The Trail Smoke Eaters embark on their longest road journey of the season over the Thanks Giving weekend with games in Powell River, Port Alberni, and Surrey.
With two games in hand on the rest of the Interior division, the 3-2 Smokies would like nothing more than a sweep over Island and Mainland division teams in order to keep pace with their own division rivals.
“It’s game by game, and we want to win the first game and then we’ll worry about the next one, but the goal is to win, so six points is within our reach we just have to make sure we’re prepared and execute,” said Smokies coach and GM Nick Deschenes.
The 6-1-0-0 Penticton Vees grabbed sole possession of first place in the Interior division on Wednesday with a 4-2 win over second-place Merritt. The teams were tied with identical 5-1 records going into the game, but the Vees would gain a measure of revenge after suffering a 5-0 loss to the Centennials in their first meeting last month.
Trail is coming off a decisive 7-2jim win over Cowichan Valley last week, but surrendered its most shots against this season, raising concerns over the Smokies defensive play.
“We still gave up 50 shots, and that’s a big number,” said Deschenes. “They were some quality shots and Adam Todd probably had his best game.”
Todd will likely get the start this weekend in at least two of the games, however, goalie Brett Clark has been cleared to play, and Deschenes says he’ll start one of the weekend games.
Despite a combined six wins between the Kings, Bulldogs, and Eagles, it will still be a hard road in which every point counts.
The Powell River Kings hold down third place in the Island division with a 2-3-0-1 record, and have been inconsistent all year with their only wins coming against division rivals Alberni 4-3 on Sunday and Cowichan, 8-4. But Trail will have to neutralize the Kings leading scorer and Denver commit Jared Lukosevicius, 4-7-11, who scored two goals against Trail in their only meeting this year, a 4-3 Smokies win in overtime.
Trail then faces Alberni, 2-4-0-0, on Friday, with veteran defenceman Kurt Gosselin leading the team in scoring. The Bulldogs have struggled, with their only wins coming against the Kings, 4-3, Sept. 27, and 4-3 over Victoria last weekend. Incredibly, every one of the Bulldog’s six games has been decided by one goal, including a 4-3 loss to Penticton, and a 6-5 setback to the Mainland division leading Prince George Spruce Kings.
After going winless in its first six games, a rookie-laden Surrey Eagles team has won two in a row, including a 3-2 overtime win over Salmon Arm on Wednesday. The 2013 BCHL champions are the lowest scoring team in the league, averaging just two-goals per game, and have 13 first-year players on their roster. The Eagles’ are led by 20-year-old Chase McMurphy and former Smoke Eater Zane Schartz who was traded to the Eagles Oct. 1.
Trail returns to the Cominco Arena Saturday, Oct. 18 for a tilt against the Langley Rivermen.