Division foes clash for the first time this regular season when the Trail Smoke Eaters take on the Merritt Centennials at the Cominco Arena tonight.
Coming off a pair of disappointing back-to-back weekend road trip losses against Salmon Arm and Prince George, the Smokies are hoping home turf ends the slump.
The Smokies and Cents have only met in pre-season so far this year. Trail split the first two exhibition games with Merritt, winning on 4-2 and dropping the other, 7-5.
Trail head coach Nick Deschenes says the team has had a glimpse at the Cents style of play after facing them in September, so players have been doing the usual game preparation before lacing up their skates tonight.
“We’re doing our standard prep in terms of video work,” he said. “We didn’t have a great weekend last weekend, so it gives us an opportunity to kind of take a step back and refocus. Merritt is a good team and they are ahead of us right now.
“We have played them twice in the preseason, so we are somewhat familiar with how they play and it should be a good game. We have an opportunity to bounce back at home and we have done it in the past.”
Smokies forward, Dallas Calvin, was placed on the injured list on Oct. 21 and is expected to stay off the ice for another couple of weeks with an upper body injury. Trail will be adding an affiliate player to the roster: Hunter Atchison, a late camp cut who started the season with the Vancouver Island’s Saanich Braves.
Forwards Charlie Zuccarini and Jake Lucchini top the Smokies roster with 19 points each.
Cents scoring leader Gavin Gould, has 17 points in 14 games.
Trail is currently tied for fifth place with Salmon Arm in the Interior Division with seven wins in 12 games. The team has two games in hand over Merritt.
The Cents are sitting second in the division with 12 wins.
The Smokies also have a new face on their management team with Director of Player Personnel hire, Dan Cioffi of Vancouver, who is currently working with the North Vancouver Minor Hockey Association.
Tonight’s puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. at Cominco Arena.