Over 100 skaters hit the ice on Friday for the Trail Smoke Eaters Spring Camp.
Interim Smoke Eater coach Curtis Toneff, along with assistants Barry Zanier and Craig Clare, will spend plenty of time at the Cominco Arena this weekend identifying potential skaters for the Smoke Eaters Main Camp in August.
“We’re just going to let the boys play,” said Toneff. “We’ll have two goalie sessions, every KI (KIJHL) team in the area will be there, so I imagine a lot of guys will leave there with at least a plan-B for next year.”
The camp starts Friday and goes until Sunday with six colours of the spectrum, Teams Black, Blue, Gray, Yellow, White, Blue, and Orange, vying off and looking to make an impression over the three days of scrimmage and evaluation.
The Smokies will have returning players participate in the camp such as Greater Trail products Jeremy Lucchini, Spencer McLean and Ross Armour as well as Max Newton, Kale Howarth, and Blaine Caton.
Locals will also get a look at recent committed players Ethan Martini, Henry Rhyu, and Ryan Murphy, while the rest of the players hail from Junior B, Major Midget, Prep School Academies, the USJHL, and the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.
The Smoke Eaters look to have a good core of returning players, but with the graduation of Bailey MacBurnie one of the top priorities for the Smokies is to identify a goalie to back up returning netminder Linden Marshall.
“We have a couple young kids in there that might be a couple years away, but, yes, if you come in and stop pucks, you’ll probably have a spot at our main camp.”
Toneff also would like to find another standout like Kale Howarth whose emergence at last year’s camp was a complete but welcomed surprise for the Smoke Eaters.
“That would be awesome to be surprised by someone,” said Toneff. “We have a good idea on some guys, but there are some names that we’re not quite familiar with. But it would be nice to find a guy like Kale Howarth in there, because he had a great rookie season and we’re looking forward to having him back.”
The Smoke Eaters may also boost its local content with Greater Trail players and Beaver Valley Nitehawks’ Tyler Ghiradosi, Blake Sidoni, Jake Yuris, and Evan Gorman hitting the ice.
Toneff says the Smoke Eaters have reached out to all the KIJHL teams in the West Kootenay in an effort to make recruiting more amicable and to establish a reliable line up of affiliate players for games and practices.
“There will probably be eight KIJHL coaches around,” said Toneff. “We want to have a good relationship with every team. A guy we like but might be a year away, so we’d be happy to send them to Grand Forks, Nelson, Beaver Valley, Castlegar, Creston. Just having them in our back yard would be really nice.”
As for the Smokies outlook for 2016-17 season – with Marshall in net and a solid foundation of forwards – another goalie and a shored up defence is undoubtedly at the top of the coach’s list.
“We like our core forwards coming back,” said Toneff. “We have a few pieces missing but that’s what makes it exciting the off season.”
“We’re going to have a competitive main camp. We want guys that compete, and instead of being committed to too many guys we want to be committed to not enough, and have guys know that so they compete come main camp.”
The Smoke Eaters executive have yet to name a head coach, but Toneff expects that the position will be filled soon.
Following registration for the Spring Camp Friday morning, scrimmages start at noon and go at 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. with a goalie session at 8:15 p.m.
Saturday’s matches play at 7:30 a.m., 8:45 a.m. and 10 a.m. and resume in the evening with games at 6, 7:15, and 8:30 p.m. Sunday’s games go at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.