The Greater Trail Bantam Tier 2 Smoke Eaters look to turn around an ailing start to the season with a healthy victory at their own tournament this weekend.
The Greater Trail Minor Hockey Association is hosting its Tier 2 Bantam tournament at the Cominco and Beaver Valley Arenas from this Friday to Sunday.
Eight teams will vie for the Tier 2 tournament title including the host Greater Trail Smoke Eaters, the Cranbrook Hornets, Lake Bona Vista Breakers, and Vernon Vipers in Pool A, while Pool B will see the Nelson Leafs battle for top spot with the Spokane Chiefs, Penticton Vees, and Salmon Arm Silvertips in round robin play.
“We’re quite looking forward to it, should be fun to play some home games since we’ve been on the road for the last month,” said assistant coach Mike Boisvert. “It’ll be nice to get some home cooking.”
The Tier 2 Smoke Eaters play in the Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association (OMAHA) and currently sit in fifth spot with three wins and seven losses.
While the Smoke Eaters compete hard in the league, Boisvert is concerned about the injury bug that has bitten a number of his players this season.
“That’s one thing with this team, if we play well we can hang with or beat any team in this league, but it’s been a struggle with not having our full team since tryouts,” said Boisvert. “We’ve been playing short-handed all season, tons of injuries. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
With a little rest this week, Boisvert is expecting a few of his key players back in time for the tournament.
The Tier-2 Smokies are a young squad with seven first-year players and are coached by Darrell Boisvert with assistants Mike Boisvert and Ken Siddell.
Last year’s tournament champion, the Penticton Vees, is again one of this year’s favourites as they lead OMAHA standings with a perfect 8-0 record. Trail faced the vaunted Vees in a pair of games in early October losing a close 3-2 match before falling 7-3 in the second game.
In last year’s tournament, the Smoke Eaters suffered an agonizing 3-2 overtime loss in the semifinal against the previous season’s champion the West Kelowna Warriors.
However, the Vees went on to shut out the Warriors 4-0 in the final to take the tournament title.
Greater Trail will look to turn the tables this time around. The team has had tremendous success running their systems and limiting opposition goals of late, but Boisvert says that the team will need to capitalize on offensive opportunities, particularly on the power play.
“It’s what we’ll be working on in practice a lot this week.”
Round-robin games begin Friday at the Cominco Arena at 2:15 p.m. with Trail’s first match versus Vernon at 4:30 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.
Games start Saturday morning at 7:15 a.m. with Trail playing Cranbrook at 11:45 a.m. and Bona Vista at 4:15 p.m.
Semifinals go Sunday morning at the B.V. Arena at 7:45 a.m. and Cominco Arena at 8 a.m. with the pool winners emerging for the final scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.
“Hopefully we can get some fans out to support this team, because one thing about it, they have that Trail blue-collar mentality and are a really hard-working bunch,” added Boisvert.