It may be early in the season, but the Trail Smoke Eaters will look to make a statement against division rivals this weekend, as they host the Penticton Vees for their home-opener tonight and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Saturday at the Cominco Arena.
The Interior division dominated Mainland and Island division teams at the Bauer BCHL Showcase on the weekend, with the Smokies, the Vees, and the Silverbacks going into this weekend all undefeated.
“Salmon Arm, I was impressed, they have a lot of different elements, and they play the game hard so they’re going to be a good test,” said Smoke Eater coach and GM Nick Deschenes. “Penticton brings a younger, smaller team to the table, but they’re a team that is capable of breaking out offensively and capitalizing.”
The Vees rookie line of Tyson Jost, 16, Lewis Zerter-Gossage, 19, and Liam Finlay, 17, poured in 16 points in two games at the Showcase including hat tricks by Jost and Zerter-Gossage.
“It’s kind of crazy to think that all three are rookies,” Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson told the Penticton Western News. “The three of them don’t keep the puck on the stick very long. When it’s on it, they are moving it again, jumping into the holes.”
Jost was named BCHL Player of the Week on Tuesday, and the rookie line will have to be neutralized for the Smokies to be successful.
However, Trail also received outstanding performances from its own rookies with forward Charlie Zuccarini netting six points in an 8-3 win over Coquitlam, and Jeremy Lucchini and Connor Brown-Maloski named Fortis Energy Players of the Game in the two tilts. Veterans Craig Martin, Jake Lucchini, and Victor Dombrovskiy also starred in Chilliwack and solid goaltending from Adam Todd will again be key for the Smokies to defeat the Vees and Backs.
“I feel confident that if we put our best foot forward, we have a good chance here especially at home,” said Deschenes.
The Showcase enabled coaching staff to scout BCHL teams, and get an indication of what to expect going into the season, however, Deschenes views it a process where changes or adjustments are imminent.
“You have to look at the big picture; you could be successful now, but ignore some of the things we need to deal with, other team’s aren’t successful but they make those changes and they got the edge. It’s still very early.”
The Smoke Eaters are expected to have captain Scott Davidson, who was out with a concussion, in the lineup for tonight’s game.
Game time is 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.