The Trail Smoke Eaters will look to move within four points of first-place Penticton, when they host the Vees tonight at the Cominco Arena.
The 30-14-4-1 Smokies play a a home-and-home against its most bitter rival and look to even the season record tonight, as the 33-10-2-3 Vees hold a 2-1-0-1 advantage over Trail this season.
“We have a different preparation against Pen,” said Trail coach and GM Cam Keith. “We try to play them like we’re in an underdog-type situation, and going into Pen we need to play a simple, quiet, humble game where we don’t try to go chance-for-chance.”
The teams’ last two games went to overtime, with Penticton beating the Smokies 3-2 on Jan. 20, after playing to a 2-2 tie in their previous match, Jan. 12.
The Vees have been on a roll, defeating Salmon Arm 5-1 on Saturday to climb into first place overall thanks to an 11-1-0-1 record in the new year. Penticton boasts a fast and potent attack with quick transitions, and is led by leading scorer and Bemidji State commit Owen Sillinger with 26 goals and 46 points, mobile d-man Jonny Tychonick with eight goals and 38 points, and Taylor Ward with 16-17-33 in 36 games.
Wednesday will be the fifth meeting of the year between the two teams, with Trail beating the Vees in their opening match 4-1 in Trail, before falling 2-1 in Game 2.
The Smoke Eaters are on a four-game winning streak, with the line of Ross Armour (20-38-58), Kale Howarth (24-33-57), and Levi Glasman (20-27-47) leading the way. However, Tyler Ghirardosi and Andre Ghantous have found some chemistry of late, combining for seven goals and five assists for 12 points over those four wins.
Trail will travel to Penticton on Friday to complete the season-series, and return home to face the surging Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Saturday.
“They (Penticton) are very skilled, and especially in their rink, it feels like we’re skating in quicksand sometimes,” said Keith. “We just have to keep it really simple, play below the dots, a ground ‘em out kind of style.”
The puck drop for the Trail-Penticton game goes tonight at 7 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.
Smoke Signals: Smokies forward Tyler Ghirardosi earned honourable mention in Player of the Week selection with two game-winning goals, an assist, and two second-star nods.
The Smoke Eaters forward Ryan Murphy was handed a two-game suspension for a hit from behind in Friday’s 8-1 win over the Langley Rivermen.