Smoke Eaters: Express stop in Trail

The Trail Smoke Eaters return to the cozy confines of the Cominco Arena Friday night.

The Trail Smoke Eaters return to the cozy confines of the Cominco Arena Friday night, but face a daunting task as they take on the 11th ranked team in the nation.

The Smokies play the Mainland Division leading Coquitlam Express, a team that has been ranked in the CJHL’s top 20 for the past two weeks.

“They’re a skilled team, they’re leading their division and top to bottom they’re a good team,” said Birks. “We’ve got to capitalize on our chances, number one, but our work ethic and compete level is excellent in my eyes.”

The Smokies were snake bitten as they managed just two goals in their two losses against West Kelowna and Penticton last weekend, and will have to find a way to find the back of the net more often.

“As a whole the coaching staff thought the boys played really well, we competed, we had chances, we just couldn’t score and the other team did,” said Birks.

Coquitlam is led by Alex Kerfoot, a Harvard commit, who has five goals and seven assists in 12 games this season, and are backstopped by Cole Huggins who is coming off a 59 save performance in a 4-4 OT tie with Chilliwack.

In Trail’s four game home-unbeaten streak, the Smokies outgunned opponents 12-5, but on the road the tide changes dramatically, as they’ve been outscored by a margin of 50-14 in eight games.

Following the Express, the Smokies have a day off before taking on division rival Merritt Centennials at home on Sunday. The Cents had a tough road trip to the coast last week, beating Powell River Kings 2-1 Friday before dropping a pair of 5-1 games to Alberni Valley Bulldogs and the Surrey Eagles Saturday and Sunday.

“Any team can beat any team on any given night, and we’re battling them (Merritt) for a playoff spot I would think down the road, so it’s a must two points for sure,” said Birks.

Game time is 7:30 p.m. against the Express Friday and 5 p.m. Sunday versus Merritt.