Smokies improved performance brings Christmas cheer to the Cominco Arena

Chrystal Palace beat Manchester United for the first time in more than two decades and the Smokies won their second game in a row.

Interesting day, Wednesday. Chrystal Palace beat Manchester United on the road for the first time in more than two decades and the Trail Smoke Eaters won their second game in a row for the first time this season.

Both Trail wins were the result of exciting hockey games. The Smokies have somehow figured out – except when they have a late lead, something they still need to work on – that teams have more success when they are assertive on both the fore and backcheck, and despite losing on the shot clock have been creating scoring chances to match those their new goalie is thwarting.

Solid win Saturday. Trail outplayed Westside by just enough.

The Smokies almost did the same, even without their top scorer and against very strong goalkeeping and the second-place team in the Interior, Wednesday.

Things got dicey late in the game – Trail is not talented enough to give up forechecking and just try to hold and dump – but until then had played Merritt at least even and led throughout.

Big cheer, and sigh of relief, from the 500 or so fans on hand, when the last point blank Centennials attempt was kicked out and the horn blew.

Now the most important opponent on the schedule is the Chilliwack Chiefs, against whom the Smokies got an overtime-loser point a month ago. Trail plays the Chiefs three times in a week, starting with tonight and tomorrow at Cominco Arena.

The roster is slowly gelling, the latest in a string of hoped-for stoppers has so far done just that when called upon, and the top scorer is due back tonight.

I am hopeful. The roster has some talent, at lot of it quite young, and is gelling.

The team seems more energetic in the opponent’s end of things, which cannot but help with its dismal goals against average – it’s a lot harder for the other team to score when the puck is in their own end – and fairly soon the injured list will diminish.

At that point we will know just how hopeful we can allow ourselves to be about the future.

Next year country already, probably, but, if the team keeps improving as it has and providing the kind of attractive entertainment that has been on display the past two games, it should be possible for hockey fans here, even the fair weather ones, to start considering Cominco Arena a likely option as a place to be seen.

After this weekend the Smoke Eaters have only one more home game before the Christmas break, so your easiest option – the souvenir shop at the arena on game nights – for much prized Trail Smoke Eater gear as presents, won’t be available to shoppers many more times this shopping season.

If you haven’t seen the slightly renewed, improved Smoke Eaters, no time like this weekend.

Meanwhile, it’s depressing to have a government that never seems able to foresee the consequences of the actions it takes.

The latest case in point is the serious negative impact (there weren’t supposed to be any) of the casino in Castlegar on that city’s KIJHL team, the Rebels, which was once able to support a lot of its existence with a well-attended weekly bingo and now cannot.

Remember when all lottery profits were targeted at things that keep us healthier?