The Trail Smoke Eaters hit the ice at Cominco Arena for training camp on Wednesday with a solid complement of veterans returning and promising rookies looking to crack the lineup for the 2013-14 season.
“There’s a few boys in town, more comining in today, and more tomorrow, and we’re getting her going Wednesday afternoon,” said Smoke Eater head coach and GM Bill Birks.
The Smoke Eaters healthy core of veterans include team captain Adam Wheeldon of Nelson, Trail’s Scott Davidson and Jake Lucchini, Frutivale’s Mitch Foyle, Jesse Knowler of Castlegar, as well as goaltender Adam Todd, Braden Pears, Valik Chichkin, Braeden Jones, and veteran acquisitions in Brodyn Nielson and Brendan Lamont.
“We got a good core group coming back, and some pretty good kids coming into camp to battle for a few spots,” added Birks.
However, one unfortunate loss, and possibly two, to the Orange and Black will be that of forwards Austin Adduono and Luke Sandler.
“Adduono is going to the USHL as of right now,” said Birks. “Sandler is still up in the air.”
Birks found out that Adduono would not be returning when another player Birks was recruiting told him that the Thunder Bay native was playing in the USHL.
Sandler, a Chicago native, came on offensively for the Smokies last season, finishing second in team scoring, counting almost a point per game, however his status as to whether he would be at camp is unknown, said Birks.
The Smokies have also solved their brief goaltending vacancy with the addition of Dustin Nikkel from the North Okanagan Knights of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).
Nikkel will compete for the starting position with Todd who supplanted Lyndon Stanwood last season. Stanwood was traded to the Chilliwack Chiefs in June, after playing the better part of two seasons and 70 games for the Smokies.
The 20-year-old Nikkel also played three games with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks last year winning twice. While in net for the Knights, Nikkel played in 22 games, posting a 13-7-1 record, a 2.71 GAA and .922 save percentage.
With goaltending seemingly secured, and a defence anchored by Jones, Pears, and Chichkin and the recent acquisition of Alberta product Joel Webb, 18, looking relatively stable, the biggest question again may be scoring.
“We need some help obviously everywhere. I mean our goaltending is solidified big time, we got three pretty good D-men coming back . . . there’s eight or nine more coming to fight for a couple spots on the back end and 10 or 12 forwards coming to fight for a couple spots up front . . . I like what we got coming in, it’s going to be a pretty good camp.”
The Smokies kick off camp with two practices at 4 and 6 p.m. on Wednesday, followed by scrimmages at 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday, 9:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Friday, and the Black-Orange game going noon to 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Trail Smoke Eaters are also in need of billets for the upcoming season. For those interested call 368-1436.
Pick up your season tickets at ReMax All Pro Realty, from individual to family full-season passes or 15 game packs. Mon. To Fri. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Vernon Vipers will host the RBC Cup this year, and will have Trail’s Craig Martin and Ryan Renz of Castlegar returning.