The Trail Smoke Eaters get a little relief from their Interior Division rivals this weekend as they get set for a pair of home games against the Mainland Division’s Langley Rivermen and Surrey Eagles.
Trail faces Langley tonight in what is shaping up to be a close matchup with the two teams having registered identical 41 points in 39 games this campaign. Trail beat the Rivermen 5-2 on Oct. 9 in their only other meeting, and will face the Eagles for the first time on Saturday.
“Both teams are good, especially Langley,” said Smoke Eater coach Cam Keith. “When we played them earlier they were an injury-stricken team, and, of late, if you look at their record for the last month, they’re well above .500. They’re a team that’s surging and they have a lot of good older guys and younger guys that have already committed to colleges, so it’s going to be a very tough game.”
The Rivermen counted a point in every game but one in December, which included a five-game winning streak, and while they were dominated by Chilliwack in an 8-1 loss on Saturday, they beat the Island-Division leading Victoria Grizzlies 5-4 on Friday.
Langley is led by Denver commit Ryan Barrow who has 21 goals and 49 points in just 33 games giving him the third best points-per-game average in the league at 1.48. The Rivermen also boast the league’s top offensive defenceman in Cameron Ginnetti, a Clarkson University commit. The Vancouver native has amassed five goals and 38 assists for 43 points to lead all BCHL defenders in scoring.
Surrey, meanwhile, added some size on the backend at the trade deadline, getting six-foot-three, 225-pound defenceman Domenic Masellis from the Coquitlam Express for futures. The 14-24-2-0 Eagles are on a three-game slide and will roll into Trail following two games against Coquitlam and West Kelowna Thursday and Friday.
“They’re a younger team and we don’t know exactly what they are going to bring, but when they do play their best hockey, they are a very tough team to play against,” says Keith. “They’ve beaten some of the better teams in the league this year.”
Zach Dyment will get the start Friday after coming off a 40-save performance and a first-star selection in the Smokies 5-2 victory over Salmon Arm on Saturday.
Smoke Eater fans will also see Trail’s new addition, as Carter Cochrane will make his debut in an orange and black sweater tonight.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing in Trail in the past, I’ve had some success there, every time I’ve visited as a road team, so hopefully that can translate when I’m playing for Trail too,” said Cochrane.
Trail hosts the Rivermen at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Cominco Arena and Surrey on Saturday at 7 p.m.
“This is going to be a big series for us,” added Keith. “We’re starting to run out of home games, and we have a really tough February so these points are really crucial at home.”
Smoke Signals: The Smokies will be without Mitch Stapley who suffered a broken jaw against Salmon Arm a week ago.
Trail released 20-year-old defenceman Jonas Gordon to make room for Cochrane. Gordon, a Canmore native, had an assist and 32 penalty minutes in 17 games with the Smoke Eaters this season.