Smokies and Saints vie for Columbia River Cup

The Trail Smoke Eaters will face their final test before the start of the BCHL regular season when they take on the Selkirk College Saints.

The Trail Smoke Eaters will face their final test before the start of the BCHL regular season when they take on three time B.C. International Hockey League champions the Selkirk College Saints in a home-and-home series for the Columbia River Cup this weekend.

“It’s going to be a lot like the Kelowna game,” said Smoke Eater coach and GM Nick Deschenes. “There’s going to be some physicality and stronger, older opponents, so yes it’s going to be a good test.”

The Smoke Eaters will face a line up of seasoned veterans with BCHL and KIJHL experience, including a couple of Trail natives in Selkirk’s leading goal scorer last year Ryan Edwards and talented and gritty forward Jamie Vlanich. Smoke Eater Dallas Calvin will also play his first game as a Saint on Friday after a successful season with the Smoke Eaters, where he netted 16 goals and 49 points in 32 games.

“Dallas is part of a great group of new recruits who are looking very promising and will compliment a very solid core of returning players,” Saints coach Brent Heaven told Selkirk College media rep Bob Hall. “We are making every effort to vie for an unprecedented fourth BCIHL title.”

The Smoke Eaters have all but set its roster for opening day, signing Red Deer native Kale Howarth after an impressive camp and trading the rights of defenceman Bryan Gerstenfeld to the Bonnyville Pontiacs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

Last season the Smokies and Saints split a highly entertaining series with Selkirk taking the first game 7-4 and the Smoke Eaters exacting revenge in a 5-4 overtime thriller.

Going into its final two matches of the pre-season and the final week of pracitices before the start of the regular season, Trail is looking to fine tune its line up and prepare for a competitive season in what again is shaping up to be the toughest division in junior hockey.

“We have to keep hammering away at our systems, so everything top-to-bottom is going to be reviewed and practiced and we had a good start out of the gate last year, so I think what we had in place last year to get our players ready we’ll just continue on that path.”

The Smoke Eaters will be matching the 50/50 sales from their home game on Saturday at Cominco Arena and donating it to the Gordy Steep Sick Children’s Fund in Trail.

Game time for both games is 7 p.m. with Friday’s match going at the Castlegar Rec Complex, and Saturday’s at the Cominco Arena.