The Trail Smoke Eaters will try to keep the proverbial ball rolling when they face a hot Prince George Spruce Kings team tonight at the Cominco Arena.
The 9-8-1-0 Smoke Eaters are coming off two massive home wins on the weekend against Salmon Arm and Victoria, and face an 8-8-0-2 Spruce Kings team that got off to a 1-5-0-1 start but has won six of their last seven matches and gone 7-3-0-1 since beating the Smoke Eaters in their first match up, 6-4, on Sept. 29. Trail also caught fire in October, going 7-3-1-0 and sit just one point back of Vernon for second place in the Interior Division.
“If you look at any of the scoresheets, they’ve been outshooting teams quite heavily,” said Smoke Eater coach Cam Keith. “Even when we played against them in Prince George, you could tell they were a better team than what their record showed.”
Prince George has outshot opponents 310-163 in the past seven games, which included a 51-21 advantage in shots in a 1-0 loss to Powell River, and climbed into third place in the Mainland Division.
Fortunately, a definite bright spot for Trail has been in net, with stellar goaltending from both Zach Dyment and Linden Marshall this past month as they sport a combined 2.27 goals against average.
“They’ve been stepping up both of them, and it’s a good situation to have as a team, when you have two goalies like that pushing each other, you’re going to get better results… Any time you have a tough decision on who you’re going to start, it’s a good situation.”
The Spruce Kings are led by Brett Mennear, a Bentley commit, who has nine goals and 21 points this season, and emerging forward Jamie Huber with three goals in the past two games. Trail forward Kale Howarth and Luke Santerno have held the hot hand for the Smokies with Howarth on an eight-game point streak with 13 points, while Santerno has 13 points in the past nine matches.
“They’re a team that’s going to come in and push us, and it’s going to be a tough home game,” said Keith. “Then we get back on the road and play against West K, who had a good weekend, they won two in a row.”
Trail will play the Warriors on Saturday in West Kelowna in another Interior Division match up, before returning home for a Tuesday tilt against Salmon Arm.
The 8-9-1-0 Warriors are on a three-game win streak and added goaltender Trevor Martin last week, a cut from the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. Martin was outstanding in a 39-save, 4-2 victory over Salmon Arm last weekend, and will likely get the start on Saturday.
“There’s no easy games, it doesn’t matter who you are playing, especially in our division, and a team like Prince George how hot they are right now, it’s going to be a good test for our group.”
Trail faces off against the Spruce Kings at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Cominco Arena.
Smoke Signals: The Smokies meanwhile picked up five-foot-11, 180-pound forward Mitchell Barker from the Warriors for future considerations, and released California native Jack Sitzman. Barker, a Kamloops native, has two goals and six points in 12 games with the Warriors, while Sitzman netted two goals and four points in 12 games.
“Mitch brings experience and character to our team,” said assistant coach and GM, Curtis Toneff on the Smokies’ website. “He will also add depth, in areas we were maybe lacking. He’s a player that can kill penalties and play centre or wing, and we’re glad to have been the chosen destination for Mitch.”