One has to give the Smoke Eaters credit. The team has been in the wilderness, roster-wise, performance-wise and and standings-wise, not to mention audience size-wize, for almost this full season, but they have not quit.
Not what’s left of a once-promising roster, not what’s left of a coaching/training staff – for which fans had high hopes as late as September – not anybody involved in the team through this mega-struggling season.
There is no other way to explain recent on-ice performances, including a relatively successful road swing, in which the Smokies won, lost in overtime, and finally succumbed to regulation defeat, with a diminished number of available troops for every game.
Trail opened the trip with a strong, winning effort against a Surrey Eagles team still well in the hunt for a playoff spot, using 18 skaters. Twenty-four hours later, the Smokies battled one of the top Junior A teams in Canada, which was coming off a full week of rest, into overtime, with 17 skaters.
About 16 hours later, Trail competed to a one-goal deficit after 20 minutes before falling, 7-2, to another contending team, with just 14 skaters, which included only five regular defensemen. They were outshot just 35-30 in that contest.
It all says a lot for the effort put forth, and at least a little for the potential in the young lineup and current coaching regime.
It has been a dispiriting year for Smokie fans, especially coming off a promising end to 2012/13, but next-year country might be a better place. The Smoke Eaters have played entertaining and often competitive hockey in 2014 and everyone involved deserves a little praise for maintaining that kind of effort during a season that was a washout, in terms of contending, long ago.
• I hope you are still switching on to your by-now bookmarked Hobey Baker page and voting for (nothing against Kellen here, but time to be strategic and add to Connor’s much higher total) Connor Jones to move on in the selection stage.
I hope, too, that all of the Trail baseball community, to which the boys have contributed so much time and skill, is in that voting mix.
• No other local games in the mix, so please consider heading to Castlegar, dressed in red and white if you have it, and supporting Castlegar’s Hockeyville pursuit next Saturday. Giving the fire marshall fits on behalf of bringing the Kootenays its second bit of recognition, and Castlegar a bit of cash for its hockey efforts, could be fun.