Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rollheiser to Boston (Plus Andy Balesky Audio)

Just talked with Grant Rollheiser who confirmed that he has committed to Boston University for next season. Congratulations to Grant who has worked his butt off to become one of the elite goaltenders in this league. Smokies fans should now take advantage of their last chance to see him in the Orange and Black during this playoff run. He's played incredible hockey in 2008, and Trail will try to ride that great goaltending and their veteran leaders to playoff succes this year. The whole team has been playing very good hockey lately so it'd be great to see them make a run here.

I watched Grant play in last year's KIJHL playoffs for Nelson and immediately thought he would be a strong Junior A prospect for this season. I thought he was a model of consistency for most of this season while the whole team battled to find their identity. In the new year he's taken his game to the next level. Rollheiser is a big, positional goaltender who makes the job look easy. That doesn't mean he's not making spectacular saves, but they just don't look that way because he's so poised and reads the play so well. In my opinion he's got the mental make-up of a top goalie. As much as I would've wanted to see him play again next year, I'm really happy for him. This is a wonderful achievement.

Rollheiser says he has been told he'll compete for the starting job next season. Seems he fell in love with the city and the school on his fly down. There have been a ton of schools after Grant lately. Schools and NHL scouts as well. This is a special player. All the best to him, and lets hope his final games as a Smokie are successful.

  • Click Here for Part 1 of the Rollhesier interview on Overtime
  • Click Here for Part 2 of the Rollhesier interview on Overtime

Wednesday night is the Smokies Awards Banquet and you have to think that this could be the second straight year that a goaltender takes home the MVP award. Kevin Limbert to me would be the other favourite for that particular award. Either way it's a nice celebration of the team.


...The Smokies announced today that Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke will be at the head table for the Smokies fundraising dinner this summer. It's part of the great golf tournament weekend sponsored by the Terra Nova. They're teaming up with the local ALS charity this year to share the fundraising efforts. Watch the Smokies website for ticket information. Do you think I should mention to Mr. Burke that I'm an Oilers fan? Nah.

...Kevin Limbert finishes the regular season as the team leader in points while Brett Corcoran is the team leader in goals. Scott Warner leads the D in scoring and Brad Davis takes home the most penalty minutes. Trail wrapped up the season with four straight wins and five wins in their last six games. They're playing their best hockey at the exact right time. That 6-1 home win over Salmon Arm was sure a nice way to wrap up the regular season against a potential playoff opponent.

...Prince George beat Quesnel 4-2 in their second last game to come within one point of Trail. The final game on Wednesday night will decide the playoff match up. A PG win means Trail takes on Salmon Arm in the first round. A scheduling conflict in Salmon Arm would give the Smoke Eaters a home game to open that series. It would start Friday in Trail and then go to Salmon Arm for two games. Back to Trail for a fourth and then to Salmon Arm again for the fifth game. If Quesnel wins, the Smokies stay in 5th place and travel to Vernon for a Friday start against the Vipers.

...What a game on Monday night in the KIJHL! I was working at the station while the game was going on, but by the time the first overtime winner for Beaver Valley was called back I decided I had to get down to the game. Thanks to Guy Bertrand of the Trail Times and my friend Sarah for keeping us updated. I did some updates the rest of the way while watching the drama unfold. Just a classic playoff performance by Taylor Quinn of the Nitehawks. Castlegar got swept but in many ways deserved a better fate. The Nitehwaks were the better team in the series, but I think it's clear after this season that the KIJHL playoff format should move to a Conference set up similar to that in the BCHL. Having Castlegar and BV playing in the first round would be like Penticton and Westside playing in the first round. Quinn scored four goals including the eventual winner in an instant classic. There was great fan support for both teams. Really emotional finish especially when you consider that the Junior B careers of guys like Rockney, Steele and Dielwart are over. I'll have interviews with Cody Steele and Brent Heaven on Wednesday night's Overtime show on Mountain FM. Now Nelson and Beaver Valley will battle in a re-match of last year's division finals.

  • Click here for an audio summary of the Game 3 marathon from Overtime.
...I received a couple of requests for copies of the interviews we did in tribute to Andy Balesky on Overtime. The Hall of Fame little league baseball coach will be honoured on Thursday night at the Cominco gym. I heard close to 1000 people are expected to attend. What a legacy and what a career. Balesky coached Trail ittle league ball teams to 5 Canadian and 11 provincial championships. If you're interested here are links to the interviews. Some great stories from great members of the Trail athletic community.

Friday, February 22, 2008


The Trail Smoke Eaters made it into the big dance. In a season filled with massive challenges I think that qualifies as a nice accomplishment. There is no question that some fans expected them to be top 3 in the conference. Same can be said for Merritt, tonight's opponent for the Smokies at Cominco Arena. Predictions are an inexact science obviously. The Smokies battled through some really tough tests to get where they are today. January was so tough.. That schedule was brutal on top of the lost players and injuries.

However, after all that, I think they've found something new. The trip to Vancouver really seemed to do something to their mentality. I think the win against Burnaby could stand up as the moment when the Smoke Eaters finally found their identity as a team. They won that game with hard work, two-way play, driving the net and strong goaltending. That's the formula that is going to win this team hockey games. They know how to play at both ends of the ice. There's a lot of speed and grit on the team. They're strong penalty killers. I don't think this Smokies team is ever going to score a ton of goals each game but they're a team who can win with playoff style hockey.

After the big 2-1 win in Burnaby and fighting through some adversity in Surrey, I think they came out of the road trip a more confident and united group. It showed in two strong games against Prince George last weekend. The Smokies secured their playoff spot by using that same hard working, hard nosed style with more great goaltending. It's a recipe I think that they could have some success with come playoff time.

For a long time this year people called them disappointments. Now they're underdogs. Nobody expects anything from the Smokies now, and they may just surprise you. This team is more united than they have been all season long. I have a good feling that we're going to see their best hockey when the puck drops on the post season.

Tonight against Merritt is a good chance for the team to stay hot. Lets see if the put in another strong 60 minutes. Here's hoping. It's fan appreciation weekend so there are all sorts of deals tonight and Sunday afternoon at 3 against Salmon Arm. Season ticket holders can use any left over tickets to bring friends. Also some nice deals at the Sud Shack! Come on out and join us

After the game we'll be at Rave's for our post game show.


...The KIJHL playoffs start today in Fruitvale as the Beaver Valley Nitehawks host the Castlegar Rebels in the first game of a best of five series. These two teams are so close. BV had 72 points to Castlegar's 71. Just how close was the Neil Murdoch West Division? Nelson won it with 73 points. That's a three point seperation with the top three teams. Nelson gets the bye. It's a huge shame that either of them will be eliminated in the first round. The Nitehawks beat Castlegar in 7 games in last year's first round as well. Game two is tomorrow night in Fruitvale so all Smokie fans who went to today's game can head on down to the BV Arena. Then on Sunday the Smokies host Salmon Arm. The KIJHL series starts up again in Castlegar on Monday and Tuesday. Lots of hockey for local fans!


...Kevin Limbert has two goals and Koopman the other. Fights for Martin and Corcoran. Good game so far. Lots of fire. BV and Castlegar are tied at 2 after one.

...5-1 in the third period. Limbert has 2, Koopman has 2, Corcoran has the other one. Raley may be hurt. Hopefully not serious as he's really been fitting in well of late. Good game so far by Barclay. Apparenly 3-2 for BV after the 2nd period in Fruitvale.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Almost There

After last night's win over Prince George, the Trail Smoke Eaters have almost earned that final playoff spot in the BCHL Interior Conference. A Trail win tonight and a Quesnel loss against Vernon would guarantee the Smokies a trip to the playoffs. At times throughout the last two months I was really wondering if the boys would ever get back on track. However, once you're in the big dance it doesn't matter what place you start... only matters what place you finish.

I've really liked how the team has played over the last 3-4 games. It really started with the jump they had against Langley, and I think that mental toughness started to come around in the 2-1 win over Burnaby and that war with Surrey. I think the guys are starting to realize the kind of game they have to play. It's a hard working, blue collar style that is going to bring them success. There's lots of guys on the Smokies who can play that solid two-way game and they are starting to embrace it. The Smokies are going to score goals with a lunch pale style. Throw those pucks on net, drive the goal and look for rebounds. That's where their goals came from last night.

Grant Rollheiser was great again last night. 28 saves for his second BCHL shut out. He continues to develop into one of the top netminders in the league.

Casey Shade came through with a goal and an assist last night as well. He's one of those veterans who has to bring that scoring for the Smokies if they want to make something happen in the playoffs. Limbert and Davis had the other goals for Trail. For Davis it was his first goal of the season and a big monkey off his back He's looking more confident tonight all ready after finding the net. Coach Ingram says it was one of the biggest cheers of the year on the bench after Davis scored. He's really respected on the bench for how many times he stands up for the guys. Davis actually won a big fight in the first period last night knocking Lees down with a huge right hand.

There were four fights last night. Lots of scrapping from two teams fighting for their playoff lives. They've had great games every time they've hooked up. Nice to see guys like Kinnebrew, Warner and Ourosov drop the gloves and answer the bell.

After a big win over Grand Forks in their final KIJHL regular season game, Layne Stopanski and Steve Kosher of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks join the Smoke Eaters tonight. Beaver Valley could earn a first round bye in the KIJHL playoffs if Nelson loses tonight against Creston. Otherwise it's another big first round battle between the Nitehawks and the Castlegar Rebels.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ryan Bulach and weekend notes

Not a lot of time again today, but it looks like two-way forward Ryan Bulach is going to be gone for the rest of the BCHL season. After being hit by Surrey's Pajimola behind the Trail net, Bulach fell backwards into the boards. He tried to get up and collapsed in a scary scene. Big thanks to the Surrey training staff for being so quick and efficient in helping Bulach out at the scene. Thankfully there was no head or neck injury. They took seveal minutes to make sure of that. However, after a quick trip to the hospital in Surrey, it looks like Bulach's season is done. From what I've read, a broken collarbone (which he has apparently sustained) can take between 6 and 10 weeks to heal. That would put us into at least April.

Bulach is a huge part of this hockey team. He's one of the better playmakers, scores goals, kills penalties, wins face offs and makes important plays in his own zone. He's a guy who would be expected to take on a huge leadership role on this team as a 20 year old next year. This year he's arguably been the #2 centre on the team behind Kevin Limbert. It's another huge blow for a Smoke Eaters team that can't seem to find a break.

They are now down to 10 healthy forwards and that includes Kevin Limbert who missed last night's game with an undisclosed injury. So really we're talking about 9 healthy forwards right now depending on Limbert's recovery time.

On the positive side they scored 4 goals in the last two games of the road trip. That's not exactly a ton of goals, but it's sure better than 3 goals in six games. They're working very hard and responded well to adversity in both Friday and Saturday's games. Only two points on the road trip, but I think the team and the coaching staff felt much better about their play. The Burnaby and Surrey games were playoff like, and the Smoke Eaters showed a lot of guts and tenacity. With Grant Rollheiser playing the best hockey of his career in the Trail net, anything can happen.

Quesnel is four points back of Trail for the final playoff spot with five games left. Trail has four games left. Prince George is four points ahead of Trail and they have seven games left. It's possible that the three teams could all finish in 5th, 6th or 7th but realistically the Spruce Kings are almost guaranteed a playoff spot. It's up to the Smoke Eaters to stay ahead of Quesnel with at least one or two wins in their remaining home games. Those include two this weekend with Prince George, one with Merritt and one with Salmon Arm. It'll be a challenge without Bulach, Brodie and possibly Limbert... but one this Smoke Eaters team seems ready and willing to meet.


...Brian Youngson won't be behind the bench for the remaining home games. He has a personal matter to attend to in Vancouver before coaching Team Kootenay in the BC Winter Games. Despite silly rumours to the contrary, Youngson is as committed to his team as any coach in this league. Just wanted to make sure the truth was out there so nobody speculated when he wasn't there this weekend.

...Paul Mailey had a break-out weekend for the Smokies. He was their best skater all weekend. He also had three points on Friday and Saturday. Maily scored the winning goal against Burnaby, got Trail on the board against Surrey and made a beautiful two-line pass to set up August Aiken's goal in the Eagles game. Mailey also sees a ton of PK time as one of the team's most responsible two-way forwards. This weekend it seemed like he found an extra gear in his offensive game that could turn him into an elite player in this league.

...Stefan Decosse was back in form this weekend. As our guest colour comentator Scott McKinnon said on the broadcast, Decosse had the puck on a string. He set up several great chances while doing a great job on puck possesion in the offensive zone. Also made a ridiculous toe-drag move against Burnaby on Saturday that would've been a great chance if he didn't fall after.

...Scott Warner and Kevin Koopman are getting the job done as Trail's top pairing, but this weekend was also a really strong one for the other four guys on the blue line. I had a couple of scouts talk to me about how well Hill, Kinnebrew, Geerin and Raley played. How far has Kinnebrew's game come in the past two months? His physical game is at a level now that I didn't know he had. The whole group did a very good job keeping shooters to the outside and making the simple plays. They're going to be a tough group to play agianst down the stretch and in the playoffs. We can only imagine how tough they'd be with a healthy Cam Brodie.

...Rollheiser is emerging as an elite goaltender in the BCHL. He has more scouts than you can count following him right now. Don't be surprised to see his name in the NHL draft his year. Trail fans don't want to miss their chance to see him play.

...That was our last regular season road broadcast of the year. It's been a dream come true for me to be the play by play voice of a hockey team with this much class and tradition. Thanks to Mountain FM and the Smoke Eaters for that opportunity. Also thanks to John for being my regular producer. Randy Emery for his guest colour spots and "Dog Bites" or pieces of Smokies history that he sends my way. Thanks to my other guest colour guys Scott McKinnon, Jamie Paulsen, Ryan Hill, Stef Decosse, Logan Proulx and anyone I might be forgetting. It's always fun to have someone there to talk hockey with so you all don't get bored of my voice. The executive, coaching staff and players have treated me with nothing but respect from day one and I really do appreciate that. I'm lucky to be associated with the Smokies in my own small way. I may not be as loud a cheerleader for the team as some of the fans would like, but I really hope good things happen to everyone in this organization. Lets hope we have many playoff broadcasts to come!

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Long time no talk. Sorry for the updating, but life gets busy sometimes. I'm actually having an issue with my laptop. Needless to say I'd advise you not to buy an ACER.

Anyway just a very quick update to say what a great win yesterday. As good a 60 minute effort as I've seen from the Smokies all year. Paul Mailey was an absolute FORCE last night. Best skater on the ice for both teams in my opinion. He and Decosse worked very well together. Corcoran jumped in there with them and scored a huge goal to break the goose egg. Despite no goals in the first period they didn't get down. Despite giving up the 1-0 lead they didn't get down. Few mental breakdowns. Very strong defensive play from the whole D core last night. A scout I talked to really liked what guys like Kinnebrew, Hill, Raley and Geerin were doing last night... and we always get really strong performances from the top pairing of Koopman and Warner.

That was playoff hockey from the Smoke Eaters. Play like that and they will scare some teams come playoff time. Ultimately the biggest reason for that fear will be between the pipers. Grant Rollheiser has found another gear lately. Scouts are all over him and the Smokies are going to ride this great play as long as they can. Just a pleasure to watch in goal and a guy who could end up drafted in the NHL come June. Don't miss your chance to see him in the final four home games of the year.

Surrey tonight. Limbert's out but hopefully only for the one game. Barclay's sick so Rollheiser will go again tonight even though it's three in three games. Lets hope for another great effort tonight and for a Vernon win over Quesnel. Smokies are 5 points up for that last playoff spot.

Tonight's game is live on Mountain FM at 6:45pm!