritt group that had many of its big guns in the lineup. And after arriving back in Trail at 4:00 this morning, the Smokies have just enough time to recuperate from a four-day, three-game road swing before tonight's rematch with the Cents.

In case you missed them on last night's broadcast, here are some audio tidbits from Merritt:
- for local product Scott Davidson, click here.
- for Centennials head coach/GM Luke Pierce, click here.
- I also spoke with Smokies bench boss Bill Birks before Wednesday's game against Prince George, to hear that conversation, click here.

I'd imagine Smokies fans will get a look at both Trail goaltenders tonight. Lyndon Stanwood has been terrific since arriving in town early last week, while rookie Braden Krogfoss settled into form nicely in Stanwood's relief midway through last night's game.

With exit meetings and a roster trim slated for tomorrow, tonight could well prove the last chance for some aspiring Smoke Eaters to make their mark on Trail's coaching staff. Expect lots of energy and speed from both teams as Trail looks to avenge last night's setback and finish the exhibition campaign on a positive note.

Broadcast Info: There will not be a video feed of tonight's game from Trail, but fans can listen to the game on the Smoke Eaters Ustream channel. Join me for all the action (if you can't make it in person, of course) beginning at 7:25.