We weren’t a full period into last Saturday’s home opener before most people at Cominco Arena were mumbling, “Same old, same old,” while watching the West Kelowna Warriors, as they have seemingly since they came into the division a decade ago, forecheck fiercely and hem the Smoke Eaters in their own end.
By the end of the first, from which the Smokies were able to escape down only one goal – the 15-7 shots on goal count understated the dominance of the Warriors – I’m guessing most of the people were already consigning this Trail roster, and themselves, to another dreary season.
And then, the second period began and the Smokies immediately turned things around. Trail began to pressure West Kelowna all over the ice and piled up chances and goals. Despite having only one power play in the period, the Smokies earned 18 shots, four goals, and a lot of respect from both their opponents and their fans.
That kept up the rest of the way, except for a brief (less than a minute) letdown by Trail when the game was already pretty much won, during which the Warriors got two goals (and scared often let down lately Smokie fans for a bit).
I and many others left the building more hopeful than we have been in a while that the Smokies can compete in the Interior Division. After all, West Kelowna is the defending league, Western Canadian and National Junior A champion and returned a half dozen of its better players from a year ago.
It was, of course, just one game, but, the Smokies spent many minutes running absolutely roughshod over a team that has dominated it for most of a decade, scored two goals on the power play while snuffing out five Warrior extra man situations, and once they got going, never backed down nor looked as if they needed to.
So, the last home game of this month goes Saturday night at 7, with Merritt in town. The Centennials had a stellar pre-season and got a point from their only game last week – away with Prince George – so are not likely to be an easy opponent.
Getting past nemesis West Kelowna was a big step for Trail, however, and bodes well. This weekend’s back-to-back with Merritt will provide more information to fans hoping for post season action, and will give an indication if Saturday’s eventual home barn dominance was a sign of things to come.
A little early for a bandwagon, but, just in case, you might want to get into position to jump on by showing up at Cominco Arena tomorrow.
• Meanwhile, the unbeaten Nitehawks host long-time, fierce, rival Castlegar tonight, if you feel the need for some fast-paced entertainment.