The Trail Smoke Eaters welcomed close to 70 young skaters and goaltenders to its spring camp on the weekend to get a peek at potential Smokies.
Coach and General Manager Bill Birks was impressed with the skill and caliber of Bantam and Midget aged players, that travelled from as far away as Alberta to participate.
“It was good. we had four full teams on Saturday and Sunday, good young kids out there and we’ll have a few coming to main camp in August.”
A weekend full of scrimmages and a mini-playoff on Sunday came down to a Team Blue versus Team White matchup. White was lead by highly touted WHL prospect Greater Trail Bantam Spencer McLean, Nelson forward Nolan Percival, and puck-stopper Midget Ice goalie Adam Maida, competing against the Blue team led by Beaver Valley Nitehawk forward Riley Brandt, and Greater Trail minor hockey products Blake Sidoni, and Ryan Neil.
“All the Bantam kids that came out: Spencer McLean, Jake Yuris, Evan Gorman, Logan Wullum, Ross Armour, Blake Sidoni, they were really, really good this weekend,” said Birks. “It’s pretty exciting to see in a couple years lots of those kids will be playing here, they’re that good.”
It was Team White that won the final match 3-1, in a fast, and hard hitting match, punctuated by good goaltending at both ends of the ice.
While the camp invited players from across B.C. and over 20 players from Alberta, building locally seems to becoming an increasing priority for the Smokie staff. Last year’s team enjoyed strong performances from Trail’s Scott Davidson and Jake Luccini, Fruitvale’s Mitch Foyle and Nelson native Adam Wheeldon.
The Smokies staff began inviting young local players from the Midgetw and Bantam teams to practice with the team during the season, to get a taste of the compete factor and get them thinking about the Smoke Eaters.
“We invite them to practice a couple times a year and just try to get them interested in the Smoke Eaters, and they were super excited and their parents were pretty happy about that,” said Birks. “You know they deserve to come into camp, and the 98’s for being 15 years old and playing with some 18-19 year olds, they weren’t out of place at all.”
Although the Smokies season came to a close last month, the Trail coaching staff will continue scouting and recruiting to prepare for Trail’s main camp at the end of August.
Birks contract was extended for another year and he is looking forward to continue the improvement made by the Smoke Eaters last season, a team that worked hard every night despite falling just short of the playoffs.
“I’m real happy, me and my family really love it here.” said Birks. “We got a good thing going, we’re building it in the right way, and next year we have to make the playoffs – period. But we have a pretty good core group of kids coming back and I’m pretty excited about it.”