With the first BCHL carding deadline looming Wednesday, the Trail Smoke Eaters made moves to improve their roster as they strive to push their record above .500 when they host the Cowichan Valley Capitals at the Cominco Arena tonight.
Trail signed affiliate player Connor Browne-Maloski, 18, of Kamloops, and Southport, Conn. native Griffyn Martin, 20, on Wednesday, while releasing Brampton, Ont. native Kyle Cochrane and trading Zane Schartz to the Surrey Eagles for future considerations.
Browne-Maloski played for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks last season, netting three goals and seven points in 46 games, and was a KIJHL champion with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in 2012-13. CBM is an intelligent player with good puck-handling skills and should fit in nicely with the finesse team coach Nick Deschenes is building this year.
Martin, a six-foot, 190-pound defenceman, played with NCAA Div. 1 Union College last season. He is a graduate of Avon Old Farms, a prep school in the U.S. High School league where he was captain in his final year scoring three goals and 14 assists.
“He has great experience, good leadership qualities, and he’s already a capable Division 1 defenceman,” said Deschenes.
The Smoke Eaters had to reduce the number of carded players to 30 on Oct. 1, and with the signing of Browne-Maloski and Martin, the team chose to release Cochrane who has options to play in Ontario, and send the 20-year-old veteran Schartz to Surrey. The Plano, Tex. native came to Trail in a trade late last season, and was 2-7-9 in 21 games with six minutes in penalties with the Smokies.
“The first four games of the year for him have been almost a mirror image of last season, and I hate to say it, but from my perspective if a player isn’t really climbing the ladder, there is something that hasn’t clicked.”
The Smoke Eaters are coming off a pair of losses on the weekend to Penticton and Salmon Arm, and will play just one game this weekend against a Cowichan team that begins a three-game road trip against Interior division teams.
“I think reality set in last weekend that nothing is going to come easy . . . there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs, a lot of adversity and so we’re not back to the drawing board, but a lot of our approach for me has been the mental component.”
The Smokies played a strong game against the Vees, outshooting them by a 32-21 margin, however, sloppy play was the difference in the 4-2 loss to Salmon Arm on Saturday.
“Our turnovers were off the charts as far as that game, and maybe it was your home-ice jitters and trying to do too much,” explained Deschenes. “We just weren’t able to re-adjust.”
The Capitals are led by captain and former Smoke Eater Kyle Horsman, and are 1-3-0-0 this season, with their most recent loss an 8-4 setback to the Powell River Kings. Brayden Gelsinger leads the team in scoring 3-3-6, and former Prince George Spruce Kings veteran Skylar Pacheco anchors their blueline, while the team is backstopped by two rookie goaltenders.
“I don’t think they’ve had the start they wanted to the season, so I think they have a lot to prove and so we’ve got to be prepared. My big thing is we have to focus on our play, and keeping our intensity level high and executing, and that will allow us to be successful in the game.”
Sheldon Hubbard will return to Trail’s line up after missing Saturday’s game due to equipment problems. Hubbard brings a physical and intimidating presence to the back end that was missing in the match up against Salmon Arm.
Smokies goaltender Brett Clark practised with the team this week, and should be ready to play when they begin a three-game road trip in Powell River next Friday.
The puck drops against the Capitals tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.
BCHL notes: Former Smoke Eater Shane Poulsen was named Player of the Week. Poulsen netted five points from the blueline and was solid in his own zone as the Merritt Centennials won both contests on the weekend. The Kamloops product had a goal and a helper in a 5-2 win in Salmon Arm and followed that up with three helpers in a 5-0 home win over Penticton. The six-foot-four defenceman was named third Star in both games.