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BCHL cancels all out-of-conference games

Trail Smoke Eaters game vs Chilliwack canceled, play Vernon Vipers on Friday, Merritt Saturday
Trail Smoke Eaters played their last out-of-conference game against the Victoria Grizzlies last month, after the BCHL cancelled all games against Coastal Conference teams due to severe flooding and road closures. Photo: Jim Bailey

The Trail Smoke Eaters are focusing on their next opponent, no matter who it is, after BCHL cancelled all out of conference games for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.

For the third week in a row the BCHL was forced to postpone and cancel games due to catastrophic flooding in southwestern B.C.

“Due to ongoing floods, road closures and the approaching winter weather, the BCHL will remove all out-of-conference games for the remainder of the 2021-22 season,” read the release.

“The league will continue to revise the schedule in the coming weeks to make up postponed games later in the season.”

As a result, the Smoke Eaters game versus the Chilliwack Chiefs in Chilliwack on Friday was cancelled.

Instead, the Smoke Eaters will play the Vipers in Vernon Friday, Dec. 3, following a Wednesday, Dec. 1 match against the Cranbrook Bucks in Cranbrook.

Smoke Eaters Director of Hockey Operations Craig Clare said the BCHL executive committee came to the decision after careful consideration in making team safety paramount.

“With the uncertainty of everything, they had a tough job to decide what to do,” said Clare. “I fully support it because we can’t get there right now, and I think that was the only alternative.”

The Smoke Eaters were scheduled to play in Coquitlam, Nanaimo, and Powell River last month when the Nov. 14-15 flooding and landslides hit, postponing that road trip for Trail.

Clare says that rescheduling those games was likely not going to happen given the extensive travel and already full schedule. Also, the Smokies have played Surrey, Langley, Nanaimo, Alberni Valley and Victoria in the first two months, so the remainder of their Coastal Conference games was limited, with only one game versus Cowichan Valley on Feb. 18.

The Smoke Eaters are also scheduled to play the Centennials in Merritt on Saturday, Dec. 4 despite recent flooding.

“Going forward it’s not a huge impact for us,” said Clare. “We are going to Vernon this weekend, and we’re going to play Merritt somewhere, if not in Merritt than somewhere close to it.”

The Smoke Eaters are a respectable 9-6-1-0 before the game versus Cranbrook Wednesday, and have been competitive in every match they’ve played this season.

Late additions Corey Cunningham and Charlie Strobel have added depth to the Smoke Eaters lineup and players like Zach Michaelis, Quinn Disher, and Brady Hunter are on a point-per-game clip, making for an exciting and dynamic team.

Evan Fradette has been very good between the pipes, and at times spectacular, earning Conference all-star team consideration.

“I think we are okay with our start,” said Craig. “I think we have a lot more potential, and we’ve gotten better. We had a feeling out process in the first seven games and then we got hot, and had an opportunity to extend it. The last two home games, we put a lot of pucks on net, and had a lot of chances but the puck just hasn’t gone in for us.

“So I think we really like our potential. We need to play with a bit more consistency but all-in-all I think we are okay with where we’re at.”

Read: Smoke Eaters take down Bucks

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Jim Bailey

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