Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Merritt Centennials
When: February 20, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail
The Smoke Eaters find themselves with the opportunity to move back into a share of fourth place in the Interior division as they prepare for the Merritt Centennials. Trail sits two points back of the Salmon Arm SilverBacks after Friday’s wild overtime win against the Cowichan Valley Capitals that saw Valik Chichkin play extra-time hero after being sprung in alone on goal by Tyler Berkholtz.
The Smokies will surely look back on Merritt’s last visit to Cominco Arena with an eye on a repeat performance. Trail shot out of the gate and played possibly their most physically imposing sixty minutes of the season in a 4-2 win on December 18th, and to a man it’s quite clear the Smokies realize nothing short of that effort will suffice if Trail is to collect another two points tonight.
Trail will need a second straight strong defensive effort too tonight. The Smokies held Cowichan Valley to only 26 shots through 67 minutes on Friday, and after falling behind early Trail shut the door on the Caps, helping Adam Todd improve to 6-1 on home ice this season.
Luke Sandler scored his first two goals of the month Friday, and now sits just one behind Brent Baltus’ team-leading 23. Garrett McMullen also became the third Smokie to crack the 40-point barrier last week, but saw an 8-game point streak snapped Friday night.
Last Meeting: The two teams last met January 5th at the Nicola Valley Arena, with Merritt scoring three times in the third period to win 6-3.
Our Opponent: The Centennials still have their eyes on the Interior division crown, and will burn one of their two games in hand on the Penticton Vees tonight. Merritt sits six points out of first with 8 games left, but are also looking to increase the five-point gap between themselves and third-place West Kelowna. Winger Sebastien Pare (18-23-41) has been on fire of late for the Cents, and for his efforts was named to the Honourable Mention list for BCHL Player of the Week Monday. Leading scorer Regan Soquila (54 points) has set a new personal best with 22 goals, one better than 20 year-old Derek Huisman. Three of Merritt’s four college-committed players (Dylan Chanter, Dane Birks and Kevin Lohan) are defensemen, the other being goaltender Tyler Steel.
In the Press Box: Trail’s Bryce Knapp is out for the remainder of the season; the Centennials do not have any listed injuries.
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 play-by-play set for 7:30.