Trail Smoke Eaters face off against Centennials

The Trail Smoke Eaters look to get back on track when they face off against the Merritt Centennials on Saturday.

The Trail Smoke Eaters look to get back on track when they face off against another Interior division rival, the Merritt Centennials, on Saturday night at the Cominco Arena.

The Smokies will also host their annual Golf Tournament and fundraiser Saturday. They won’t be teeing off, but will be on hand when it starts at Birchbank Golf Course Saturday morning. The fundraiser will see over 100 golfers hit the fairways in the best-ball tournament.

“They won’t be participating but they (the players) will be there,” said Trail coach and GM Nick Deschenes. “I think we have about 40 teams signed up, it’s going to be a great event, a great fundraiser. Hopefully all the golfers will have a good outing and then get to witness a good showing by our group.”

The Smoke Eaters were lacklustre in an 8-3 loss to West Kelowna Tuesday after which Deschense lambasted the team for a lack of effort.

The Centennials are coming off a 7-5 loss to the undefeated Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Tuesday, and are 1-2 after splitting its opening home-and-home with the West Kelowna Warriors. However, Centennials coach Joe Martin wasn’t thrilled with his troops either, after taking a 5-5 tie into the third, the Cents allowed the Silverbacks two goals in the final frame.

“In all honesty, we’re getting outworked,” Martin told the Merritt Herald. “We’re getting a little bit more down to basics over the next couple of days, and putting our guys through the paces of what real work is like, and how hard it is to win in this hockey league, and how hard you have to compete.”

Cents veteran Gavin Gould, a Michigan Tech commit, leads the team in scoring with four goals and seven points in three games. The 19-year-old forward netted 59 points last year, while 20-year-old forward Ryan Forbes has been a great addition to the team since coming over from the Nanaimo Clippers, and Tyler Ward, a 16-year-old rookie, has been impressive scoring two goals in two games.

While Deschenes is unlikely to shower praise on any of his players, the Smokies have been getting strong performances from veterans Jake Kaupilla, Kurt Black, and Harlan Orr, although even more may be expected of them.  Defensively, the team has struggled allowing 16 goals in three games, and Deschenes says the players need to dramatically ramp up the compete level if they expect better results.

“Everyone is looking beside them instead of in the mirror and deciding they need to take this opportunity by the horns and take advantage of it. There’s not many better things than being a hockey player.”

The Smokies host the Centennials at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cominco Arena.