After failing to win a game in December, the future is starting to look a little brighter for the Trail Smoke Eaters.
The Smokies picked up points in each of their first two games of 2012. They netted a single point for the 5-4 overtime loss to Salmon Arm Wednesday, and then skated to a 3-2 victory over the Victoria Grizzlies Saturday at the Cominco Arena .
Lyndon Stanwood stopped 31 shots earning the game’s first-star and Tanner Clarkson added two goals to lead the Smoke Eaters to their first win since Nov. 29.
The Smokies played well defensively despite the loss of defenseman Tanner Hicks who was sent to the Brookes Bandits on Friday for future considerations.
Hicks, 19, logged lots of minutes for Trail since he was acquired in a five-player deal back in October from the Alberni Bulldogs, and led the D in scoring with 13 points in 25 games.
A Calgary native, Hicks will join former Smoke Eater forwards Ryan Luiten and Matt Wilkins on a Bandits lineup that leads the South division in the AJHL and could go deep into the playoffs.
In the three-way deal, the Smoke Eaters added another young forward, getting Riley McDougall from the Calgary Canucks. McDougall has 17 points for the Canucks this season and was in the lineup for Saturday’s game against the Grizzlies where he notched his first point, an assist on Clarkson’s second goal.
“He’s a top six forward, super excited to come in here and fill a role of some much needed offence that we’ve been lacking,“ said Smoke Eater coach and GM Bill Birks. “The deal was too good to turn down; I didn’t want to get rid of Tanner Hicks but on the other hand we’ve got to look at what we’re doing here, we got younger and some futures on the back end of it that makes us younger, bigger and better for next year.”
With the Jan. 10 trade deadline looming, the Smokies may still make some moves depending on what they are offered in return, said Birks on Sunday.
“It’s pretty quiet right now, but it will start getting busy tomorrow and Tuesday. If something makes sense we’ll do it, if not, I’m pretty happy with what we got right now.”
With the Smoke Eaters enjoying a healthy lineup for virtually the first time all season, they out shot their opponent in both games, were solid defensively and received strong goaltending, a good sign for the future.
“We got lots of young kids, playing in lots of situations they’re not use to, but it builds confidence and that’s the biggest thing they need right now.”
The Smokies next home game is against Coquitlam on Friday.
BCHL notes – Former Smoke Eater Daniel Delbianco netted the winning goal in OT to lead Alberni Valley to a 3-2 win over the Langley Lumbermen.
Trail native Logan Proulx scored a pair of goals for the Cowichan Valley Capitals, adding an insurance marker in a 3-1 win against the Chilliwack Chiefs Saturday and scoring the winning goal in 7-4 victory over the Alberni Bulldogs Friday. Trail’s Travis St. Denis also led the Penticton Vees to their 20th straight win, scoring twice in a 6-2 victory over the Chilliwack Chiefs.
KIJHL – The Beaver Valley Nitehawks picked up a pair of victories on the weekend.
On Friday, Hawks goalie Zach Perehudoff registered his second shutout of the season and Chris Johnson scored a pair to lead the Hawks to a 3-0 victory over the Princeton Posse.
The Nitehawks then clobbered the Columbia Valley Rockies 11-2 on Sunday. Justin Niminiken, Craig Martin and Dallas Calvin each netted two goals and two assists, for three four-point nights.
The Nitehawks play in Grand Forks Thursday, then host Kimberley and Castlegar on Friday and Saturday respectively.