Sporting their playoff coifs

Sporting their playoff coifs

Smoke Eaters face familiar foe in first round

Trail looks to end Warriors’ playoff rule.

If Round 3 of the Westside-Trail annual playoff dust-up is going to have a different ending, this could be the year.The Trail Smoke Eaters travel to West Kelowna tonight for Game 1 of their Interior Division quarter-final against the Westside Warriors.And while the Warriors continued its dominance of the Smokies during the regular season winning all six meetings, the playoff showdown has a much different tone this season than in the past two,In the previous two post-season matchups between these teams, Westside came in as clearly the dominant squad. Two years ago, the third-place Warriors finished 25 points ahead of the sixth-place Smokies. Last year, Westside was a whopping 32 points ahead of Trail in the standings.This year, however, a mere five points separated the two clubs. Which means even a split in their season series with Westside would have had the Smokies opening the playoffs on home ice.That said, there is certainly a different attitude permeating the Trail dressing room on the eve of the series.Scott Jacklin, Trail’s top scorer, conceded that this year’s team is filled with talent and ability.“More so than that, we have a lot of experience. We have guys who have played three or four years in the league and Paul (Mailey) has played five. I think this year is going to be a different story.”Jake Baker, who was named the team’s top defenceman at Wednesday’s awards banquet,  hasn’t had experienced any of the playoff games between Trail and Westside. He thinks what’s in the past is just that –history.“Come playoffs it’s quite different,” said Baker.Trail fans are hoping he’s right. Westside outscored Trail 35-12 during the regular season and handed the Smokies their two most lopsided losses this season, including a 9-1 defeat in front of a huge Christmas crowd at the Cominco Arena.“To be honest, out of the six games we loss at least three or four we just had off nights and didn’t play up to our potential,” admitted Jacklin.Playing up to their potential won’t be the only challenge facing the Smokies. They also have to win the small battles and avoid the big mistakes.“We have to pound their d-men and get physical,” said Baker. “They seem to have trouble against teams that are more physical. They’re a quick team so we need to get that done.”Jacklin agreed, adding the Smokies have to continue their solid defensive play from the regular season.“We have to play well defensively – we have a great goalie and good corps of d-men – if we can do that, the offense will take care of itself.“We have to grind them down and get greasy.”Jacklin and Baker are just two of 10 players who won’t be back next season. That adds even more meaning to the looming series.“I haven’t had any real memorable moments in junior playoffs,” said Baker, who is headed to the University of Northern Michigan next year.“Last year (with Victoria) we were knocked out in the first round. And in my first (with Merritt) we didn’t even make the playoffs. I’m hoping to make a run this year.“We’ve got a lot of guys leaving and they realize that.”Jacklin, who has a scholarship waiting for him at Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania next September, acknowledged that his junior career is coming to an end. “It’s a lot of guys’ last chance,” he said. “I’m getting a bit nervous. I’m coming to the realization that this is crunch time. “I think a lot of guys on this team are going to elevate their game.”