Friday, October 17, 2008

15th in Canada (Pre-Game Notes and Audio)

Some good news for the Trail Smoke Eaters spotted in the Trail Times today. I've searched on-line and haven't been able to find a release from the CJHL, but the Times is reporting that the latest Canadian Junior A Hockey League rankings have Trail in 15th spot.

According to the Times, this is the first time since 1997 that the Smokies have found a place in the top 15. That season they were ranked as high as 8th and lost to Vernon in the Interior finals. Check out today's Trail Daily Times for more information.

Congrats to the Smoke Eaters who continue to surprise people around the hockey world. First place in the Interior, five game winning streak, top scoring team in the conference, Chad Gehon is the player of the week and now Trail is in the national rankings. Not bad for a team with 5 returning players and 13 rookies!

Anything can happen in the next 3/4 of the regular season. However, nobody can take away the start Trail has had. Lets hope that the fans respond by filling up the Cominco Arena for tonight's big showdown with the Vees.


Penticton is going to be shorthanded for tonight's game. Head on over to Ryan Pinder's veesblog and check out the latest on the Vees roster situation. Coach Fred Harbinson, F Joey Holka, D Elias Grossman and D Zach Josepher have all been suspended after what Ryan describes as a "near line brawl" against Salmon Arm last week. The Vees are also dealing with injuries to D Matt Paltridge and former Smokies D Nathan Westover. That could mean four blue liners missing the game. Talk about a huge hole to fill. It's possible that Paltridge or Westover could play, but if not we're talking about only 3 guys from the back end making it into tonight's game. Lucikly for Penticton one of them is returning star Devon Krogh.

Pinder suggests that the Vees may try to call up AP D Isaac MacLoed from the KIJHL's Nelson Leafs, but Nelson is down to 6 healthy defencemen themselves so that may not work out.

I did just hear that Penticton has called up G Andrew Walton and D Bob Pond from the Castlegar Rebels in the KIJHL for tonight's game. Walton has been to two consecutive Penticton camps and has played very well for the Rebels this season. Pond, a '91 born Penticton native has 3 points in 8 games with Castlegar so far this season. He had 10 points in 49 games last season. The 17 year old is 6'2 and 190lbs. Walton is a '91 born Castlegar native with a 4-1 record, 2.41GAA and 90.98% save percentage. He had a save percentage over 92% in 16 games last season. The call-ups are at a bad time for Castlegar as the Rebels have lost their last three heading into tonight's game in Grand Forks.

If the Vees are calling up Walton that must mean they will be without one of their two goaltenders for tonight's game. The Smokies will likely be hoping it's Anthony Borelli that will miss tonight's game. He's been by far the better of the two Penticton netminders so far this season. Trail also beat Sean Bonar in the one game between these two teams this season.

Either way it's going to be a challenge for the Vees tonight. However, anyone who remembers last year's game against a shorthanded Westside team knows that you can't take anything for granted. The Smokies will still have to work their butts off to get a win.

There will be one major difference between this team and the one we saw to start the season. Denver Manderson returned to Penticton after making the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. He chose to return to the BCHL where he won a championship with the Vees last year. He is the kind of player that can single handedly make a major difference at this level.

Check out their roster here:


Speaking of the Vees and Ryan's blog, he's got a couple of things up there that might be of interest to Smokies fans. Check out his Interior Conference Power Rankings which now have the orange and black in first spot for the first time. While it is a deserving ranking for the Smokies at this point, I still believe there is so little separating 1rst through 6th. I'd put Quesnel in that group but I think it's going to be very difficult for them to recover from an injury that puts G Jeff Malcom on the shelf for the next four months.

You can also check out an interview Ryan did with me on Boston Pizza Vees This Week on his blog. I warn you that I had only been awake for about 10 minutes when I did the interview. Ryan carried me through it. He has the whole show posted on the blog and it is well worth checking out.

A Smoke Eaters fan recently asked me why we don't do a weekly radio show on the Smokies. That's because Mountain FM has a nightly sports talk show! You can listen to get your sports fix every weeknight from 6pm to Midnight on Mountain FM at 104.1 in Trail, 99.3 in Castlegar, 103.5 in Nelson, 96.7 in Grand Forks. Tonight Overtime will be live at the Smoke Eaters game against the Vees. I really hope you come out to watch the game live, but if you absolutely can't make it we'll keep you up to date. You'd get the best of both worlds if you go to the game and take your radio with you!


I have been getting into the habit of ranking the Smokies three stars for every extended road trip. I didn't think to do that earlier this week. It's hard to separate the weekend games from the rest of the week, but I'd have to say that this past weekend it was the Gehon/Pickering/Sandor line carrying the mail for the Smokies. It's funny how one week the Bulach/Maily/Boisvert line was the straw that stirred the drink and last weekend the other big line picked up the slack. That's what it's like to have two legitimate scoring lines. When one doesn't put pucks in the other does. You've got to love having depth.

1. Chad Gehon (2G, 4A) Gehon was the BCHL's player of the week (2G, 7A for the week) and was hugely clutch in scoring Trail's winning goal on Saturday night in Prince George. The playmaker is also finding his scoring touch. Gehon is one of three Smoke Eaters (with Pickering and Boisvert) among the top 20 scorers in the BCHL.

2. Nick Sandor (0G, 5A) Sandor has thrived playing with Gehon and Pickering. It's amazing to think this young man only had 3 points all of last season with the Bulldogs. Trail is giving him a top 6 opportunity and Sandor has absolutely made the most of it. He set up both winning goals on the weekend.

3. Brandon Clark (1G, 2A) Clark scored another hugely clutch goal on Sunday to give Trail an overtime win against Quesnel. That's 3 game winning goals (2 in overtime) in 14 games. He also fired the shot that Pickering tipped in for Trail's second goal on Saturday and helped set-up the winner against the Spruce Kings with a nice pinch.

Honourable mentions: Andrew Pickering (1G, 2A), Danny DeKeyser (2G)

Pickering is riding a 6 game point scoring streak. He has also proven what he can do when given a real opportunity in a scoring role. DeKeyser scored twice on the weekend with a ridiculous wrist shot. As Coach Ingram told me, he beat the goaltenders cleanly without any screen or tip. Both shots were right in the top corner. This young man can fire the puck.


Interviews from Mountain FM's Overtime this week:
Puck drop tonight is 7:30pm at the Cominco Arena. Show the Smoke Eaters you appreciate everything they've accomplished so far this season. First place, 15th in Canada, top scoring team in the Interior, top power play in the BCHL, 3 scorers in the top 20, best 1-2 punch of enforcers in the league... I could go on and on.

This team deserves your support. The Canucks game is on early, there's no MLB game, lets fill the rink tonight! You can join Michelle and I in the arena's parking lot this evening as we do a shoot out for Smokies tickets. Come check it out and you could get into the game for free. Otherwise I hope to see as many of you as possible tonight.

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