Good time at the old barn this week. Disapointment, exhilaration – there would have been more of that if whomever had the winning 50-50 number worth more than four grand had checked their ticket and claimed the prize – the two Smoke Eater wins provided plenty of local excitement.
Fair results, too. The games were close, but Trail did enough to win them both.
The officiating, if inconsistent, was even-handed, as well. Funny how things change for the big time teams when they are not in their own building. In the first two games of the series, the Vees had 13 power plays from which they produced seven goals. The Smokies were 0 for 6. In Games 3 and 4 here, with that even-handed thing in play, Trail scored four times on eight power plays, Penticton was 0 for 7.
Research shows officiating almost always favours the home team. Somehow that syndrome translates a lot more readily in the Penticton and Vernon barns than it does in the home rinks of less, “important,” clubs like Trail. Here is hoping, almost against hope given the history, that the Smokies get reasonably fair treatment at the Vees rink the rest of the way.
Speaking of Vernon, the Vipers may be reeling just a bit. Vernon hit Wenatchee on the backs of two fairly comfortable home wins, then lost to a comeback by the Wild and were utterly blown out in game four. The top four in the Interior, as I have said all along, are closely aligned in talent. The top two (this year) have a serious advantage when it comes to travel times, and that shows up in the standings, given the quality of the teams.
In the playoffs, travel is the same burden for everybody, and the results so far indicate that.
The upshot is that it seems the Trail roster includes the quality to match up with any team in the current league. With a little luck, and even-handed officiating, they could (unsurprisingly, at least to local hockey folks) extend their run past this round and beyond.
• The new regime has had a strong start, and it is just a start. Only seven members of Trail’s current roster are scheduled to depart after the season. For contrast, 18 Vees will be gone, all of them to scholarship, unless pro offers come up. 13 Vipers and nine Wild players will also move on.
I fully expect, and they fully deserve, that more than the five current Smokies with scholarships will eventually be on that list, and the team is working towards that goal, but there should still be a very strong core group at next year’s pre-season camps. If not the sky, at least regular highly competitive, highly hopefull Smokie teams can be the expectations all around.
•The building should be buzzing again Saturday night.
I you haven’t, try and take a look at the Penticton bus. Cocky, even arrogant, signage for a johnny-come-lately B.C. junior hockey success story, especially when it is being driven around the most successful (despite being barred from top tier provincial play for more than 30 years before the current franchise arrived) junior hockey town in the province.
Maybe a reason to gear up the anti-Vee intensity in the building in future.