Sports ‘n’ Things: Smokies effort impresses first-time fans

"First, thanks Trail. More than decent Sunday afternoon crowd in support of the Smokies."

First, thanks Trail. More than decent Sunday afternoon crowd in support of the Smokies.

You were treated to a great game, never mind the final score.

I believe that, had you told a stranger outside Cominco Arena early Sunday afternoon that the best junior A team in Canada was playing one of the bottom feeders in their league, without identifying the two squads,  they might have still been trying to figure out which was which 55 minutes into the game.

Trail played really well, had a territorial and representative shots on goal advantage and created more pressure than did the Penticton Vees, who still have not lost a game since early September.  Trail did not, however, finish any but one of numerous chances. Penticton, full of future draft picks and scholarship-bound players, did finish enough to build a 3-1 lead and then made Trail pay for its full press offensive efforts by completing three breakout opportunities very late.

6-1 sounds bad, and it was a loss, but a couple of first-time, for this season, anyway, attendees Sunday came away impressed by how well the Smokies played. It was exciting, if frustrating, entertainment.

Trouble is, that almost top quality play has to begin putting wins on the scoreboard, and things will not be much easier over the next few weeks.

Beginning tonight, the Smokies play four more home games, around a trip to Merritt, by the middle of the month. Hay must be made, even though the incoming teams are not pushovers, because after Nov. 15 Trail has nine of its next eleven games on the road, including two long trips to the mainland and island.

We will know, before the Dec. 20 Christmas break, whether the promising-looking Smoke Eaters have a shot at a playoff spot, or will be shopping players around the league early in the new year.

It is easy being optimistic watching the Smokies play with, if not stay with, a top dog like the Vees. Easy to think that level of compete might result in wins over lesser – and everybody else in the BCHL is lesser than Penticton – competition.

Easy to think it, not so easy to accomplish it. The hard, disciplined effort we saw Sunday needs to appear, from minute one on game night, every night, starting tonight, from now on if the Smoke Eaters are to climb towards a playoff position for the first time in a while.

They are fun to watch, and I am still hopeful, although each hard-earned ‘L’ depresses that outlook just a little.

• Remember to remember on Wednesday. Two quiet minutes at 11 a.m. are little enough to sacrifice on behalf of those who sacrificed much, even all, to maintain that opportunity for us.


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