The Trail Smoke Eaters schedule gets even more demanding as the team departs on its second straight road trip to face two of the BCHL’s top teams.
The Smoke Eaters face off against the Mainland division leading Wenatchee Wild on Friday and the 24 wins in 26 games Penticton Vees at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Saturday, so picking up any points this weekend will be a considerable achievement.
“We had some time which was good, but we have to get back on track here,” said Smoke Eater coach and GM Nick Deschenes. “Preparation is going to be key against those teams, we want to make sure that we’re all on the same page because we can’t afford not to be.”
The Smoke Eaters are coming off a three game road trip to the coast where they picked up two of a possible six points to hold on to a two point lead over last place Merritt Centennials in the Interior division. The Smokies hottest player has been Kienan Scott who scored four of the Smokies seven goals on the weekend, after missing two weeks due to a concussion suffered on Nov. 6 against Nanaimo.
Trail needs to find its scoring touch. Despite several highlight reel goals, coach Deschenes is looking for more gritty play down low.
“I think we’re looking for pretty goals most of the time,” said Deschenes. “I don’t know the last time we had a deflection goal, or a screen shot, or even a rebound goal, and realistically in hockey those should count for at least 50 per cent of your goals.”
Wenatchee is coming off an 8-0 victory over the Surrey Eagles on Saturday in which their special teams contributed two power-play and two short-handed goals. Brendan Harris, 19, leads the Wild in scoring with 20 assists and 27 points in 26 matches. The St. Cloud State commit has been in on one-third of the Wenatchee scoring this year with winger Joe Drabin the beneficiary of most of the speedy Harris’ setups as Drabin leads the team with 11 goals. This will be the Smoke Eater’s first and only trip to Washington State this season, as Wenatchee makes a return trip to Trail on Dec. 5.
The Smoke Eaters then face off against the league-leading Vees on Saturday in Penticton. The Vees had their 22 game win streak disrupted by the Langley Rivermen last week, and responded with an 8-2 drubbing of Coquitlam Express the next night, and a 4-3 come-from-behind overtime victory over the Vernon Vipers on Wednesday night. Vees captain Scott Conway scored three minutes into the first OT to keep Penticton’s home record perfect.
After losing on Friday, Conway tweeted, “Now we have experienced it all. Teams better watch out the rest of the year, because we are coming harder than ever.”
Vernon almost made a suitable reply, and the Smokies would like nothing more than to hand Penticton its first loss at home this season on Saturday.
Trail will then travel to West Kelowna Tuesday to play the Warriors before returning home Dec. 4 to host the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
Smoke Signals: Defenceman Jeremy Lucchini suffered a concussion and will be out of the line up this weekend, until he completes the concussion protocol.
Former Smoke Eater goalie Brett Clark was traded from the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League to the Calgary Mustangs of the Alberta Junior League. One month ago, the 20-year-old Grande Prairie native was named Goaltender of the Week in the SJHL jumping out to a 5-1-1 start with the Broncos before finishing with a 7-6-0-1 record, a 3.37 goals against average, and a respectable .901 save percentage. Clark won the Keystone Cup with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in 2014 and was named the MVP. The 7-15-3-1 Broncos are last in their division and received 18-year-old forward Brayden Uhrich in return.