Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Prince George Notes and Audio

(Barclay and Muchalla were dueling all night - Photo by Randy Emery)

The Trail Smoke Eaters picked up three out of four points in their back to back games with the Prince George Spruce Kings last weekend. Their goal was to win both games and get all four points, but realistically they have to be somewhat satisfied with the result. Friday's game was as complete a performance as we've seen from the young Smokies. The first period was pretty even and slow, but Trail took over from the drop of the puck in the second period. We also saw what was probably the best fight I've ever seen since I started following Trail. Jadon Porterfield and Jordan Simpson had a terrific battle. Awesome to watch.

This group never seems to react negatively to a deficit. They were down 1-0 in the first game and 2-0 in the second, but came back both times. We saw the same thing several times in the pre-season, against Penticton in the season opener, and it's becoming a routine. I'm sure they'd rather not have to stage these come backs, but it's nice to know they're not rattled by getting down early.

The Smokies completely dominated the Spruce Kings in the second and third periods of Friday's game. There were a few spurts of pressure from Prince George in the third, but Marco Raimondo was always there to shut the door. We also saw Patrick Raley score his first as a Smoke Eater on a beauty. He was deservedly named first star of the game for the goal and strong, physical play in his own zone. Talking to Patrick he really worked hard to improve all elements of his game over the summer. Raley's stronger, faster, in better shape and his slap shot is much improved. That's the kind of off season dedication you need to succeed.

The second game started pretty evenly and slowly. I had the pleasure of broadcasting it on BCHL PPV and in the Fanzone with Shaun Johnson (also of Mountain FM) on our new system up there. Daryl Taylor did a great job with the city to get it set up for us, and apparently the feed back on how the broadcast looked and sounded was very positive. I'll be doing every weekend home game on the internet as well as every single Smokies road game on Mountain FM.

The Smokies sat Travis St. Denis out on Saturday meaning they were running with 11 forwards out there. As a result I felt that things were a little jumbled even in the first period, and it got much worse when both Andrew Pickering and Sean Nugent got kicked out of the game in a big jumbled mess behind the goal. Pickering (though I saw no signal for it initially) was thrown out of the game for a hit from behind. The hit sparked a shoving match between Baldassarre and CJ Legassic and a fight Nugent and Derickson. Since the Legassic/Baldassarre show down was called a fight both Nugent and Derickson got the gate for the second fight after the whistle. If my information is correct, that means both will likely be suspended this weekend as well. The same thing happened with Steve Ourosov last year when he and Paul Mailey each got in a fight right off a draw. Ourosov's was a couple of seconds after Mailey's so he ended up sitting out two games as a result. Without Nugent the Smokies may end up with 11 forwards again for their road games this weekend, but Coach Ingram says they may also end up bringing an AP player. I'll keep you up to date on that. It can't be too far away from the return of Riley Loyst from injury either.

The second period was a disaster for the Smokies. They were completely outplayed. It seemed like being down to 9 forwards sucked the life out of the team. Ingram told me he thought the line confusion also caused problems for the guys and that they have to be able to adapt better. It is tough to be down to only three lines, but as the coach said lots of teams play two or three lines for most of the game and these guys should be in good enough shape to handle it. Paul Barclay was playing spectacularly in goal so the deficit wasn't as huge as it could be. However, when shifty Sam Muchalla got behind the D to deflect a point shot in from McLeod it seemed to deflate Trail. Prince George responded my immediately creating an odd man rush on a very smart play by Zach Davies to jump into the rush.

Trail was lucky to be down only 2-0 after that period. So strange to see each team have such awful second periods in back to back games.

(Gehon scores as Sandor creates traffic - Photo by Randy Emery)

The Smokies didn't look like they had much left in their tank, but they proved otherwise with an inspired third period. The addition of Paul Mailey to the Gehon/Sandor line seemed to give them some life in third. Mailey did a great job digging the puck out of the corner and feeding Gehon for Trail's first goal. Sandor was instrumental in that goal as well. He was creating a ton of traffic in front and gave Gehon a great shooting lane. The goal certainly invigorated the Smokies. Shaun (Johnson my broadcast partner) told me it just felt like the tying goal was inevitable. The Smokies soon delivered on a terrific play by Danny DeKeyser to keep the puck inside the PG zone. He caught the puck, dropped it to his stick and immediate moved it to Patrik Martin who caught the Spruce Kings players moving in the wrong direction. Martin didn't give Genoe time to get set as he quickly released his back hand to tie the game. Both DeKeyser and Martin acted very quickly and that fast judgement and action is absolutely key in executing those kinds of plays.

(Patrik Martin celebrates his goal - Photo by Randy Emery)

The cheer for the Trail bench was louder than usual with Martin scoring the goal. He is clearly very respected in that dressing room. This is a guy who probably won't score 50 points, but he doesn't take a single shift off and rarely if ever makes a mistake out there.

Trail nearly lost their guaranteed point when Sam Muchalla created a couple of great chances. Paul Barclay had to make on unbelievable save, and Patrick Raley made a great defensive play on another. Barclay had at least three sensational stops in the game. The cross crease save is his speciality, but these stops would've made the honour role on Sportscentre any day. Barclay (though he didn't say as much) had to be a little nervous coming back in after the rough start in Quesnel and two straight strong games by Marco Raimondo. These goalies are constantly pushing each other and I know neither wants to let any start slide. Barclay was terrific again and showed why in my opinion Trail has the best one/two punch in the entire league. A lot of teams have great goaltenders (like Genoe) but don't have the depth the Smokies have. One guy struggles or goes down to injury, and Trail can still count on top level netminding. I don't know if you can say that for most other teams. I'd say you can't.

Overtime was tough. The Smokies got penalized for interference early in the 4 on 4. You hate to see that because that format is so exciting to watch at even strength. However, a power play can be absolutely deadly with all that room. The fans and my broadcast partner were both very clear in their distaste with referee Grant Tyson's call. A couple of the players told me they thought it was a little questionable too. However, CJ Legassic's penalty won't be protested back home! His dad posted to this blog to tell me that his son was trying to draw the PG player offside and got caught. Fair enough. I try not to get too into talking about referees and their calls. That being said, I'm one of those people who thinks that borderline calls should probably be left alone in overtime. As Shaun said, if it was a high stick, a cross check, a trip... fine. A borderline interference call like that is hard to swallow.

(Muchalle scores the winner - Photo by Randy Emery)

In hockey though you're not going to get all the calls and you have to buck up and kill the penalty. Trail was doing a pretty solid job of it until a pass hit Jeff Zmurchyk's skate and went right to Sam Muchalla. That lucky bounce gave the Spruce Kings the winner and at least two points for their trip to Trail. That's hockey. Bad bounce to the wrong place and the wrong guy. Muchalla was deadly on Saturday and was absolutely not going to miss a wide open net from that spot. Given how things went down in overtime, the Smokies can still hold their heads high. They played a lousy second period, but responded big time in the third and can be proud of their effort.

Everyone wants to win every game, but Prince George is a darn good hockey team. To get 4 out of 6 points against them so far is a good sign for the Smokies. 10 points in 8 games so far this season is a nice start for a team I expected to struggle a little out of the gate. Not because they lack talent, but with all the new faces and all the rookies I thought their adjustment would be a little bit slower. You have to be optimistic right now about Trail. These guys are only going to get better. Their chemistry is only going to get better. The rookies are going to get more and more comfortable in the BCHL. With all that room to grow and a strong start all ready what's not to like?

This weekend will be another big test for Trail with games in Salmon Arm and Vernon. Only 4 points seperate 1rst and 7th in the Interior Conference right now. There's no room to breath and little room for failure with this much parody. Nobody wants to get left behind or left out. Should be a lot of fun to watch. Tune in to Mountain FM for AM Ford Trail Smoke Eaters hockey both tomorrow and Saturday night to catch the games at 104.1 in Trail, 99.3 in Castlegar, 103.5 in Nelson.


Some terrific performances over the weekend so it was tough to narrow down.

1) J.F. Boisvert: 3 assists to lead the Smokies in points over the weekend. He's looked very good with Ryan Bulach and Paul Mailey. Boisvert shows no quit on pucks in the corners and has very good vision with the puck. Has created some great chances with his passing and with his willingness to go to the net. Needs to put home some of the great chances that he missed this weekend though. The puck bounced off his stick a little when he had scoring chances. If he can find the back of the net on those we're talking about a 4 or 5 points weekend instead of a strong 3. Boisvert now leads the Smokies in points.

2) Paul Mailey: 2 assists and both big ones in each game. Has continued to play his very solid all around game all season long. Just now starting to find the score sheet regularly. His insertion to the line with Gehon and Sandor in the third period on Saturday gave them new life. Did a great job digging a puck out in the corner and getting it to Gehon on the 2-1 goal. Showed he is versitile too as he was able to play centre when Trail was short players. Always a very reliable penalty killer as well. Needs to let go of his great, quick shot more than he does. Could be a 30 goal scorer if he did.

3) Patrick Raley: The first star of Friday's game played a strong, physical and reliable game both nights. Made a great play on his first goal of the season. Jumping into the rush more confidently, his shot is better and his play improved a lot after sitting out two games the previous weekend. Made a fantastic defensive play on Muchalla to take away what looked like a sure goal on Saturday.

Without any real break out offensive performances this weekend these stars could have gone to any number of players. Both goalies were very good in their starts, but since they only played one of the games each it felt odd to put them here. They each delivered big time. The whole defensive group played well. DeKeyser's new confidence is really showing in how he is carrying the puck now after he scored against Merritt. Clark and Koshey are making a terrific pairing right now. Bulach has been an extremely hot goal scorer lately with his ability to go to the net and tip pucks from anywhere. Chad Gehon continues to be a game breaking offensive player who make something happen at any time. I could name everyone on the team and talk about something they did well over the weekend. The biggest thing was showing no quit and playing great in the period after they were trailing in both games. That kind of resiliency is huge for a young team like this.

They are passionate, together and mentally strong. Obviously they are still making their share of mistakes. They still run around too much in their zone. However, they are getting better every game and the sky is the limit honestly. It's really fun to watch. I can only hope it continues.


-Smokies Coach Jim Ingram Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
-Smokies forward Patrik Martin
-Smokies forward Chad Gehon
-Smokies goalie Paul Barclay

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