BCHL: Smokies hit the road

The Trail Smoke Eaters embark on a long, three-game road trip to the coast this week.

The Trail Smoke Eaters embark on a long, three-game road trip to the coast this week.

Trail beat the Victoria Grizzlies, 2-1, on the first leg of a home-and-home on Sunday, and will travel to Victoria today to complete their series with the Island division team. The team has six road games before returning to the Cominco Arena for a match against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Dec. 4.

“We have to change our game a little bit,” said Smokies assistant coach Barry Zanier. “We’ve been preaching all year that we have to have more of a focus on defence. It’s not so much about how many goals we score, but how many goals we give up. If they can do that and break the games down into three 20-minute efforts, then I think we’ll be in good shape for the road trip.”

The Smokies executed their defensive stratagem perfectly on Sunday in the 2-1 victory over the Grizzlies, but only after dropping a 6-1 game to Cowichan Valley Friday.

The Smokies then face the Nanaimo Clippers on Friday, a team they beat 6-1 at home on Nov. 6, however, the Boatmen are much better on home ice with a 9-4 record compared to their 4-6-0-1 record on the road. The Smokies will have to be really good defensively and again shut down the potent line of Sheldon Rempal, Matthew Hoover, and Devin Brosseau. The trio has combined for 48 goals and 106 points on the season, and are all in the top 5 of BCHL scoring.

Trail will finish off its road swing in Langley to take on the Rivermen on Sunday. The 13-11-0-0 Rivermen are in third place in the Mainland division but are strong up and down their line up with 11 commits.

The Rivermen are led by Robert Morris commit Matthew Graham with 14 goals and 29 points, and 18-year-old Justin Fregona who has 18 goals and 28 points this season.

Trail is looking to catch the 11-12-0-1 Vernon Vipers for the final playoff spot in the Interior division. The Vipers currently lead the 9-13-0-0 Smokies by five points, but Trail has two games in hand.