Monday, January 28, 2013

Pears, Sandler Earn Honourable Mentions

Great news for two Smokies from BCHL headquarters Monday, as defenseman Braden Pears and forward Luke Sandler both earned honourable mentions for BCHL Player of the Week.

Sandler enjoyed a pair of two-goal outings in Nanaimo and Port Alberni Friday and Saturday, including a game-winner and a short-handed marker that will resonate through Frank Crane Arena for some time to reach the 20-goal mark on the season, while Pears scored twice, capping off his weekend with a late power-play winner in Langley Sunday. He leads the Smokies in defensive scoring with 6 goals and 26 points.

The full release from the team is available here.

Pears has now earned two honourable mentions this season, while this week's announcement is Sandler's first. The lone Smoke Eater to earn Player of the Week this season was Garrett McMullen last month.

Way to go fellas!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Smoke Eaters 4 Rivermen 3

Braden Pears nicked a late third-period power-play winner, and Lyndon Stanwood made 45 saves as the Smokies rallied in the third period to nip the Langley Rivermen 4-3 Sunday.

Trail overcame three one-goal deficits, and Stanwood stopped BCHL scoring leader Mario Puskarich on a third-period penalty shot to help the Smokies finish 2-1 on their three game Coastal swing and climb to within two points of fourth-place Salmon Arm.

Langley opened the scoring just past the two-minute mark when forward Matt Ustaski banked in a shot from behind the goalline that careened off Stanwood's skate. But the Langley lead was short-lived, as on a power-play two minutes later Jesse Knowler banged home a rebound for his second goal in as many games to level the score.

It remained 1-1 until early in the second, when the Rivermen again found the lead through Mark Whiteley, whose point shot deflected off a Smoke Eaters defender past Stanwood. But again, the Smoke Eaters answered quickly courtesy of Scott Davidson, who converted from the low slot after a nifty, cross-ice give-and-go with captain Garrett McMullen. The 17 year-old Davidson scored in each of this weekend's three games to up his season total to 9, while McMullen came ever so close to giving Trail a 3-2 lead before the break on a breakaway, but was denied by the left goalpost.

Langley again found an early goal in the third period, and it was their prettiest of the night. Forward Evan Anderson picked off a clearing attempt, then cut to the low circle, roofing a power-play back-hander.

The Rivermen would hold the advantage until immediately after the mid-period break. Tyler Berkholtz tried a direct shot on goal off the face-off, and on a second rebound Adam Wheeldon found the back of the net for his seventh goal of the season.

Langley found a golden opportunity to re-capture the lead at the 12-minute mark of the third when Puskarich was hauled down by Trail's Marley Keca on a breakaway, resulting in a penalty shot. Puskarich, who has scored 30 goals this season, tried to outwait Stanwood from the slot with some nifty stick-handling, but the Trail goaltender stuck out his left foot and denied the Florida native.

The save would prove even bigger when the Smokies were given a late power-play thanks to a too many men call on Langley. Knowler fed Brent Baltus behind the net, who then found a pinching Pears down the right wing. Pears one-timed the puck past Langley netminder Darren Hogg for his second game-winning goal in as many games against the Rivermen this season. The Rivermen earned a late power-play of their own, but were unable to solve Stanwood despite having Hogg pulled for a sixth skater.

Trail's power-play finally clicked, and the fact that it happened so early in the game seemed to spur on the Smoke Eaters. After a night in Alberni Valley were things did not go well on the man-advantage, it was crucial the Smokies find success when given power-play opportunities, and they did, going 2-5 on the afternoon.

Likewise, Stanwood needed to have a solid outing in goal. He was strong, yet relatively untested in relief Saturday, and after an early hiccup was sensational, making several flashy glove saves and showing the type of reaction speed that can be a difference-maker in games for all the right reasons.

My Three Stars:
1. Lyndon Stanwood, Trail
2. Evan Anderson, Langley
3. Jesse Knowler, Trail

Up Next: The Smokies don't play again until Tuesday, February 5th, but it's a biggie with the SilverBacks paying one last visit to Cominco Arena. Needless to say the club would love nothing more than a large crowd.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Rivermen

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Langley Rivermen
When: Jan. 27, 2:00 pm
Where: Langley Events Centre, Langley

The third and final game of Trail's Coastal swing sees the Smokies land in Langley in search of a third season-series sweep against Mainland division opposition. The Smokies won both games against both Chilliwack and Prince George, and fashioned a fashionable comeback last month to nip the Rivermen in Trail.

Last night's loss in Port Alberni was a tough pill to swallow, with the Smokies holding a wide shot advantage and coming ever so close to finding a third-period equalizer, but today brings a chance to make amends. I'd expect Lyndon Stanwood to start this afternoon after he came on in relief of Adam Todd in last night's third period.

Today also marks a return to the Langley Events Centre for defenseman Valik Chichkin, who spent over a year in Rivermen silks before being acquired by Trail in late October.

Last Meeting: Trail fell behind early, but won 6-5 in extra time thanks to an OT winner from Braden Pears.

Our Opponent: Langley is on a tear, despite a 3-1 loss in Surrey last night, and have moved into a playoff berth after a January that has been well above average. The Rivermen are also playing their third game in three days after beating Salmon Arm at home Friday. The line of Mario Puskarich, Evan Campbell and James Robinson was a handful for the Smokies defense during the last meeting in Trail, Puskarich is a 30-goal man while his linemates both show plenty of offensive flair. Langley has been one of the more physical teams to visit Trail this season, remember it was d-man Turner Popoff who put Trail sniper Brent Baltus on the sidelines during the first period of the game on December 7th.

In the Press Box: for Trail, Bryce Knapp is out. Jesse Knowler is questionable after taking a hit to the jaw from Bulldogs blueliner Jared Wilson last night.

Broadcast Info: today's game will be on the usual channels with pre-game coverage beginning at 1:50. Watch this space for links closer to game time (I'm unable to post them from my phone).

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

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bulldogs 5 Smoke Eaters 4

A game of inches tonight for the Smokies, who came ever so close to battling back from a three-goal second-period deficit only to lose 5-4 to the Bulldogs Saturday in Port Alberni.

Evan Tironese and former Kootenay Ice midget Tryg Strand each had a goal and an assist, while Luke Sandler became the second Smokie to reach 20 goals this season after a second successive two-goal effort.

Trail opened the scoring seconds after a power-play elapsed at the 3:35 mark, when Jesse Knowler slapped a backhand shot from the goalline that banked in off the shoulder of Alberni Valley starter Brad Rebagliati. But the Bulldogs replied just over 2 minutes later when Teal Burns converted on a 2-on-1, then took the lead late in the first period on a terrific solo effort from Strand, who juked around a Trail defender and bullied the puck past goaltender Adam Todd.

The first half of the second period was even more fruitful for the hosts, who went up 3-1 1:30 in on another odd-man rush that was converted by Hunter Stewart. Tironese deflected a Bo Pellah point shot through traffic to make it 4-1 before the Smokies found a mid-period spark courtesy of Scott Davidson, who was sprung in alone on a long stretch pass from Garrett McMullen, beating Rebagliati with a wrist shot for his second goal in as many games.

Sandler's seeing-eye wrister made it 4-3 just over a minute later, but Trail's inability to capitalize on the man-advantage manifested itself before the period was out, when a trailing Chase Van Allen snapped home a short-handed marker from the high slot.

Sandler would rip home a rebound just past the 3-minute mark of the third to cut the lead to 5-4, but again Trail's power-play inefficiency continued to pose problems. The Smokies were unable to capitalize on 7 minutes of power-play time, including a major to Bulldogs defenseman Jared Wilson, who nailed Knowler at centre with a stiff shoulder check to the head. Knowler returned to the game after being down on the ice for 3 minutes.

Trail pulled goaltender Lyndon Stanwood (who started the third period) with 2:05 on the clock, but could not beat Rebagliati and found themselves down 2 men with 10.3 seconds left in regulation time. Inexplicably, Trail then found a way to generate a 2-on-1 rush, but forward Austin Adduono was robbed in the dying moments by a diving Rebagliati to preserve the Alberni Valley win.

With Salmon Arm's win in Chilliwack tonight, Trail again finds themselves down 3 points with both clubs in action Sunday.

Trail outshot Alberni Valley 41-26.

My 3 Stars:
1. Evan Tironese, Alberni Valley
2. Luke Sandler, Trail
3. Tryg Strand, Alberni Valley

Up Next: Trail pays a visit to Langley tomorrow to wrap up the road trip. Game time is 2:00.

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 @ Bulldogs

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Alberni Valley Bulldogs
When: January 26, 7:00 pm
Where: Weyerhaeuser Arena, Port Alberni

Trail will look to keep their feet firmly affixed to the gas pedal tonight in Port Alberni, as they meet the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for the first time this season. Adam Todd and Luke Sandler wrote a lot of the story in Friday's 4-0 victory in Nanaimo, with the lanky goaltender making 35 saves and the Illinois-born forward scoring a pair of goals including a short-handed stunner in the third period. It was the Smokies' third consecutive victory at Frank Crane Arena dating back to the 2009-10 season, but one that now needs to be solely in the rear-view mirror as Trail tries for a second straight victory on this road swing.

Tonight marks a return to the Alberni Valley for several Smokies. Brent Baltus played the majority of his minor hockey in Port Alberni and is a former Bulldogs season-ticket holder, let alone AP. Todd was of course acquired from Alberni Valley earlier this season while Marley Keca played 48 games with the Bulldogs before being picked up by Trail in a six-player blockbuster in October of 2011. But the elder statesman on the Smokies' roster might be the most noteworthy player to make his return to Weyerhaeuser Arena ice tonight: Tyler Berkholtz made 139 regular-season appearances with Alberni Valley, including a 20-goal season in 2010-11. No doubt those four will see plenty of familiar faces, and look to make an impression on their former club (and hometown) tonight.

Last Meeting: These clubs haven't met in almost a full calendar year, with the last encounter being a 6-2 Trail win at Cominco Arena on February 2, 2012. Baltus had a pair of goals including the game-winner. The Bulldogs haven't hosted the Smokies since 2010, a 4-2 Alberni Valley win thanks in large part to a (go figure) Berkholtz hat-trick.

Our Opponent: Alberni Valley comes into tonight's game in the midst of a playoff positioning battle, entering play today level on points with Powell River for the #3 seed in the Island division. These two clubs have each allowed the most goals in their respective divisions, but Alberni Valley has locked things down of late thanks in large part to the play of Jay Deo. That said, the 20 year-old has won only 2 of his last 8 decisions dating back to December 9th. 19 year-old Ryan Lough is top dog offensively (35 points) while 17 year-old sophomore Evan Tironese sits second with 32 that was kick-started by an incredible month of September. Former Smoke Eaters defenseman Eric Walker will meet his former club for the first time tonight. The 19 year-old enjoyed a stint in the WHL with Portland during the holiday break and has put up nine points in 20 Bulldogs appearances since joining the club from WHL Swift Current. Walker played 112 regular-season games with the Smokies during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.

In the Press Box: Trail's lone scratch is Bryce Knapp. The Bulldogs do not have any listed injuries though Lough and 20 year-old d-man Chase Van Allen did not dress Wednesday in Nanaimo.

Broadcast Info: Watch tonight's game on FAST Hockey pay-per-view, or listen live at Smokies Ustream. Pregame coverage begins at 6:50 with the play-by-play set for 7:00.

Smoke Eaters 4 Clippers 0

Luke Sandler scored twice, including a highlight-reel short-handed goal, and Adam Todd made 35 saves as the Smokies shut out the Clippers 4-0 in Nanaimo Friday.

Trail put together one of its most complete efforts of the 2012-13 season, and with the victory moved to within a point of the fourth-place Salmon Arm SilverBacks in the Interior division standings.

The Smokies shot out of the gate, opening the scoring before the five-minute mark when Sandler fired a long-range shot, then lifted his own rebound over the pad of Nanaimo starter Jayson Argue for his 17th goal of the season. Trail was outshot 15-14 in the opening frame with Todd forced into a pair of tough saves, including a far-post robbery of Brendan Taylor with his right pad.

The Clippers thought they'd tied the game late in period one when leading scorer Kyle Kramer put a backhand past Todd, but Marley Keca saved the puck from crossing the line, and the play was ruled "no-goal" by referee Adam Griffiths despite the red light flickering on and Griffiths then engaging in a conference with his linesmen and the goal judge at the end of the period.

Trail broke the game open thanks to a 19-second flurry early in the second that netted two goals. First, Braden Pears' centring pass from the left corner was kicked in by Nanaimo defenseman Josh Bryan, then Scott Davidson deflected Braeden Jones' point shot through Argue's legs, chasing the Clippers keeper who was replaced by Derek Dun.

Sandler put a capper on the scoring midway through a third period that tested the patience of the home side. While short-handed, Sandler accepted a pass from Keca at his own blue line, toe-dragged around Bryan at the Clipper line only to stride in, deke, and lift a backhand shot over an outstretched Dun, off the cross-bar, and into the net. The goal moves Sandler into second on Trail's roster in goals this season with 18, three behind leader Brent Baltus, who chipped in with an assist tonight on his return to the Harbour City.

Todd was poised, confident, and let out few rebounds that caused any trouble for himself or his defensemen in collecting his seventh win of the season. Trail also played an extremely responsible defensive game, accented terrifically by an 8-blocked shot performance from 20 year-old Bennett Hambrook. This, combined with the Smoke Eaters' ability to kill penalties, contributed to arguably the tidiest defensive effort from this team this season.

Highlight of the Night: I picked out Sandler's short-handed goal from the FAST Hockey archive, feel free to take a look-see right here

My Three Stars:
1. Adam Todd, Trail
2. Luke Sandler, Trail
3. Bennett Hambrook, Trail

Up Next: Todd, Keca and Tyler Berkholtz return to face their former club tomorrow as Trail visits the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. Saturday's game also marks a return for Baltus to the rink in which he played the bulk of his minor hockey. After a terrific team effort tonight, the Smokies should be full of confidence entering a building that has historically proven tough for visiting teams.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Clippers

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Nanaimo Clippers
When: January 25, 7:00 pm
Where: Frank Crane Arena, Nanaimo

Good morning from Nanaimo, where the Smoke Eaters go in search of valuable points on their final multi-game road trip of the season. Trail visits the Clippers tonight, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs tomorrow and then wind down January with a Sunday matinee in Langley against the Rivermen.

The standings are no secret; Trail needs points and help from Mainland division clubs if they're to surpass Salmon Arm for that coveted fourth seed in the Interior (the SilverBacks begin a three-game Coastal swing themselves tonight in Langley), and with Salmon Arm holding four games in hand, Trail definitely needs to approach each game this weekend with playoff-like urgency. The Smokies have, though, won four of their last six games away from Cominco Arena in what appears to be a marked reversal from early-season forays away from home.

Tonight also marks the first, and last, opportunity for Smokies leading scorer Brent Baltus to play in front of family and friends in Nanaimo as a member of the Smoke Eaters. Baltus collected a pair of assists in his first two games back from injury last weekend.

Another Vancouver Islander, Courtenay's Adam Todd, could also figure prominently between the pipes. The lanky 18 year-old has started four of the Smokies' last five games.

Last Meeting: Tonight marks the second and final "all orange-and-black affair," with the Clippers winning 4-1 at Cominco Arena on December 16th. I thought Trail matched up quite well with Nanaimo quite well the last time these two teams met. The turning point may have been a 5-minute Smoke Eaters power-play that netted only a short-handed goal against, and the Clippers used that goal (from Greg Fraser) to spark a three-goal second period.

Our Opponent: Nanaimo is one of the hottest teams in the BCHL, with eight wins in the ten-game stretch dating back to the 16th of December. They defeated Alberni Valley 3-1 on home ice Wednesday to move 6 points clear of the third-place Bulldogs, but still stand 12 points behind Island division-leading Victoria. The Western Canada Cup hosts beefed up at the trade deadline, snagging Castlegar's Aaron Hadley in a deal with the Vernon Vipers and overage defenseman Brock Maschmeyer from the AJHL's Fort McMurray Oil Barons. Fourth-year Clipper Kyle Kramer is top dog offensively with 42 points, with ex-Prince George Cougar Fraser a point behind. Nanaimo has two 19 year-old goaltenders in Jayson Argue and ex-Capital Derek Dun, both of whom have held the Smoke Eaters to one goal in starts against Trail this year (Dun with Cowichan Valley at the BCHL Showcase).

In the Press Box: Trail is without forward Bryce Knapp, who is out for the season with an upper-body injury. Clippers forward Brendan Forbes is recovering from an injury suffered in mid-December and isn't expected to dress.

Broadcast Info: Watch tonight's game on FAST Hockey pay-per-view, or listen live at Smokies Ustream. Pregame coverage begins at 6:50 with the play-by-play set for 7:00.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Catching Up With... Logan Proulx & Clayton McEwan

I happened to chance across former Smoke Eater captains Logan Proulx and Clayton McEwan before Saturday's home game against the SilverBacks, both of whom are enjoying fine freshman seasons with the BCIHL top-dogs from Selkirk College.

Check out the Smoke Eaters' website for a story on how the 21 year-olds are enjoying life as Saints.

In case you missed the interview as part of our first intermission on Saturday, you can listen by clicking here.

Thanks again Logan and "Macker" for stopping by, always nice to see you guys 'round Cominco Arena!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

SilverBacks 4 Smoke Eaters 3 (OT)

Alex Gillies scored the equalizer and overtime winner to lift the Salmon Arm SilverBacks to a 4-3 extra-time win over the Smokies at Cominco Arena Saturday.

In a game that saw several lead changes, it was the visitors who earned the extra point and moved three points ahead of Trail for the final Interior playoff berth.

Salmon Arm just about took the lead in the opening minute when Josh Bowes was robbed by Adam Todd from point-blank range, and the Smokies took full advantage of the momentum generated by the save, going ahead 5:01 into the first period when Adam Wheeldon retrieved his own dump-in and snapped a wrist shot over the pad of SilverBacks netminder Angus Redmond.

Trail outshot the SilverBacks 15-7 in the opening frame, and enjoyed a lengthy 5-on-3 early in period two but could not extend the one-goal lead.

It was then Salmon Arm's turn to take full advantage with two goals in a 29-second span late in period two; the first off a Ryan Schwalbe re-direct, the second on a rebound put-away by fellow rookie Jordan Levesque to give the visitors a 2-1 lead heading into the third period.

The Smokies have won 7 times this season when trailing after fourty minutes, and seemed poised to find an eighth come-from-behind win when Garrett McMullen tied the game early in the third on a long-range wrist shot that may have taken a deflection off a SilverBacks defenseman.

Several minutes later, Trail found the lead again when Scott Davidson fired home his sixth goal of the year through traffic.

But this time, the Smoke Eaters couldn't hold the lead. Salmon Arm sophomore Gillies converted into an open net after Brayden Sherbinin's point blast caromed to him off the end glass. Gillies would score the game-winner 2:24 into overtime after being sprung in alone on Todd by defenseman Shane Hanna, who returned to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension.

Needless to say, the result is a bitter blow to the Smoke Eaters, who like last night played well enough to earn more than one point. And after a weekend that sees a gap between fourth and fifth grow to three points, the task of earning a post-season berth just got a lot tougher for this club, with only twelve games remaining in the regular season.

My Three Stars:
1. Alex Gillies, Salmon Arm
2. Scott Davidson, Trail
3. Ryan Schwalbe, Salmon Arm

Up Next: The Smokies hit the road for three games next weekend, beginning Friday night in Nanaimo. From there, Trail travels to Alberni Valley and Langley before playing seven of their final nine games on home ice.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. SilverBacks

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Salmon Arm SilverBacks
When: January 19, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

A night after a disappointing 3-1 loss in the Shuswap, the Smokies enter tonight needing two points to keep pace with Salmon Arm in the race for the final Interior playoff spot. The SilverBacks scored three times in the second period last night, and received a 31-save performance from rookie (and surprise starter) Angus Redmond to move to 39 points, leaving Trail with 37 entering play today.

A lack of finish did the Smokies in Friday. Buoyed by the return of Brent Baltus after a nine-game absence, Trail let golden opportunities go begging, especially through the first fourty minutes. Thoughts of a third-period comeback were shut down thanks to Redmond’s first BCHL win. Despite making 32 saves of his own, including some brilliant work in the first 25 minutes, Adam Todd suffered his first loss as a Smoke Eater.

No doubt the Smokies realize the importance of tonight’s game. Win, and the two sides are level again;  lose, and Trail finds themselves four points from playoff safety with a tough Coastal road trip looming in the near future.

No doubt Baltus will be leaned upon again tonight. The 20 year-old (who has been skating for several weeks) notched an assist yesterday and looked dangerous on nearly every shift on a line with Garrett McMullen and Connor Collett.

Last Meeting: The SilverBacks’ 3-1 win last night puts them on top in the season series by three games to two. The away team has won three of the five meetings as well.

Our Opponent: The SilverBacks welcome back defenseman (and leading scorer) Shane Hanna from a two-game suspension tonight, which was assessed after a major penalty on Luke Sandler last Friday at Cominco Arena. 12-goal man Alex Gillies also returned to the lineup last night and despite being held off the scoresheet was dangerous on Salmon Arm’s top line with Brandon Mistal and Steven Iacobellis. Head coach Scott Robinson may have a tough decision tonight in goal. Does he go with the hot hand in Redmond, or turn back to #1 Adam Clark, who stopped 49 shots in Trail last Friday. The SilverBacks have killed 25 of 26 Trail power-plays in the five games between the two teams thus far, and own the BCHL’s fourth-best penalty-kill.

In the Press Box: Trail’s Bryce Knapp is out for the remainder of the season. Salmon Arm forward Riley Hunt is injured and will not play

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

Friday, January 18, 2013

SilverBacks 3 Smoke Eaters 1

Salmon Arm scored three times in period two, and Angus Redmond stopped 31 shots for his first BCHL win as the SilverBacks moved two points ahead of the Smokies for the fourth Interior playoff berth by winning 3-1 Friday.

Redmond, appearing in only his second BCHL game with Salmon Arm, was beaten only by Smokies captain Garrett McMullen late in period two as the 'Backs took first blood in this weekend's home and home set.

A scoreless first period saw chances at both ends, including a flashy Adam Todd glove save off Jeff Kennedy and several chances in close by Brent Baltus, making his return to the lineup after missing Trail's last nine games.

Salmon Arm took the lead 8 minutes into period two, when Brett Fagerheim's wrister from the left-wing boards caught Todd by surprise, slipping through his legs.

Later in the frame, Steven Iacobellis put the hosts ahead 2-0, banging home a rebound on a Salmon Arm power-play while falling in front of the net. Josh Bowes' picture-perfect wrist shot gave the SilverBacks a 3-0 lead before an individual effort by McMullen put Trail on the board late in period two, as he darted across the low slot, slipping a backhand beneath Redmond's left pad.

Try as they might, the Smokies could not battle back. Redmond, who like colleague Adam Clark possesses a sizeable net presence, wasn't flashy, but didn't have to be, despite the Smoke Eaters enjoying two third-period power-play chances.

Baltus earned an assist in his return, and despite a couple of timing inefficiencies gave the Smokies a legitimate threat up front. No doubt his return to the lineup will play a huge role in Trail's drive to the playoffs.

My Three Stars:
1. Angus Redmond, Salmon Arm
2. Garrett McMullen, Trail
3. Steven Iacobellis, Salmon Arm

Up Next: the home-and-home series draws to a close Saturday in Trail. Safe to say the Smokies would very much like a split.

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 @ SilverBacks

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Salmon Arm SilverBacks
When: January 18, 7:00 pm
Where: Shaw Centre, Salmon Arm

The biggest home-and-home series of the 2012-13 season begins tonight in the Shuswap, as Trail and Salmon Arm get set to duke it out over the fourth and final Interior playoff berth. With 14 games remaining in the regular season, the Smokies find themselves level on points (37) with the fourth-place SilverBacks trailing only on games played. And after both Trail and Salmon Arm missed the playoffs last season, you can bet both sides will be eager to reverse their fortunes this time around.

Last Friday's 4-1 win over the SilverBacks might have been the Smokies' best effort of the season. 53 shots on goal, aggressive forechecking in the offensive third, and a 31-save performance from Adam Todd all contributed to Trail drawing back on level terms with the 'Backs, but Saturday's 6-1 defeat at the hands of West Kelowna surely undid any feeling of overconfidence in the Smoke Eaters dressing room. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see Todd make a return to the crease tonight; he remains undefeated as a Smoke Eater with a 5-0 record to his name since joining the team from Alberni Valley.

Watch for Mitch Foyle to have an extra jump in his step tonight too. The 16 year-old's four-point weekend earned him an honourable mention for BCHL Player of the Week. Seven of Foyle's nine points this season have come on home ice.

Trail's power-play also needs to be a source of inspiration. The Smoke Eaters have struggled most of the year on the man-advantage, and are 0/21 in four meetings with Salmon Arm this season.

Last Meeting: Trail scored three times in the second period en route to a 4-1 win January 11th at Cominco Arena. The season series is even at 2-2, with both sides winning once at home and once away.

Our Opponent: The SilverBacks will be without leading scorer Shane Hanna tonight as he serves the second of a two-game suspension for a checking-to-the-head major assessed Friday in Trail, but are expected to welcome back forward Alex Gillies this evening. Hanna's absence means a much more prominent role on the offensive side of the puck for 20 year-old Brayden Sherbinin, who had arguably the SilverBacks best chance last Friday on a first-period power-play and logged a lot of minutes on the back end. Gillies should draw in with top-line forwards Brandon Mistal and Steven Iacobellis, who were both the difference in Salmon Arm's two wins over Trail this season in late November.

In the Press Box: Trail's Brent Baltus is questionable. Forward Bryce Knapp is out for the season and has returned home to Ontario after a frustrating time dealing with a shoulder injury. All the best to "Knapper" and hope to see you back at 100% in the late summer. For the SilverBacks, defenseman Hanna is out due to the aforementioned suspension.

Broadcast Info: Watch tonight's game on FAST Hockey pay-per-view, or listen live on Smokies Ustream. Pre-game coverage begins at 6:50 with the play-by-play set for 7:00.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Foyle Earns POW Mention

Smoke Eaters forward Mitch Foyle has earned an honourable mention for BCHL Player of the Week after a career weekend that saw the 16 year-old nearly double his point total

Foyle put up three assists in Friday's 4-1 win over Salmon Arm, then scored the Smokies' only goal on a third-period re-direction Saturday against West Kelowna. The Fruitvale product now has 9 points on the season, four of which are goals.

The full release from the team is available here.

Foyle's far from the loudest kid on the Smoke Eaters bench (and bus), but earning some recognition for his hard work at the league level is sure to boost an already-rising confidence level. His pass on Tyler Berkholtz's give-and-goal Friday against Salmon Arm showed poise and a flash of a promise for the future. Along with the likes of locals Scott Davidson and Jake Lucchini, Foyle will be a big part of the Smoke Eaters core in years to come, and this week's honourable mention is the first glimpse into the future for a kid that has all the tools to be an impact player in this league.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Warriors 6 Smoke Eaters 1

A night after just about everything went right for the Smoke Eaters, it just about all went wrong Saturday in a 6-1 loss to West Kelowna at Cominco Arena.

Trail surrendered two goals in each period, and found themselves behind the 8-ball early as the Warriors, despite being outshot, took full advantage of their offensive opportunities to earn their first win at Cominco Arena in three tries this season.

Warriors captain Max French twice before the game was 5-and-a-half minutes old; the first on a feed from behind the net that went through the legs of Trail starter Lyndon Stanwood, the second on a power-play rebound that saw him positioned at the side of the net with a gaping cage with which to insert the puck.

The second period started similarly, as West Kelowna took a 3-0 lead thanks to David Pope. Linemate Seb Lloyd won a battle in the left-wing corner and fed a pass to Pope, who made no mistake on his tenth goal of the season. The marker spelled the end of the night for Stanwood, who was replaced by Adam Todd.

The Warriors would score their fourth, and prettiest goal of the night later in the period on a three-on-one that was finished off by Marcus Basara from the right circle, with Lloyd and French drawing assists on a tic-tac-toe play.

Ben Tegtmeyer's wrister 6:23 into the third made it 5-0 Warriors, before Mitch Foyle put Trail on the board shortly before the midway mark of period three. Foyle redirected Garrett McMullen's left-wing wrister for his fourth goal of the season, and fourth point of the weekend.

Devon Hascarl provided further insurance in the final minute with a wrist shot that glanced off Todd's catching mitt and in.

The Warriors won despite being outshot, and goaltender Steven Myland was, in a word, terrific, making 30 saves to earn his first victory with West Kelowna after recently spending time in the WHL with the Swift Current Broncos. Trail generated plenty of offensive opportunities off the rush and through turnovers in the Warriors zone, but were parried either by Myland or swift-closing checkers.

It was a frustrating night for Trail, and the near-thousand fans who took the game in, maybe most evident at the start of the third period when no fewer than four Smoke Eaters found themselves in the penalty box after a skirmish at the end of period two.

The Smokies remain level on points with Salmon Arm and hold a share of the fourth seed in the Interior division. Salmon Arm plays Sunday at home against Powell River ahead of a crucial home-and-home set with the Smoke Eaters that begins Friday in the Shuswap.

My Three Stars:
1. Max French, West Kelowna
2. Steven Myland, West Kelowna
3. Seb Lloyd, West Kelowna

Up Next: Trail visits Salmon Arm Friday night to kick off a home-and-home series with the SilverBacks. Four of Trail's next five games are away from home.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Warriors

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. West Kelowna Warriors
When: January 12, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The Smokies fired anything and everything at Salmon Arm’s Adam Clark a night ago, and will look to do the same this evening in search of a third successive home win over West Kelowna tonight.
Trail put a season-high 53 shots on the clock against the SilverBacks Friday, scoring three goals in the second period en route to an emotional 4-1 win. Austin Adduono broke a 14-game goal-less drought, while Jesse Knowler’s third goal this week stood up as the winner as Trail moved back into a share of a playoff berth.

Adam Todd made 31 saves to improve to 5-0 as a Trail netminder, but don’t be surprised to see Lyndon Stanwood back in action after backing up for the wins against Vernon and Salmon Arm.

If the Smokies come out with the same kind of energy we saw at Cominco Arena last night, one would have to like their chances against West Kelowna this evening. Trail has enjoyed success against the Warriors this season with three wins, but will need to be at their best against a West Kelowna club which despite having the Interior division’s most potent offense, is surely looking in their rear-view mirror.

Last Meeting: Connor Collett’s fortuitous overtime winner sealed Trail’s 4-3 victory in West Kelowna December 14th. Trail leads the season series 3-2.

Our Opponent: The Warriors added two veterans at this week’s trading deadline, acquiring Express captain Mitch Nardi and former Calgary Hitmen forward Danny Gayle from the AJHL in separate deals. Nardi scored twice in West Kelowna’s 6-2 win last night against Powell River. No Interior team has scored more than the Warriors’ 128 goals; even more impressive is that only Merritt (35) has played fewer games than the Warriors’ 36. Former Vernon forward Marcus Basara is enjoying a career year with 43 points (21-22), as is Harvard commit Seb Lloyd, who has 42 points in four fewer games. Expect Tyler Briggs to go again in goal for West Kelowna tonight though the team has had backup Steven Myland returned to them from WHL Swift Current. The 17 year-old picked up a shutout during his time with the Broncos.

In the Press Box: Brent Baltus and Bryce Knapp are likely out for the Smokies. Ambrose Firkus, Shawn Hochhausen, and Brent Lashuk all missed last night’s Warriors win while Brett McKinnon has been out long-term and is not expected to dress.

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 faceoff set for 7:30.

Smoke Eaters 4 SilverBacks 1

The Smokies scored three times in the second period, fired 53 shots at Adam Clark and crept back into a share of fourth in the Interior division after a 4-1 win over Salmon Arm Friday.

The Smoke Eaters came out with their most complete effort of 2013, while goaltender Adam Todd turned in a second straight solid performance, making 31 saves to improve his record to 5-0 in a Smoke Eaters shirt.

Trail jumped out of the gate, putting 17 shots at the Salmon Arm net but came away empty in a scoreless opening frame. The save of the period might well have come from Todd, who flashed the leather on a tremendous glove stop on Brayden Sherbinin on a SilverBacks power-play.

It took 4:05 for Trail to find the breakthrough in the middle frame. Mitch Foyle completed a give-and-go with a razor-sharp pass to Tyler Berkholtz from the right wing. The 20 year-old tapped home his 8th goal of the season, diving over Clark in the process.

Seven minutes later, Foyle would earn another assist. His wrist shot from the high slot was saved, but Jesse Knowler found the rebound on the doorstep, jamming home his third goal in two games.

Austin Adduono would convert a nifty centring feed from Connor Collett with less than two minutes to go in the frame, and the Smokies could have had more in period two, were it not for terrific stops from Clark and a hit crossbar by Riley McDougall.

SilverBacks defenseman (and leading scorer) Shane Hanna was ejected in the final minute of the third period for a blindside hit on Trail forward Luke Sandler. The 19 year-old Smoke Eater had to be helped off the ice, the hit precipitating a scrap between Hanna and Scott Davidson.

The SilverBacks earned some momentum while killing the major penalty, which stretched into the third period, testing Todd several times on subsequent power-plays before Evan Anderson finally broke his shutout bid in the final two minutes on a three-on-one rush.

McDougall added an empty-net goal in the final minute to seal Trail's second consecutive win, the 53 shots on target set a new season high. The Smokies looked calm, cool, and collected, and were the better side off the opening faceoff Friday, earning an important two points against a club with whom they will get quite familiar over the next week or so.

My Three Stars:
1. Adam Todd, Trail
2. Austin Adduono, Trail
3. Mitch Foyle, Trail

Up Next: Another big divisional tilt is set for Saturday, as the Smokies host West Kelowna. Gametime is 7:30.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. SilverBacks

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Salmon Arm SilverBacks
When: January 11, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

A quiet trade deadline has passed without any activity, and after a dramatic victory Wednesday night the Smoke Eaters go marching into tonight’s fixture with a chance to reclaim a playoff berth. Trail and Salmon Arm meet for the fourth time this season with the away team having won 2 of 3 of the previous games.

Castlegar Rebels forward Diego Bartlett played hero for Trail Wednesday, scoring both the game-tying and game-winning goals in a 5-4 victory at Vernon; the Smokies were down 4-1 after two periods before Jesse Knowler scored two goals in 20 seconds early in the third period.

Adam Todd made his first appearance in goal since November 21st, making 29 saves to move to 4-0 as a Smoke Eater. Knowler’s performance was all the more important given the fact Trail’s two leading scorers were out of the lineup Wednesday, and the Smokies deserve full credit for finding their third-period form after a pair of rough finishes to start 2013.

Shane Poulsen also made his return to the lineup after missing 11 games. He was initially hurt during the last meeting between the Smokies and SilverBacks; no doubt the Kamloops product (who before his injury led Trail in defensive scoring) will be searching for retribution tonight).

Last Meeting: The SilverBacks swept a late November home-and-home and lead the season series 2-1. Three of Trail’s next four games are against Salmon Arm, who are two points ahead of the Smokies in the Interior’s fourth seed.

Our Opponent: After a disastrous start, the SilverBacks have found their feet and continue to climb up the Interior division ladder, but are coming off a third-period collapse at home against the Capitals last Saturday night. Salmon Arm has scored the fewest goals in the Interior division with 89 and are led in scoring by defenseman Shane Hanna (8-25-33), though midseason pickup Steven Iacobellis has 18 points in 15 SilverBack appearances. New Hampshire commit Adam Clark has settled into the number-one role in his second season in the Shuswap, posting a 2.40 GAA. He shut out the Smokies on November 23rd in Salmon Arm’s last visit to Trail.

In the Press Box
: The Smoke Eaters have been without Garrett McMullen and Bryce Knapp for the last two games; they both are questionable as is forward Brent Baltus. Salmon Arm forward Riley Hunt is out, new acquisition Spencer Loverock is as well.

Broadcast Info: Tonight's game will be available on FAST Hockey pay-per-view, or choose to listen live at Smokies Ustream. Our pregame coverage begins at 7:20 with the opening faceoff set for 7:30.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Smoke Eaters 5 Vipers 4

Diego Bartlett scored his second goal of the game on a mid-third period power-play as the Smokies rallied from a three-goal deficit to stun Vernon 5-4 at Wesbild Centre.

The Castlegar Rebels callup scored his first two BCHL goals as Trail peppered the Viper net with 20 third-period shots to earn their third victory in Vernon this season, and move to within two points of a post-season berth.

The Vipers controlled the play in period one, going ahead on a Liam Board rebound before two T.J. Dumonceaux wristers put the home side up 3-0.

Trail clawed a goal back in the final minute of the opening frame when Riley McDougall wristed a puck past Vernon goaltender Danny Todosychuk for his 3rd goal in 5 games.

Aaron Hadley extended Vernon's lead to 4-1 in the second, taking a long stretch feed from Geoff Crisfield and outwaiting Trail goaltender Adam Todd to score his 12th goal this year.

But the Cardiac Kids came to life in period three. Two turnovers from Viper defenseman turned into two Jesse Knowler goals inside the opening two minutes of the period, then Bartlett brought the Smokies level after he wired home Austin Adduono's rebound.

Crisfield would take a tripping minor with 8:06 remaining, setting up Bartlett's winner. The 18-year old was fed a nifty centring feed from Adam Wheeldon and went short-side on Todosychuk, sending the Trail bench into a frenzy.

Todd stood tall late, making a number of saves (including one on Ryan Renz in the dying moments) to preserve the win.

My Three Stars:
1. Diego Bartlett, Trail
2. T.J. Dumonceaux, Vernon
3. Jesse Knowler, Trail

Up Next: The Smokies host Salmon Arm Friday. Needless to say, it's another massively important fixture.

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Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Vipers

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Vernon Vipers
When: Jan. 9, 7:00 pm
Where: Wesbild Centre, Vernon

It's back to business, and back to focusing on what's happening ON the ice tonight as the Smokies visit Vernon for the final time this season. Trail were unlucky not to come away with points in weekend tilts against Surrey and Merritt, and as such look for victory #1 of 2013 this evening in a building that has brought them success this season.

Tonight also marks the second in a stretch of six games against divisional opponents, and with the next four games after tonight all against Salmon Arm (3x) and West Kelowna (1x), there's little doubt the Smoke Eaters would love to enter the weekend having halved the distance between themselves and the playoffs.

To win tonight, though, will require another team effort. A night after icing their first AP-free lineup since November in a 6-3 loss against Surrey, Trail were without five regulars including top scorers Brent Baltus and Garrett McMullen for Saturday's loss in Merritt. No question the shortage of healthy bodies has its strains, but it also provides players the opportunity to see more ice in different roles, and each of the affiliates called up by Bill Birks' squad this season has done a simple, effective job.

Last Meeting: The Vipers raced out to a 4-0 lead in Trail December 15th, only to see the Smokies fall a crossbar shy of forcing overtime in a 4-3 decision. Each team has won three times with tonight marking the final matchup of the seven-game season series.

Our Opponent: Vernon are certainly in unfamiliar ground, sitting dead last in the Interior division, but are coming into tonight's game on the heels of a wild 4-3 overtime win over West Kelowna Saturday that saw Castlegar products Aaron Hadley and Ryan Renz account for three of the Vipers' 4 goals. The win brought Vernon back to within two points of fifth-place Trail. Up front, the Smokies would do well to contain sniper Adam Tambellini, who has five goals and eight points in the season series and scored twice the last time out against the Smokies. Vernon are without 20 year-old forward Pearce Eviston after he was sent home according to the Vernon Morning Star. The club also signed defenseman Jason Bird, who skated last season in Coquitlam. He will not play tonight.

In the Press Box: Trail were without Baltus, McMullen, Bryce Knapp, Shane Poulsen and Bennett Hambrook during Saturday's loss in Merritt. Each are being treated as "day-to-day." Vernon will be without new defenseman Bird as well as forward Craig Martin. Defensemen Brett Corkey and Geoff Crisfield returned to the Vipers' lineup last weekend after both were hurt before the break.

Broadcast Info: Watch tonight's game on FAST Hockey pay-per-view, or listen live at Smokies Ustream. Pregame coverage begins at 6:50 with puck drop set for 7:00.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Centennials 6 Smoke Eaters 3

Richard Sabourin's seeing-eye slapper broke a 3-3 tie nine minutes into the third period as Merritt doubled a short-handed Trail squad Saturday in the Nicola Valley.

Missing five regulars, including leading scorer Brent Baltus and captain Garrett McMullen, the Smokies were unable to match the Centennials' energy level late, falling by a 6-3 score for the second consecutive night.

The Centennials opened the scoring just past the 3 minute mark, when Sam Johnson tapped in a ricochet off the end boards that surprised Smokies starter Lyndon Stanwood.

But Trail responded with two goals of their own, one on a Scott Davidson deflection, the second off a long rebound by Merritt netminder Tyler Steel that fell to the stick of Tyler Berkholtz, who slotted his 7th of the season.

As quickly as Trail gained the lead, it was lost in the late stages of period one, on goals from Derek Huisman and Jeff Wight that gave Merritt a 3-2 edge after 20 minutes.

An energetic second period would see Trail equalize late, as on a power-play Braden Pears cut toward the net from the left point, only to have the puck bounce to Luke Sandler at the side of the goal. Sandler enjoyed a three-point night.

The Cents simply found an extra gear in period three, outshooting Trail 10-5 and finding the go-ahead goal when Sabourin's point blast floated through heavy traffic in front of Stanwood.

Sebastien Pare and Huisman would round out the scoring, as Merritt won for the fifth time this season against the Smokies. The loss, combined with out-of-town results, means Trail now sits four points shy of the final Interior playoff berth.

My Three Stars:
1. Derek Huisman, Merritt
2. Richard Sabourin, Merritt
3. Scott Davidson, Trail

Up Next: the Smokies visit Vernon Wednesday at 7pm. Needless to say, they're all must-win games from here on in.

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

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Centennials

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Merritt Centennials
When: Jan. 5, 7:30 pm
Where: Nicola Valley Arena, Merritt

A disappointing finish against Surrey must be firmly in the rear-view mirror ahead of tonight's matchup with the Cents in Merritt.

Trail surrendered 4 goals on 5 third-period shots in a 6-3 loss to the Eagles last night, and enter tonight's game three points behind Salmon Arm for the final Interior playoff berth.

As was the case last night, Shane Poulsen and Brent Baltus are not expected to dress, though Trail were not in need of an affiliate player yesterday for the first time in over a month.

The Smokies should well remember the last time out against this Merritt group. Trail hit, scored early, and asserted themselves on home ice in a 4-2 win December 18th. The fact that the Centennials will try to adhere to those three principles this evening is obvious, it's up to Trail to match the home club's energy and bear down on every offensive chance they get.

Last Meeting: Garrett McMullen scored the winner early in period three in the aforementioned 4-2 victory. Merritt leads the season series 4-1.

Our Opponent: The Centennials are riding high after an emotional win at home to Penticton last night. Leading scorer Regan Soquila scored twice (despite being much better-known for his play-making abilities), and even fought for the first time in his BCHL career. The Cents don't score a ton of goals, but are stingy at the back end thanks to a terrific work ethic and larcenous goal-keeping from Tyler Steel. Merritt also likes to play with a physical edge, especially at the cozy Nicola Valley Arena.

In the Press Box: Poulsen and Baltus are doubtful for Trail. Merritt are healthy.

Broadcast Info: Watch this space closer to gametime for audio/video links. Pregame coverage begins at 7:20.

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Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Eagles 6 Smoke Eaters 3

Brady Shaw scored twice in the opening two-and-a-half minutes of the third period to break a deadlock and help Surrey to a 6-3 victory over the Smokies Friday in Trail.

Trail jumped out to a 2-0 lead midway through the game but the Eagles stormed back with four of their own in period three to post their fourth straight victory since the holiday break, and send the Smokies to a defeat in their first game of 2013.

Adam Wheeldon opened the scoring just past the four-minute mark, banging home a second rebound past an outstretched Michael Santaguida for his second goal in as many games. Trail thought they had a second when Mitch Foyle jumped on a loose puck in the crease minutes later, but was denied by the arm of Eagles forward Nicolas Pierog.

Surrey would see a potential scoring play disallowed later in the frame when it was adjudged forward Kevan Kilistoff interfered with Smoke Eaters starter Lyndon Stanwood in the crease.

The Smokies opened the second with an edge, and came close to extending their lead when Jesse Knowler fired a shot from the right wing toward an open net, but Santaguida (who had been collecting his discarded stick), dove across the face of the goal and caught Knowler's shot in dramatic fashion. The 2-0 lead eventually came to fruition just past the midway mark when Valik Chichkin strode in from the point and wristed home his fourth goal of the year from the left circle.

But Surrey would answer back 15 seconds later, when captain Brett Mulcahy converted a crisp centring feed from Devon Toews. Mulcahy would set up the Eagles' equalizer later in the period, when his rebound sat on the goalline for Drew Best to tap in on a Surrey two-on-one.

A roughing penalty to Luke Sandler carried over into the third period, and Surrey made the Smokies pay. First Shaw wristed home a shot from the right wing inside the first minute, then strode across the offensive zone at 2:18 to reach 20 goals on the season to give the visitors a shock 4-2 lead.

Braeden Jones' seeing-eye slapper cut the Trail deficit to 4-3 at the 13:31 mark. For Jones, it was his first BCHL goal in his first game after being sidelined since mid-October.

The Eagles would prevent Trail from completing the comeback, though. First Pierog converted on an odd-man rush, then forward Mason Blacklock snuck a puck five-hole from in close on Stanwood to round out the scoring.

The Smokies outshot the Eagles 32-28.

With the loss, the Smokies fall three points back of fourth-place Salmon Arm and four back of the third-place West Kelowna Warriors. Tomorrow's game in Merritt just got a heck of a lot more important.

My Three Stars:
1. Brady Shaw, Surrey
2. Brett Mulcahy, Surrey
3. Braeden Jones, Trail

Up Next: The Smokies travel to Merritt in search of their second straight victory against the Centennials. Game time is 7:30.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Eagles

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Surrey Eagles
When: January 4, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

It’s been two and a half weeks since they last played, and the Smokies are raring to kick off 2013 on the right foot against one of the hottest teams in the BCHL tonight. Trail will enjoy a full complement of players tonight for the first time since late November, with each and every skater on the club’s roster taking part in a full week of practice in advance of tonight’s game.

A year ago, the Smokies saved their best for the month of January, winning five times and finishing the month above the .500 mark for the only time last season. This year, the pressure is significantly higher with a berth in the BCHL post-season very much in view. Trail enters tonight’s game one point behind the Salmon Arm SilverBacks for the fourth seed in the Interior, and two points behind third-place West Kelowna. Trail will play 11 of their final 19 games on home ice.

Captain Garrett McMullen will have an extra jump in his stride, after committing to his hometown, NCAA Division I RIT Tigers over the holiday break. The 20 year-old could well have the added bonus of linemates Brent Baltus and Scott Davidson in tow. Forward Jesse Knowler as well as blueliners Shane Poulsen and Braeden Jones and goaltender Adam Todd are also game to return to the Smokies lineup after extended periods on the sidelines.

A new year brings new energy, and a renewed commitment to making the playoffs starts on home ice tonight.

Last Meeting: Surrey’s Devon Toews scored a hat-trick, including the overtime winner in a 5-4 Eagles extra-time win on October 21st. Tonight marks Surrey's first visit to the Cominco Arena since December 2010.

Our Opponent: Goaltender Michael Santaguida is enjoying a banner week. Not only did two shutouts against the Chiefs and Express propel the Ontario native to his second BCHL Player of the Week nod this season, he also committed to the University of Vermont. Defenseman Craig Wyszomirski also secured his NCAA future this week, signing with Merrimack. Watch out for sniper Brady Shaw up front for the Eagles, the 20 year-old has 51 goals in 92 career BCHL games. Toews, who represented Canada West at the World Junior “A” Challenge last November, anchors a swift-moving blueline that scored each of Surrey’s 5 goals the last time these two sides met.

In the Press Box: The Smoke Eaters do not have any injured players. Surrey will have 16 year-old AP goaltender Zach Dyment in place of the injured Glenn Ferguson. New defenseman Troy Paterson is also out.

Broadcast Info: Join me for all the action on FAST Hockey pay-per-view, or listen for free on Smokies Ustream. Pre-game coverage begins at 7:20 with the opening faceoff set for 7:30.