The Greater Trail Midget Tier 2 Smoke Eaters welcome some of the best teams in the province this weekend for the Greater Trail Minor Hockey Association’s annual Midget Rep Tournament.
Seven teams including Campbell River, Castlegar, Cranbrook, Kelowna, Spokane, Winfield and host Trail, will take to Cominco Ice for an eleven game round robin on Friday and Saturday before hitting the ice on Sunday for the consolation matches and final.
Last season, the Trail Midget Reps made an epic trip to the Midget Tier 2 provincial final in March, finally succumbing to the New Westminster Royals, 5-2, in the championship match.
Although, the team has nine returning players, including goalie Brandon Youngson, the Midget Smokies have been hurt by both injury and lack of competition as the Okanagan Mainline Hockey Association affiliation stayed home this year.
“The few teams won’t come and play us, but we play the same amount of games away we just don’t have as many home games,” said Midget Rep coach Brian Youngson.
Two of their top forwards, Aiden Browell and Owen Titus have been sidelined by injury and this year’s team also graduated key components to the KIJHL, most recently Tyler and Devin Ghiradosi, as well as Jake Yuris and Ryan Neil to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, and last year’s captain Mitch Titus to the Fernie Ghostriders. As a result, inconsistency has plagued the team this season.
“Some days we’re really good, and some days when we don’t work hard we’re junk,” says Youngson. “It’s a different dynamic than last year, and we haven’t had the opportunity to be healthy.”
The loss of the Ghiradosi twins and skilled forwards Titus and Browell have hurt the Midget Reps but the team still has the potential to compete with the best the tournament has to offer.
“I think we’re our biggest nemesis really,” said Youngson. “When we show up and compete we can beat anyone, but when we don’t show up, it’s not pretty.”
Trail kicks off the tournament with two games Friday, the first against the Spokane Midget Chiefs at noon, followed by a tilt against the Campbell River Tyees at 4:30 p.m. in what is always an entertaining and high-energy affair.
The Castlegar Midget Rep Rebels go at 6:45 p.m. against one of the tournament favourites the Kelowna Midget Rep Rockets. However, Castlegar is also a competitive team and a dark horse going into the tourney.
“Castlegar has a good squad this year too,” said Youngson. “They have a nice team. They were kind of in the same boat as us at the beginning of the year in terms of being able to get kids back from Junior B and Major Midget, so they have a good team.”
Castlegar faces Campbell River early Saturday with puck drop at 7 a.m. followed by Trail versus Cranbrook at 9:15 a.m. The Midget Smokies finish off the round robin with a 6:15 p.m. game against Kelowna, while Castlegar plays Winfield at 8:30 p.m.
“Our main focus right now is just to get better,” said Youngson. “We need to really work on habits, and just being to show up and compete every time.”
The top seed after the round robin gets an automatic berth into Sunday’s final at 1:45 p.m., while the semifinal game between second and third seed faces off at 9:15 a.m. with the winner advancing to the final. All games will be played at the Cominco Arena.