BCHL: Crunch time for Smokies

The Trail Smoke Eaters look for their first win in four games when they travel to Prince George to play the Spruce Kings tonight.

The Trail Smoke Eaters look for their first win in four games when they travel to Prince George to play the Spruce Kings tonight in BCHL action, before making a stop in West Kelowna on Friday.

The games bring to an end a series of five road tilts, where so far Trail has managed to grab just one point in a three-game swing to the Mainland last week.

“At some point, everyone has to elevate their games a little bit,” said Smoke Eater coach Nick Deschenes. “We didn’t make any moves at the deadline and you know teams around us found ways to add and get a little bit better.”

Trail needs a win against the Spruce Kings, a team that traded former Smoke Eater Brian Basilico, 20, and Jake Lebrun, 20, to beef up an already formidable West Kelowna Warriors team, in exchange for 18-year-old Tanner Campbell and futures on Jan. 7.

Campbell paid dividends immediately for P.G. scoring six goals in an identical road trip to the Lower Mainland, where Prince George took three points in a 2-2 tie with Surrey, a 4-3 win over Coquitlam, and a 7-3 loss to Chilliwack.

The 10-29-2-1 Spruce Kings are mired in fifth place in the Mainland division well out of contention for a playoff spot, while Trail is tied with the Vernon Vipers for fourth place with two games in hand, and playoffs very much in the picture.

Following the Smoke Eaters return early Monday morning from the Mainland, the team had little time to prepare for the three games this week, as the bus left Wednesday for today’s match in Prince George.

“We’re going to look at the video and that will be our main teaching tool through the week, to see where we’re at,” said Deschenes. “That and the mental side, the preparation side, and the desire side. The focal point when we started to turn things around was: what’s our problem here? We can have great games against great teams and then we drop off. And any athlete at any age has to battle that, which is being consistent.”

The Warrriors helped out the Smokies on Tuesday with a 5-2 win over Vernon, but Trail has yet to beat the Warriors this season, losing all three contests.

Trail returns to the Cominco Arena on Sunday to play the 22-17-2-0 Powell River Kings, that are currently in third place in the Island division. With the end of the road trip, Trail will enjoy home ice for much of the remainder of the season.

“The positives are that after the next two games, we’re going to have 10 home games versus five away games, so if we can keep this thing tight and come up with some points this weekend, statistically we play a lot better at home, so it will put us in a good position. We want to control our destiny and that’s the main thing.”

The puck drop on Sunday is 3 p.m. versus Powell River.

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