Team returns home to host former Smokies

The Trail Smoke Eaters will look to spoil the homecoming of two former Smokies as the Alberni Valley Bulldogs make a visit to Trail tonight.

The Trail Smoke Eaters will look to spoil the homecoming of two former Smokies as the Coastal Conference’s Alberni Valley Bulldogs make their lone season visit to Trail tonight.

Goalie Matt Lerose and forward Daniel Delbianco will be in the Bulldogs lineup in what is their first time back to the Cominco Arena since being traded in October.

Lerose, Delbianco and the rights to former-Smokie Eric Walker were traded for Marley Keca, Taylor House and d-man Tanner Hicks – who was dealt to the Brooks Bandits prior to the Jan. 10 deadline.

Both Keca and House have contributed to the Smokies cause, particularly Keca who has provided solid defence and leadership since joining the Smokies and has also helped out offensively with five goals and 12 assists this season.

The Smoke Eaters return from a long three-games-in-three-days road trip to the Lower Mainland where they beat the Coastal Conference’s front running Surrey Eagles in OT then dropped two close games to Langley and Chilliwack.

“On the whole we played really good,” said Smokies’ coach and GM Bill Birks. “We’re a pretty confident group and pretty happy with the weekend actually.”

The team has come together in the new year, reeling off four wins in January, while narrowly dropping three, one-goal games, including a double-overtime thriller to the Chilliwack Chiefs, their foe this weekend.

“Like a said before, in this league if you let down for a few minutes, there’s too much talent and they end up scoring a couple. We battled back, we just couldn’t find the equalizer in both the last two games.”

The Smokies have been invigorated by inspired play and have been putting up a good and entertaining battle every night.

With Chilliwack holding on to a tenuous third spot in the Interior Conference and looking to make the playoffs, the Smoke Eaters intend to put a wrench in their plans on Saturday when they visit the Cominco Arena.

“That’s our plan, we want to be a spoiler now,” said Birks. “The other night we were all over them and they end up getting a penalty shot to make it 3-1 . . . the momentum shifted and we just couldn’t get it back.”

The puck drops at the Cominco Arena at 7:30 p.m. tonight against Alberni and the same time against Chilliwack on Saturday.