Incredibly exciting game Wednesday. After an inauspicious beginning – being outshot 8-1 after seven minutes – the Smoke Eaters pushed back, came back twice, and killed off the division top dog Penticton Vees very quickly in overtime.
It was fast, on the ice and on the clock (2:10 from start to finish, including overtime) and eventful – so much so that the usually mid-period sponsors’ timeout occurred with just 40 seconds left to play in period one.
As always, there were a few questions concerning the officials, but they certainly kept the game moving. In the end, to be fair, the referees allowed the game to play out on a more-or-less level field.
Still some glitches in the Smokies’ approach to the power play, but the team held its own over 200 feet. We probably should have anticipated the tightness of the battle, considering all but one of the six Trail/Penticton contests this season has resulted in a one-goal decision.
It is surely cause for hope in the post season that most phases of the Smokies’ games were more or less in sync against a tough opponent which came into the game with a chance to virtually lock up top spot in the division and a first-round series against a Coast team much weaker than any Interior foe.
Trail’s penultimate home game goes tonight. The season ends with their last home contest eight days from now. Still some serious shuffling of the standings possible, even likely, so the run-in should be fun.
• The last regular season home game for Beaver Valley goes on Saturday, as the Nitehawks complete a fairly brutal February schedule while trying to prepare for the playoff round.
After Saturday, Beaver Valley finishes its end-of-season schedule with a three-games-in-43-hours stretch that ends in the home barn of their likely first round playoff opponents – a Spokane Braves team that has had recent back-to-back victories over the Nitehawks.
Back in the day, this would be a schedule – especially with Spokane foes in the mix – setting up a wild and wooly Sunday, Feb. 24, in the Heart of the Inland Empire. A soon-to-be playoff foe with home ice advantage, coming off a gruelling final stretch and into your home rink, would have looked like an axe-throwing target, a place to send a message, a chance to set up the looming playoff situation, for Spokane teams and fans alike.
In the old WIHL days, I would have confidently predicted a 60-minute brawl. Nowadays, of course, the world of hockey is regulated to be much tamer, and coaches will be wanting to avoid injuries and suspensions that can impact the post season lineup.
Still, Boys will be Boys, so I am confident the game will be intense, despite nothing much but bragging rights and the aforesaid situational psychological setup being on the line.
Too bad the coming Monday, not the following one, is the stat. That would have lined up perfectly for the Spokane crowd to contain a large contingent of Canadian partisans.
• Don’t forget the Trail Curling Club is hosting the provincial senior curling championships – male and female – with local participation on both sides, starting Tuesday. No admission fee, concessions and adult beverages available. All brought to you by energetic volunteers and local sponsors who would welcome your presence as validation for their input.
Usually some reasonably available parking, too. See you there.