Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Vees

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Penticton Vees
When: March 10, 3:00 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

Another season of Smoke Eaters hockey draws to a close this afternoon against Penticton. Trail was eliminated from playoff contention after the Salmon Arm SilverBacks clinched the fourth and final playoff berth, and so it will be the ‘Backs that will square off against today’s opponent, Penticton, in the first round of the BCHL playoffs beginning Friday.

This Smoke Eater club battled every night, bringing pride to the club crest and doubling its overall win total from last year. Three Smokies (Brent Baltus, Garrett McMullen and Luke Sandler) cracked the 20-goal mark after no Smoke Eater did so last season, and three members of this group have already secured NCAA Division I scholarships. Trail’s ten extra-time wins this season matches a club record set during the 1997-98 season, though unbelievably the Surrey Eagles’ 11 overtime wins is this season’s top mark.

Today, we bid farewell to four Smoke Eater leaders in Baltus, McMullen, Bennett Hambrook and Tyler Berkholtz as they graduate from the junior “A” ranks.  Baltus and McMullen both spent two seasons with the Orange & Black while Berkholtz and Hambrook both joined the team this year. Please join me in giving them a much-deserved round of applause as they, and your Smoke Eaters, play out the final game of their 2012-13 season this afternoon. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.

Last Meeting: Brad McClure broke a 4-4 tie here last Saturday with just under 6 minutes remaining to give Penticton a win. Both teams have won three times in the six previous meetings this season.

Our Opponent: The Vees will be the top seed in the Interior conference bracket after clinching the division here last weekend, but losses in four of the last five games mean Penticton will miss out on the overall regular-season crown. Fred Harbinson’s group will be motivated to end the regular season on a positive note after a last-minute loss in Vernon on Friday night. Captain Troy Stecher sealed his future with the University of North Dakota earlier this week, meaning all but six players on the Vees’ active roster are committed to college. Today also marks one last visit to Trail for former Smokie Sam Mellor, who sits on 54 points entering play today after back-to-back 60+ point seasons with the Smoke Eaters in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

In the Press Box: Trail’s Bryce Knapp is out for the remainder of the season. The Vees will see forward Cody DePourcq return from a suspension today, but have no listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: Join me for all the action from Cominco Arena on FastHockey pay-per-view or listen for free on Smokies Ustream. Pre-game coverage begins at 2:50 with the play-by-play set for 3:00.

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