The Trail Smoke Eaters hit the road this weekend with a new assistant coach intact.
The Smokies hired Rockie Zinger, the former coach of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Kindersley Klippers, earlier this week.
A Kindersley native, Zinger’s contract was not renewed by the Klippers despite leading the team to its best season in franchise history and a first-place finish in its division in 2014-15.
“His contract wasn’t renewed, and I think he was kind of hovering so bringing in someone again who is more than capable, with his experience, his expertise, so another strong candidate,” said Trail coach and GM Nick Deschenes.
Zinger replaces Ryan Donald who was offered the assistant coaching position at Yale University last month. Zinger spent five years with the Klippers, rebuilding the team and bringing them from a last place finish in 2011-12 to second overall in 2014-15. His regular season record as head coach of the Klippers was 123-111-15-12.
The new assistant will fly in just in time for the Smokies’ road trip to play Interior division rival Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Saturday.
Trail is coming off a pair of losses at the BCHL Showcase, including a 6-3 setback to the previously winless Prince George Spruce Kings on Saturday. However, the Smoke Eaters had a much better effort on Sunday when they outplayed the unbeaten Wenatchee Wild but fell 3-1.
“We need to build off our last effort,” said Deschenes. “I think there is definitely some bright spots, some players that are really trending in a good direction, and it’s going to be another good test.”
The schedule won’t get any easier as after facing second-place Salmon Arm Saturday, the team travels to Penticton to play first-place Vees on Wednesday. The Silverbacks handed the Vees their only loss in the first game of the season, and are just a point behind the division leading Vees, while Trail has two wins in six games and are in sixth in the Interior division.
The Silverbacks currently boast a 4-1-1 record and are coming off their only loss of the season, a 3-2 setback to Langley Rivermen at the Showcase last week.
The Smoke Eaters had a full week of practice and with everyone healthy and ready to go, Deschene is confident the team will continue to improve.
“We have the ability to elevate our game against strong opponents, so were looking for the same thing on Saturday.
“We have had a good whole week to get prepared and learn from the weekend. We are excited for what we put on the ice on Sunday and hope it carries over on Saturday.”