The Greater Trail Minor Hockey Association Tier 2 Pee Wee Smokies host the provincial championship this week as nine teams from across the province get set to battle for the BC title.
The Tier 2 Smokies have been on a hot streak of late losing just once in their last eight games, but will face a very strong contingent of teams when it comes to the BC championship that kicks off Sunday at the Cominco Arena.
“The competition will be tough,” said Smokies coach Jim Maniago. “There’s no easy games here, so we’ll have to play our best and have everyone firing to have some success. We have good goaltending and a balanced attack, sometimes that works well in short tournaments.”
The teams include the West Kelowna Warriors, Vancouver Minor, West Kootenay Rapids, Kitimat Winterhawks, Prince George Cougars, Fort St. John Flyers, Powell River Kings, and the Burnaby Winter Club.
Maniago says the Lower Mainland teams, especially Burnaby Winter Club, are considered the favourites along with West Kelowna, but the Rapids, based out of Nelson, have some really high-end players and will be tough.
“We know them (Nelson) well. After that, the others are unknown to us, the northern teams we haven’t seen and Powell River came out of the Island so I’d expect they’d be pretty good too. Everyone won to get here so they will all be good.”
The provincial championship will add to an already infectious playoff fever that has gripped Greater Trail of late, with the Trail Smoke Eaters returning home for the Interior Division semifinal against the Vernon Vipers on Monday and Tuesday, and the Beaver Valley Nitehawks playing for the Kootenay Conference title this week against the Kimberley Dynamiters tonight and Saturday at the B.V. Arena.
The Pee Wee Smokies open the tournament with two games on Sunday at the Cominco Arena, facing off against West Kelowna at 7 a.m. and a 5 p.m. tilt against the Fort St. John Flyers. The Opening Ceremonies is scheduled to go at 7:30 p.m., following the Smokies-Flyers game.
“We definitely come in as an underdog,” said Maniago. “We are a Tier 3 organization playing Tier 2 but we are hoping the kids build off the energy the Smokies and Nitehawks have going right now and we can surprise some people. Our kids have been working really hard and have had some good practices this week leading in so we’ll see.”
Trail takes on Powell River in its third match on Monday at 3:30 p.m. and Vancouver on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.
Playoffs start at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning with the final going at 7:15 p.m. See full schedule on Page 11.
BC Minor Hockey: In other provincial championships, the Bantam Tier 2 Smoke Eaters travel to Powell River this weekend and the Midget Tier 3 Smokies are off to Terrace to vie for the BC title.