After closing out 2011 Friday with another loss, the Trail Smoke Eaters are hoping there’s no place like home as it prepares to begin 2012 on a positive note.
The Smokies made the long bus ride to Prince George on Thursday followed by a 5-2 loss to the Spruce Kings Friday.
The Smoke Eaters won’t embark on another road trip until Jan. 20, when they visit Vernon, and will play their next five games within the cozy confines of the Cominco Arena.
While the Smokies are firmly entrenched in the BCHL Interior Conference basement, the Spruce Kings are in a close race with the Vernon Vipers and Chilliwack Chiefs for the fourth and final playoff spot.
Coming off a huge 4-2 victory over the Chiefs on Wednesday, in addtion to the win over Trail, coupled with a Vipers’ 3-1 loss to Salmon Arm Friday, the Spruce Kings moved past Vernon to sit in fourth and are only one point behind the third-place Chiefs.
The BCHL leading scorer Paul De Jersey, along with linemates Jujhar Khaira and Michael Colantone, accounted for three of the Spruce Kings goals and seven points in the win over Trail.
The Kings pumped 48 shots at Trail’s Lyndon Stanwood, who was also named the game’s first star, while the Smokies managed just 17. Trail’s Connor Tiechko and Brent Baltus scored early in the third to narrow the lead to 3-2, but De Jersey and Khaira each added late goals in the final frame to ice it.
The Smoke Eaters went pointless through the month of December being outscored 43-11 in eight losses.
The return of Adam Fares, who has been out since the beginning of November with a concussion, should inject some scoring punch into the lineup but the team is still hurting with Luke Bertolucci and Clayton Chessa sidelined.
The Smoke Eaters kick off their five-game home stand against Salmon Arm Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m.