The Trail Smoke Eaters must be wondering what the powers-that-be in the BCHL were thinking when they planned this week’s schedule but despite a tough road trip, the team is hoping recent acquisitions help make it a successful one.
Due to a revamped season, the League took it upon itself to map out the Smokies schedule without consultation this year. This weekend is the first indication of how absurd it can be.
The Smoke Eaters travel to Chilliwack to play Friday night, then get up early to catch the ferry as they head to Powell River for a game Saturday night, then take the ferry to Vancouver Island where they play an afternoon game against Cowichan Valley before heading home Sunday night. All totaled, about 2,000 kilometres, three games in three days.
“It’s a grueling road trip . . . the league didn’t do a very good job of scheduling that I tell you,” said Trail coach and GM Bill Birks.
Despite the rigours of the road, the Smokies focus will be on winning games, and with four new faces in the lineup, the team and fans will be looking for improved results.
“It’s a huge upgrade, especially on the back end to get two kids like that, younger and better all-around players and people, then to bring in the House kid is just a bonus to get some added scoring up front.”
Defencemen Tanner Hicks and Marley Keca, forward Taylor House and goalie Jamie D’Andrea will see lots of action this weekend, says Birks.
All four including D’Andrea are slated to start Friday against Chilliwack.
“I’m a little bit nervous, but I’ve been in this position before, so just hoping I can contribute,” said D’Andrea.
Hicks, 19, and Keca, 18, both played for the Alberni Bulldogs last year collecting 13 and 12 points respectively.
The two will likely take on an increased work load with the Smokies and provide stability on the back end. More than anything they have positive attitudes and look to help the Smokies turn things around.
“We have skilled players and a lot of speed up front and if we can string a couple of wins together, we’ll get some momentum and things will take care of itself after that,” said Keca.
Coming off a win against Penticton and a close game against Vernon until late in the third period, Birks is pleased with the team’s work ethic and attitude in the dressing room but is looking to solve mid-period lapses on the ice that continue to cost the Smokies.
“We worked hard. Out of two games we took four minutes off and that’s what happens in this league with every team, when you take a couple or three shifts off.”
The loss of veteran players like Matt Lerose and Rajan Sidhu is always difficult but the influx of new talent has brought growing optimism into the Smoke Eaters room.
“It’s almost like there’s a little bit of a fresh start; I can see that in the last couple games we’ve played, it’s been a lot better,” said Smokie captain Logan Proulx. “Everyone in here wants to win and that’s key to battling through the adversity that we’re going through right now.”