(File image)

Smoke Eaters face critical two-game set vs Penticton Vees

“This is one of the most talented Smoke Eaters rosters in a long time,” Thompson writes.

Big weekend. Huge.

This is one of the most talented Smoke Eaters rosters in a long time. This weekend is the biggest challenge of the year for that roster.

Simply put, even a split of the home and home with the Penticton Vees will likely mean first place in the Interior Division is well out of reach of Trail. Gaining only a single point of the first 12 they played for was always going to be a long term problem for the Smokies. Now it is THE problem.

Since that opening slump, unexpected because a basically hand picked team was prepping for the season from the start of training camp, Trail has produced as good a list of results as anybody in the division – as good, probably, as anybody in the league that is not called Coquitlam Express.

But, any hopes of a division title may have been already dashed by the time October rolled around. Except – a sweep of the Vees would keep those hopes alive with seven weeks of the season, and a home heavy runout schedule for the Smoke Eaters, going forward.

For that to happen, of course, the Smokies have to address their main weakness – the tendency to lose focus on defence and allow scoring chances to even less than brilliant offensive lineups.

A case in point from the last game. Trail was leading, and on the power play. The puck turned over, and that potent man advantage group looked up to see a wide open Merritt Centennial crossing the Smokie blue line home free on the Trail goaltender.

The Centennial had been standing at the Trail blue line for a while, leaving his team two men short in their defensive end, because Merritt was behind and hopes for a turnover and a breakaway was a more positive approach than just getting the two minute penalty killed.

That just cannot happen, not at even strength, and absolutely not when the Smokies have a man advantage.

Trail has, as I said, one of the most talented rosters it ever has. No excuse, then, for the fact their goaltenders face a barrage of rubber in almost every outing. Penticton’s top goalie has played just four fewer games than Trail’s number one, but has faced more than 300 fewer shots than Logan Terness, who has made the most saves of any goalie in the league.

That’s why the Trail number one, despite a sterling .930 save percentage, has a goals against average quite a bit higher than the Penticton number one, with a save percentage 20 points lower.

First in the division at regular season end or not, the Smoke Eaters look like they should be title contenders during the playoffs. A title is unlikely, however, unless the team can find a way to prevent some of that rubber from heading towards their own net.

Tonight should be a dandy contest. Trail and Penticton both have top tier offences. The devil in the defensive details will make the difference.

Another bad weather turn is forecast for today, so be careful on your way to and from what will be a packed arena.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Literacy Week coming to Trail: Make reading time, family time

Family Literacy Week in B.C. runs Jan. 26 to Feb. 2

The Voice of Raisin: A whiff down memory lane

The Trail Times is introducing a new column. Benjamin Howard recently moved… Continue reading

Rossland council okays temp shelter for local man

Garry Camozzi can stay in the trailer until October 2020

West Kootenay snowpack nearing record levels

High snowpack can mean a greater risk of flooding in spring, say forecasters

New York county gave Salmo River canyon its name

Place Names: Shenango Canyon, Sheep Creek City, Beaverville

VIDEO: Mass coronavirus quarantines seen in China won’t happen in Canada, authorities say

‘If a case comes here, and it is probably … it will still be business as normal’

Province’s oldest practising lawyer shares advice at her 100th birthday party

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

B.C. comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

Mayors call for ‘calmness’ as highway rockslide cuts Tofino, Ucluelet off from supplies

Ministry of transportation expects to open road for “essential travel only” from noon-8 p.m. Friday.

Owner surrenders dog suffering from days-old gunshot wound to B.C. SPCA

The dog was also found to be emaciated and suffering from a flea infestation

B.C. man dies after police called for ‘firearms injury’ in rural Alberta

Victim is 30-year-old Greater Victoria man, say police

Most Read