The Trail Smoke Eaters have another big test tonight as they get set to take on the Vernon Vipers at the Cominco Arena.
The Smokies returned from one of their longest road trips where they managed to pick up two points by virtue of two overtime losses to Chilliwack and Powell River.
“We played real good Friday and Saturday, deserving of more than what we got, but I was happy with the work ethic and the way we played,” said Smokies’ coach Bill Birks.
But due to the lack of sleep and length of the road trip, the players ran out of gas against a well-rested Cowichan team on Sunday, Birks added.
The Vipers are just coming off a 7-1 victory over the Penticton Vees Wednesday and remain three points back of the Vees in the Interior Division. Penticton is without talented forward Travis St. Denis of Trail, who is playing for Canada West in the World Junior A Challenge.
The Smoke Eaters need to put some numbers in the win column if they hope to challenge for a playoff spot. Despite a poor start, they are only eight points out of fourth place, a gap that is not insurmountable.
“We should have won the game in Chilliwack for sure, but were lucky to get a point in Powell River,” said Birks. “The new goalie (Jamie D’Andrea) stood on his head and played real well and gave us a chance to win.”
D’Andrea got the start in all three games on the weekend and by virtue of his good performance will be between the pipes against Vernon tonight.
“These kids are excited to play them, they know that they can skate with them and we owe them a little revenge from last time,” said Birks.
D’Andrea came over from the Drumheller Dragons in a trade for Smokies vet Rajan Sidhu.