With a new captain leading the charge, the Trail Smoke Eaters ended a two-game road trip on a positive note Sunday with an overtime win against Westside – but the two points were costly.
The Smokies named Clayton McEwan team captain as a result of former captain Logan Proulx’s trade to the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
“Logan’s a great kid and did everything we asked of him for us,” said coach Bill Birks. “We thought, ‘It being his last year, we’d put him in a place that has a chance to win.’”
McEwan is a solid defenceman, and second year Smokie, the former assistant captain should provide stability and leadership in the room.
The Smokies meanwhile managed their third win of the season Sunday.
After taking a crisp pass from defenseman Nick Wong, the Smokies’ Clayton Chessa rifled a quick wrist shot past Westside goalie Steve Racine late in the first OT period for his ninth goal of the season and the 3-2 victory.
The win came on the heels of two previous losses, a 7-4 shootout in Salmon Arm Saturday where the two teams fired close to 100 shots at each other, and a 4-2 loss to Vernon on Friday at home.
Newly acquired goalie, Jamie D’Andrea struggled in the loss to Salmon Arm so Reed Vogt got the start on Sunday against Westside. The move paid off, as Vogt made 35 saves including a brilliant pad save on a Dru Morrison breakaway in the final minutes of the game to preserve the tie and force overtime.
But injuries continue to plague the Smokies as the team lost three players in the Westside game and one in the Salmon Arm tilt.
Adam Fares only just returned from injury and had two goals and an assist in the Smokies first three goals against Salmon Arm before he suffered a concussion.
Josh Roberts and Tanner Hicks also took hits to the head and possible concussions and Brandon Egli suffered a dislocated shoulder in the Westside game.
It’s uncertain when the players will be well enough to return, and Smokies coach Bill Birks says he has no intention of rushing it.
“Head injuries are pretty serious and there’s more to life than just hockey. I’d rather have a kid have all his marbles when he’s 20 rather than playing for me.”
The rash of hurting players has coach Birks scrambling to pick up affiliate players to fill the void.
“I’ve been on the phone all morning trying to get APs in, I got a couple on the go and waiting on a couple more calls,” said Birks. “I’ve got to bring four or five in for Wednesday’s game in Salmon Arm.”
The Smokies added affiliate player Craig Martin from the KIJHL’s Beaver Valley Nitehawks to the roster over the weekend and the 16-year-old picked up a pair of goals, one against the Silverbacks and the opening goal against Westside.
Birks was very impressed with Martin’s play and is hoping to keep him in the lineup for the Salmon Arm game as well.