SPORTS N’ THINGS: Good test for Nitehawks

"...seem to be playing in a division without any truly top end teams this year, so prospects for a strong playoff position finish are good."

The Nitehawks, as predicted, have started to right their ship. It is just never likely that the Beaver Valley organization will ice a team that swoons for long.

They seem to be playing in a division without any truly top end teams this year, so prospects for a strong playoff position finish are good.

A three-game weekend will give the Nitehawks a comprehensive test, but they have only the short trek to Grand Forks to start and then face teams that travel to Beaver Valley, so, no excuses for anything but a strong showing.

Stay tuned – the easiest way to do that, of course is to get to the rink on game days (Saturday and Sunday this weekend).

• As for the Smoke Eaters. Lots of optimism, decent early season crowds and some spirited, entertaining play amounted to two tough losses and the team falling out of the heady first place position it held entering last weekend.

That means the Smokies ALREADY face pretty much a must-win situation tonight. All that promise needs to begin to be met with scoreboard and standings results, right away, or the team risks giving up too much ground to contend for the top Interior Division spot at which it was aimed when the season began.

If the club is going to get something going, tonight’s opponent and the three-game road trip which follows seem to present the opportunity for just that. Cowichan Valley, Powell River, Alberni Valley and Surrey have all had poor starts to the season, so a good performance out of the Smoke Eaters should be enough to secure wins in most, if not all of the four games in question.

“Should,” because at least a couple of the above have everlastingly given the Smokies fits at home and away.

“Good performance,” is the key phrase. It means not just dominating possession and outshooting teams but actually scoring and preventing scores, something Trail did not accomplish last weekend. The Smokies outplayed, but lost to, the Vees Friday. I was not there, but have heard reports they were pretty good in most areas Saturday, too.

Zero points was the result, so something (scoring) needs to be added to the mix. It is still entirely possible, and I am still hopeful, that this season’s team can produce playoff hockey (it must).

I am planning to be there tonight, hopeful rather than confident, because I am a fan and also because I still believe they are heading in the right direction.

Tough to see things get so serious so quickly, especially for a truly new roster, but there it is.

One bright note. Craig Martin, whether hitting the scoreboard or not, was Trail’s best player Friday and has been most of this short season. Good to have him back.