Saturday, March 2, 2013

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Vees

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Penticton Vees
When: March 2, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The Smokies will go another round with the Penticton Vees tonight in search of their fourth win this season against the defending national champs. Valik Chichkin’s goal 1:52 into 3-on-3 overtime sealed a dramatic 3-2 Trail win in Penticton last night, and ensured the Smokies held serve for the final Interior playoff berth as their rivals from Salmon Arm overcame a two-goal third-period deficit to win in Powell River last night.

Trail will need to repeat back-to-back gutsy efforts against a Vees squad laden with offensive flair. To a man, the Smokies were committed to the cause yesterday, blocking shots, playing with a physical edge, and scoring timely goals including two power-play markers off the sticks of 20 year-olds Tyler Berkholtz and Garrett McMullen.

Adam Todd made 31 saves last night, notably a pair of ten-bellers in quick succession off Michael Rebry and John Siemer midway through the second period. The Smokies have also killed 17 of 20 power-plays against Penticton this season, including all four man-advantage opportunities the Vees were granted last night.

If the previous encounters between these two teams are any indication, we’re in for a treat this evening.

Last Meeting: Chichkin’s winner last night in Penticton sealed the third Trail victory in five games this season against the Vees, and their tenth OT triumph this year.

Our Opponent: The Vees are coming off back-to-back OT losses, and three straight defeats overall entering tonight’s game. Penticton’s woes on the scoreboard are not the result of a lack of chances, in both meetings against Trail over the last week the Vees have managed more than 30 shots on goal with no shortage of grade-A chances either. Both goals last night (from Wade Murphy and Rebry) came off quick releases; Murphy leads the team in scoring with 69 points while the ex-Express sniper Siemer has 64. After deferring to Nic Renyard in the meeting here last weekend, I thought goaltender Chad Katunar was strong in last night’s loss. He comes into this evening’s contest having won 25 games. The Vees could all but seal the #1 seed in the Interior with a win tonight, entering play with a five-point cushion on second-place Merritt. Penticton (73 points) also sits a point behind the Victoria Grizzlies for the overall points lead in the BCHL.

In the Press Box: Trail’s Bryce Knapp is out for the remainder of the season. The Vees will see forward Jedd Soleway return to the lineup tonight after serving a two-game suspension.

Broadcast Info: Join me for all the action from Penticton on FastHockey pay-per-view, with free audio available at Smokies Ustream. Pregame coverage begins at 7:20 with the play-by-play set for 7:30.

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