Trail Smoke Eaters ready for road match vs Merritt

Interior Division match up between Trail Smoke Eaters and a much improved Merritt Centennials team

The Trail Smoke Eaters face a rapidly improving Merritt Centennials team on Wednesday at the Nicola Valley Arena in Merritt.

The Smoke Eaters are coming off a big 3-1 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs on Saturday and gained ground on the Penticton Vees who lost to Coquitlam, 7-2, and Chilliwack 4-0.

The Centennials, however, are riding a three-game winning streak after dispatching the Wenatchee Wild 6-4 on Saturday and the Prince George Spruce Kings 4-2 on Friday.

Following a tough start to the season, the Cents bolstered their line up earlier this month with the addition of six-foot-two forward Hunor Torzsok, 19, from the Estevan Bruins and Christian Buono, 19, from the Powell River Kings.

The Cents then went out and signed forward Jerzy Orchard and defenceman Braydon Clark from the Western Hockey League last week. Orchard, 18, was released by the Saskatoon Blades, while the 17-year-old Clark came way of the Prince Albert Raiders.

Orchard played in 41 games with the Kamloops Blazers last season, before being traded to the Blades where he managed an assist in 11 games this year. An energy player with a high hockey IQ, the hard working forward was in the lineup for the past three wins, contributing an assist.

Meanwhile, Merritt’s Director of Hockey Operations, John Stuart, says that Clark will bring a physical game and compete level into the Cents lineup.

“Clark is a young, right handed D-man that is a fearless competitor, a great defender, and is tough as nails. He is willing to pay the price to make a play, is there for his teammates and is excited to join the team and have an opportunity.”

It will be the second meeting of the season for the two Interior Division teams, with Merritt currently sitting in sixth spot with an 8-15-1-0 record, while Trail, 18-8-2-1-1, has climbed into a tie for second with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, three points behind the Vees. Trail beat a very different Centennials team, 7-1, at the BCHL Bauer Showcase in Penticton Oct. 4.

Josh Kagan leads the Cents in scoring with 17 goals and 27 points, while former Smoke Eater defenceman Olson Werenka anchors their blue line along with Joey Berkopec and Talon Zakall. Another former Smoke Eater, Tanner Marshall, has split duties with Ryan Winter in the Merritt crease. Marshall has posted five wins in 12 starts, a 4.27 GAA and a .886 save percentage and earned both wins over the weekend.

The puck drop goes at 7 p.m. in Merritt.

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