If you missed Wednesday’s Smoke Eater game, and almost everybody did, you missed a very entertaining hour of hockey that was more competitive than the score indicates – but, it was really important that the Smokies get a win, and they did.
Because of that, Trail could actually climb a spot tonight with a win in Merritt, and there is no reason that cannot happen. It kinda needs to, given the situation already in play and the fact Trail needs to leverage this relatively home-heavy spot on the schedule to make inroads on the reachable (considering here the Penticton Vees are too good, and too far ahead already, to be reeled in even if the Smokies get hot) second through fourth spots in the division.
After away games tonight and next Friday, the Smoke Eaters will play five of their next six matches at Cominco Arena. It is, already, imperative that they make something good come of that stretch of games. Wednesday night they showed indications that that is possible, with solid goaltending and balanced scoring, despite periods of indifferent play. They even got going on the power play, a bit.
Speaking of which, I am going to look for the memo that says point men are never, ever, ever, allowed to shoot from good shooting positions in the slot, even on the power play, and instead must pass the puck to bad shooting positions from whence the puck can be stickhandled into the net.
The reluctance of Trail’s point men to take advantage of good shooting opportunities, in a year where they have players that go to the net, is hindering their power play, still among the worst in the league, and their scoring in general.
We were taught, by excellent and successful coaches (check out the banners in the rafters, and even they don’t tell the whole story), that the middle of the zone is where goals come from. The point man just has to miss the first checker with his shot to avoid the breakaway scenario and the puck does not have to directly be on target to create an opportunity to score. I don’t know what the new strategy is, but listening around the arena to calls of, “Shoot the puck,” from every corner, and seeing the puck instead passed into bad angles where only a really, really good one-timer shooter (Trail, the BCHL in fact, has very, very, few of those) has a prayer of beating a modern goalie, gets old, and frustrating, quickly.
That aside, the Smokies skate well and work hard (most of the players, most of the time, anyway) and still have the opportunity, beginning tonight, to have an impact on the interior playoff race.
• Meanwhile, the top (but barely) dog Nitehawks have home games tonight and tomorrow before, thanks to the scheduling wizardry involved, the local barns are both empty until a week Sunday. If you enjoy supporting local hockey, better get a fix in the valley this weekend.