Trail Times Columnist Dave Thompson

Lots of junior hockey action on home ice

Sports ‘n’ Things with Dave Thompson

The schedule has not been as kind to local junior clubs this year as it was last.

In 2017/18 there was next to no overlap in schedules for the Smoke Eaters and Nitehawks. In 2018/19, especially in the season’s waning days, there has been quite a few nights when both teams had home games – which, of course, hurts both team’s attendance figures and bottom lines.

For Nitehawk fans, this is the last weekend during which they can watch intra-division rivals take on the Beaver Valley squad in the Hawks’ Nest. The only home game remaining after Saturday will see the club face Mountain division’s Columbia Valley Rockies.

Still some standings juggling going on below the top spots in all four KIJHL divisions, in a very rare year in which none of the Murdoch Division’s squads is anywhere near the top of the league, but the Nitehawks remaining slate includes three games with the nearly-done Castlegar Rebels, so Beaver Valley results are likely to seriously impact only their own final points tally.

Still, I am sure the valley folks would welcome some support on the run-in.

• Meanwhile, lots to be decided, in terms of playoff matchups, in the BCHL. The playoff participants have just about all been decided, but playoff pairings are a long way from ready. The Smokies weekend opponents, Salmon Arm, sit precariously in fourth place in the Interior Division, but will need some more good results to hold off Vernon, West Kelowna, even Trail, down the home stretch.

Not long ago, the Silverbacks were sixth, and West Kelowna, now sixth, sat fourth, in the division. This weekend’s results could jumble those placings again.

Trail has defeated every team in the division at least once this season, so must be considered as having a chance against whomever they face in the second season.

It could help get both the team’s and fans’ hopes up if the club could go on a run of success heading into the playoffs. Tonight would be a good time to start that up.

• Nice that the Smoke Eaters have quickly found a place for fan and team favourite Kyle Chernenkoff to continue in the mix, at least for what remains of his 20-year-old season.

He has been a hard working stalwart and supportive teammate during his playing time. Not a particularly good fighter, despite his impressive strength, but willing to step up when the situation indicated that stratagem. (I always wanted to tell him to watch Tim Horton videos. The Leaf great almost never threw a punch, but almost never lost a fight, either).

Nevertheless, Kyle was there, on the ice and off, for his teammates, and his is an example it is good to keep front and center, as the Smokies are doing.

• Curl Canada may have a lot of rules work to do. There were actual protests at the Ontario Women’s playdowns last weekend over world number-1 Rachel Homan rink being eligible, despite two of its members living in Alberta, to compete for the Ontario championship.

There is also the situation where teams can compete at several levels, open, senior and masters for instance in the same year, which can and has led to teams competing at both the Brier/Scottie’s level and senior’s, and the Brier/Scottie’s level and the mixed nationals.

Powers-that-be ruled earlier that players had to choose between mixed doubles and open play, and scheduling complexity could, and should, lead to further rules limiting the number of competitive levels a player or team is eligible for in any given year.

If only just to get more people engaged in the pursuit of that championship feeling.

With the countdown to playoff time is underway, there are a full slate of hockey matches going in the Greater Trail area with the Trail Smoke Eaters, Beaver Valley Nitehawks, and Selkirk College Saints all in action.

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