The Trail Smoke Eaters graduated another player to the college ranks last week.
Veteran defenceman Curtis Tonello of North Vancouver signed with the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack for the upcoming B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League season.
Tonello completed his last year of junior eligibility with the Smokies last season, scoring a goal and adding 11 assists in 56 games.
“I chose TRU because it’s a nice city and I have heard great things about the school and the hockey program,” said Tonello in a release.
Wolfpack General Manager Chris Hans is pleased to shore up his defense and add a character player like Tonello.
“Curtis has a reputation for being a gritty, hardworking defenceman who prides himself on his defensive responsibilities,” said Hans.
Tonello is one of about 10 Smokies who jumped to the college ranks from the Smoke Eaters 2010 team. Last week Nic DeSousa received a scholarship to Neumann College, an NCAA Division III team.
“I can’t say enough good things about Curtis,” said Trail coach Bill Birks. “He is a great leader. He ran our gym program this past year. Curtis is someone who is very reliable. He will play through injury and is always willing to compete. He is a great stay at home defenceman.”
The Smoke Eaters named Tonello assistant captain last season, a good indication of his leadership abilities and work ethic.
“I was looking to play NCAA Hockey in the states but decided to stay in Canada,” he adds. “I have heard TRU is a very strong team and just fell short of winning the league and that its run very much like a high level junior team.” Tonello will be enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts program at TRU.
Tonello and the Wolfpack will be making a special journey to Trail to play the Smoke Eaters in an exhibition game on Sept. 17. The game is a fundraiser for assistant coach Barry Zanier’s daughter who is in Alberta Children’s hospital with a heart problem.
Money raised from the game will go to helping the family with expenses.
There is also another Kamloops – Trail hockey connection with this year’s Smoke Eaters. Their other assistant coach, Bob Dever, went to school at TRU and played minor hockey in Kamloops.