Thursday, November 27, 2008

An Interview with Capitals Coach Scott Robinson

(Scott Robinson from the Capitals website)

Robinson and the Caps are in Trail tonight to take on the Smoke Eaters. Cowichan is coming off a 5-3 win over Penticton. Tonight is the return of Brett Corcoran and Jimmy Geerin to Trail with another team. It's also the first game for Marco Raimondo and Brandon Clark against their former mates. Should be a good one. If you missed my interview with Robinson last night on Mountain FM's Overtime, here it is...

Cowichan Valley Coach Scott Robinson

Click here to download

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

November 26th Smokies Alumni Update

(Brett Corcoran as a Smoke Eater - Photo Randy Emery)

I'm going to try and keep a running list of where to get statistical updates on former Smoke Eaters that are playing hockey around the globe this season. This is an incomplete list and I'll be updating it as often as I can. If you have a link to a player I have not been able to find please pass it along at

This week Grant Rollheiser bounced back from a loss with a 3-2 victory for Boston University over Holy Cross. He is seemingly rotating with Kieran Millan and the major difference in their stats is that Millan has one shut out. That gave him enough of a boost to have a lead on Rollheirse in every other number. It's early yet, and as Leafs and Smokies fans know very well Rollie gets better and better as the season grows longer. The reason I mention this specifically is because I found a link to video highlights of BU games. All you see from Grant is the two goals he let in, but it's cool to get to see him in action.

Brett Skinner got sent back down to the AHL after an 11 game stint with the New York Islanders. He's a puck mover and didn't record any points so I think the demotion was inevitable. After a taste of the show I'm sure he's going to just work all that much harder to make sure he gets back.

The Cowichan Valley Capitals are going to be in Trail tomorrow night at 7:30pm for a very intriguing game. Former Smokies Brett Corcoran and Jimmy Geerin are important parts of the Capitals this season. Corcoran wears an A and is tied for the team lead in goals. Geerin is among their top scoring defensemen. Former Capitals Marco Raimondo and Brandon Clark have flourished with the Smokies. Raimondo has among the best numbers of any goaltender in the BCHL while Clark (wearing an A) has been a leader at both ends of the ice and off the ice for Trail. In addition to the players involved, Smokies Coach Jim Ingram was once an assistant under Capitals Coach Scott Robinson in the BCHL. They're old friends transformed into rivals when the puck drops tomorrow night. It should be a blast. I only wish we got to see the coast and island teams more often.

Monday, November 24, 2008

November 22: Trail 6 Westside 4 Video Highlights

I've got a load of highlights from Saturday's thrilling 6-4 victory at the Cominco Arena. It was as entertaining a game as I've seen this season and Kevin (Wetside's broadcaster) said the same thing when we talked yesterday. The highlights should all play one after another here using a youtube playlist. Let me know if you have any problems. Hopefully I'll be able to get you some more video before Thursday.

Weekend Audio

(Brown and Mihalek square off - Photo Randy Emery)

Forward Justin Brown

Click here to download

Coach and GM Jim Ingram

Click here to download

AM Ford Trail Smoke Eaters Hockey: Penticton 8 Trail 2

Click here to download

This is an interesting story. Jim Clegg has been to over 170 arenas in North America. He's from Providence and was making his first trip through BC. He's been to Vancouver, Chilliwack, Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton and now Trail. It's a great story so check out my interview with him here.

Hockey Tourist Jim Clegg

Click here to download

Friday, November 21, 2008

Penticton Game Day Audio

Behind the Bench for Mota Auto Repair: Trail Assistant Coach Brian Youngson

Click here to download

Visitor's View Point for the RDKB: Penticton Assistant Coach David Small

Click here to download

First Intermission for Remax All Pro Realty: Penticton Broadcaster Ryan Pinder

Click here to download

Listen to tonight's broadcast of AM Ford Trail Smoke Eaters Hockey locally at 104.1FM in Trail, 99.3FM in Castlegar, 103.5FM in Nelson and 96.7FM in Grand Forks. On the internet check us out in the BCHL fanzone and click on Away Broadcast. If you have any problems let me now by e-mail at

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Trail 7 Merritt 2 Highlights

Here are the highlights from Tuesday's home game against Merritt. I included all 9 goals and 4 fights so it would've been too much to place directly onto this blog. Instead I just made a youtube playlist that should play through all of them. Let me know if it doesn't work for you. The call comes from Merritt play by play man Alex Grebenyuk who battled through despite being obviously very sick. I know how tough that is so good on Alex for getting the job done despite all that.

Westover Traded

(Westover clears the front of the net in 2007 - Photo Randy Emery)

Ryan Pinder has all the details over at his Vees Blog.  The bottom line of all the trading is that the Vees get younger, but they're hoping more talented.  It also opens up more room at the 20 year old spot for Harbinson to work with later in the season.  Make note of that and watch out for that come January.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Merritt Audio

(Andrew Pickering opens the scoring - Photo Randy Emery)

First here's the boxscore.

I've also posted some interviews I got after last night's 7-2 win over Merritt. We played them tonight on Mountain FM's Overtime. For any fan in the West Kootenay Boundary we always have all the newest sports audio and best sports coverage on Overtime between 6pm and Midnight every weeknight at 104.1 in Trail, 99.3 in Castlegar, 103.5 in Nelson and 96.7 in Grand Forks.

Forward Chad Gehon

Click here to download

(Barclay looks through traffic - Photo Randy Emery)

Goaltender Paul Barclay

Click here to download

(Boisvert scores shorthanded - Photo Randy Emery)

Assistant Coach Brian Youngson

Click here to download

(Nugent and Porterfield dish out some punishment - Photo Randy Emery)

November 19th Smokies Alumni Update

(Stefan Decosse avoids a hit - Photo Randy Emery)

I'm going to try and keep a running list of where to get statistical updates on former Smoke Eaters that are playing hockey around the globe this season. This is an incomplete list and I'll be updating it as often as I can. If you have a link to a player I have not been able to find please pass it along at

This week Stefan Decosse scored his first career NCAA goal and picked up 3 points. The former Smoke Eater is finding his offensive game. Shawn Horcoff picked up 3 points yesterday against Columbus and he's starting to get his game back to where it was last season. Brett Skinner continues to play with the Islanders and may be working towards a permanent spot in the show.

Great Night for Horcoff

Early this season, Former Smoke Eater Shawn Horcoff hasn't quite been living up to this offensive numbers from last year or his new long term contract extension. In his own words he wasn't at his best in the first stretch, but is now rounding into form. Last night Horcoff and the Oilers had a break out game. Interestingly, they beat Columbus by the same 7-2 score that Trail beat Merritt. I'm hoping to have some highlights from the Trail game later on, but for now here's a look at how a former Smoke Eater is doing in the NHL as Horcoff picked up 3 points.

NHL Highlights: Edmonton 7 Columbus 2

To see more on how other Smokies Alumni are doing just scroll down to the next post.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Penticton at Trail Video Highlights

Doing my best computer fooling around I found a way to upload the goals from Saturday's game on youtube. Here they are!

Travis St. Denis Overtime Winner (2-1)

Patrick Raley's Goal (1-1)

Curtis McKenzie's Goal (1-0)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Smokies Top Pinder's Power Rankings

(L-R: Jayson Reardon, Nick Sandor, Shawn Mullin and Brian Youngson - Photo Randy Emery)

Check out Penticton Vees broadcaster Ryan Pinder's Boston Pizza Vees This Week show on his blog. He has the latest Pinder Power Rankings for the Interior Conference. This week the Smokies top the list. Why? I think he was intimidated by this fierce looking crew in suits on Saturday. As Randy Emery said to me when he sent the photo, doesn't Brian Youngson look like my supremely badass bodyguard here? I think Youngson's booming voice (if unleashed) would be enough to scare anyone off.

Seriously though, the Smokies made a big impression this weekend with two clutch victories against very tough opponents. Pinder now has them on top with Salmom Arm dropping to second. If you want to know the rest head over to his blog and listen in.

Weekend Audio and Loyst

(Smokies celebrate a goal against Vernon - Photo Randy Emery)

Just in case you all forgot, the Smokies host Merritt Tuesday night at 7:30pm. Tuesday games are always a bit of a shock to the system so remind all your friends! The strong crowds have helped Trail go on an 8 game undefeated streak at home. Lets not let that slide now! Incidentally, the Smokies have only lost at home in regulation once this season. They've had points in every other game.

I wanted to mention I had a great time meeting so many of the Smokies parents this weekend. Thanks to you all for the kind words and friendly hellos. Everyone I met was a true class act. That's reflected in their sons and the way they conduct themselves. It really felt like one big family together this weekend. That's a winning vibe.

Here's the audio I promised from this weekend including audio highlights from Saturday's game. I had a couple of people ask me via e-mail ( why they had to wait to get the weekend audio on the blog. Ultimately I do those interviews for Overtime on Mountain FM. They've got to air on the show first.

I warn you that I sound like a complete dork calling Travis' overtime winner. The energy of calling that exciting a finish for a home game really pushed me over the top. Don't snicker too hard at me. Hey, it was a heck of a goal.

I'm working at getting a couple of video highlights as well, but for now here's the audio we had on Mountain FM's Overtime.

Trail 2 Penticton 1 Broadcast Highlights

Click here to download

Smokies Coach Jim Ingram

Click here to download

Smokies Forward Travis St. Denis

Click here to download

(Patrick Raley celebrates his tying goal - Photo Randy Emery)

This interview with Patrick Raley got cut off by my audio recorder after less than a minute. He had more to say, but the world won't ever get to hear it!

Smokies Defenseman Patrick Raley

Click here to download

Smokies Defenseman Danny DeKeyser

Click here to download

(Raimondo makes one of many big saves - Photo Randy Emery)

Smokies Goaltender Marco Raimondo

Click here to download

That should hold you over! Tomorrow night it's Merritt at Trail. The Smokies are hoping to get their power play going after weeks of struggles and a weekend without a single PP marker. They've had success with the man advantage against Merritt before. The Cents may be in the basement, but they are a very different team than the one we've seen this season. Gone are the likes of Cam Brodie, Dylan Herold and Brad Davis. The new look Merritt team will present new challenges for the Smokies and I'm sure they won't underestimate them. Should be a fun game. Too bad Tyler Barr is no longer with them though, I was looking forward to another re-match with Porterfield.

Lastly I want to mention how disappointing it is to hear that Smokies forward Riley Loyst is going to miss at least two months recovering from a second broken jaw. He got hit driving the net against Vernon and it did a lot of damage. Surprisingly there weren't any fights later in the game after something like that. From what I understand it's not because the home team didn't try to encourage a couple of them. What is it with Vernon and broken jaws? Just a co-incidence I'd say. This time wasn't anywhere near the kind of hit we saw last year, but I bet Ryan Hill is having a bad flashback if he's reading this.

Loyst has been one of the best Trail players since he returned from his first injury. His season seems to be following the same jinxed path that Stefan Decosse's did last year. Two good guys who contribute a lot to the team and don't deserve to have these kinds of set backs. Loyst was providing a lot of grit, physical presence, leadership, two-way play and production as the rest of the offense slowed down a little bit. He's been a key cog and it's a big loss to the team. The Smokies tried Adam Gummer up the middle against Penticton and may be hoping that the big guy can pick up some of that slack. Loyst and Sandor are two key injuries for the team that they'll have to battle through. Everyone deals with injuries and it's a part of the game, but it's still too bad. Loyst has played so well lately he deserved better.

Hopefully we'll see him back healthy sooner than expected.

(Kevin McCallum helps Riley Loyst - Photo Randy Emery)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

St. Denis Arrives on Magical Weekend

(St. Denis scores an incredible Overtime winner - Photo Randy Emery)

I'm heading off to see the new James Bond movie in a bit, but I just wanted to put a bit of a place holder post in because this weekend was so awesome. I'll have pictures from Randy Emery, audio and potentially some video from this weekend coming over the next day or so.

Here are this weekend's box scores:


The Smokies won two of the more dramatic and exciting games I've seen in the BCHL. They survived a late storm and won with 30 seconds to play against Vernon on Friday. On Saturday, the Smokies went 59 minutes without scoring a goal... only to come up big with a minute to play (who knew Patrick Raley had hands like that?) and win it in overtime. That's exciting hockey. That's the kind of hockey that should have people filling up the Cominco Arena.

While the strong defensive play this weekend was a team effort from the net out, I think many of us will look back on these two games as the time when Travis St. Denis arrived. There will be more ups and downs for this 16 year old as he continues to build his resume, but he's on his way.

I actually think the push started for St. Denis during the Alberni Valley Bulldogs game. Travis opened the scoring for the Smokies in that one on a great individual effort (after a nice pass from Jayson Reardon) and really played very well that whole night. Since that night he's scored in each game and continued to get more minutes and opportunities.

It all culminated with his spectacular overtime winner against the Vees last night. The Trail native stripped the puck from the attackers in the Smokies zone and went coast to coast. He undressed the D and put a terrific shot in past the red hot Sean Bonar for the win. I've heard people around the rink describe it as an Ovechkin-like goal that could've been a HON candidate on TSN.

St. Denis isn't just an offensive and creative player. He's a guy that has been getting by all season long with his sound positional play, he's gook on the PK, he wins face offs and he can take a pounding in stride. This guy is a complete player and he's only going to get better and better. It's going to be a treat to watch for Smokiesfans.

Does St. Denis' emerging play mean he's going to take someone's spot? That's not how I see it. I think all along Coach Ingram expected it would take guys like Travis, Sean Nugent, CJ Legassic and Justin Brown a little while to adjust to the level of play in the BCHL. As they continue to improve it'll only mean the Smokies have more options. On a night when a couple of the usual top six forwards aren't getting anything going, they can count on the younger guys to jump in and fill the void. Like last night, the usual top 6 line-up wasn't getting much going so Coach Ingram was able to mix things up a little. He gave St. Denis a try with Gehon and put Pickering with Nugent and Porterfield. As a result, Pickering's playmaking and hard work in the corners contributed to the very powerful Nugent and Porterfield duo... and those guys created some of the best chances of the third period against Penticton. When more guys are going it gives the coach more opportunities to find units that can work. Change things up a little bit and you can change the momentum.

It easily could have been the Pickering/Nugent/Porterfield line that got the tying goal or the winner. It could've been Justin Brown who was rewarded for his strong recent play with a chance to play with Bulach and Boisvert. It could have been the jump and forecheck of Legassic and Martin who were pestering the Vees all night long. The whole team played well. As all these young forwards get better and more acquainted with the BCHL, the options open up for the Smokies. If this trend keeps up they won't have to rely on two lines to provide their scoring. Mixing things up means that there will be no shifts off for the opposition. The Smokies attack will come in waves.

Hopefully it'll also mean that they can find some kind of group on the PP that's going to put the puck in the net! No PP goals again with a ton of chances this weekend. I will say that they really seemed to be executing a lot more against the Vees, but Sean Bonar was excellent. He was especially effective at getting those low point shots even when they changed directions. Bonar made a lot of tough saves look very easy with his sound position play and anticipation.

Speaking of goaltenders, Marco Raimondo got both starts this weekend (as Paul Barclay was sick) and he was outstanding. Marco has won all three of his starts since he returned from injury. In those games he's given up a total of 5 goals. He looks sharp, fast, athletic and very calm in net. Marco gives a lot of the credit to goaltending guru Pasco Valana. Raimondo has always had exceptional skills and athletic ability, but now Pasco is helping him improve his mindset so that he can be one of the best goaltenders in Canada.

Barclay was the Smokies player of the month for October and now Raimondo has been terrific in his starts since returning from injury. I think only Salmon Arm has two goaltenders who have played at that same level.

I'll have audio with St. Denis, Raimondo, DeKeyser, Raley and Jim Ingram on Overtime over the next couple of days leading into Tuesday night's battle with Merritt. Once they've aired on Mountain FM I'll get them onto the blog. That should be tomorrow night sometime. If you're in our listening area you can listen to our show from 6pm to Midngith tomorrow night on Mountain FM. If not, we'll have the audio here soon enough.

What a weekend!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Interview with the Voice of the Vees

Penticton Play by Play Broadcaster Ryan Pinder

Click here to download

Trail hosts Penticton tonight. Game time 7:30pm. The Smokies have a 7 game undefeated streak going at home. They've only lost once in regulation here at the Cominco Arena. After a 3-2 win against Vernon yesterday, Trail is looking to stay ahead of Penticton in the Interior Conference standings.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Coach's Corner

Tonight on Mountain FM's Overtime we played an interview with Trail Coach and GM Jim Ingram. For those of you who missed it or are out of our broadcast range, he's what he had to say on the long break, injuries, this weekend's opponents, line-ups and goaltenders.

Jim Ingram on Overtime

Click here to download

Bridgeport Coach on Brett Skinner

Last week on Mountain FM's Overtime I had a chance to talk to Bridgeport's coach Jack Capuano on the promotion of former Smoke Eater Brett Skinner to the NHL's New York Islanders. Skinner had 8 points in 8 AHL games this season and has since played 9 NHL games with Long Island. This is what Capuano had to say about the former Trail defenseman.

Jack Capuano on Brett Skinner

Click here to download

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

November 12th Smokies Alumni Update

(Casey Shade as a Smoke Eater - Photo Randy Emery)

I'm going to try and keep a running list of where to get statistical updates on former Smoke Eaters that are playing hockey around the globe this season. This is an incomplete list and I'll be updating it as often as I can. If you have a link to a player I have not been able to find please pass it along at

This week Skyler Smutek made his debut in the AJHL and scored the winning goal in his second game. He's got 3 points in 3 games with Drayton Valley. Great to see Skyler off to a good start there. I really hope things go well for him. Casey Shade started his NCAA career with 3 assists in his first 3 games. I'm sure that's just a sign of things to come for the Alaska native.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Scary Scene Cancels Game

(Kevin McCallum and I)

Sorry for the lack of update this weekend I've been pretty busy. There wasn't much to report on the Smokies this weekend as their one game was postponed due to an incident on Highway 3 between Castlegar and Christina Lake. I was on the bus the whole time so I can't really give you much information on what happened. However, someone who can is Smokies Athletic Therapist Kevin McCallum. He jumped right off the bus as soon as he saw someone was hurt and went to work providing as much help as he could. Kudos to him and to Jim Ingram and Patrik Martin who also volunteered themselves at the scene.

Kevin McCallum on Friday's incident

Click here to download

The Smokies also volunteered at a garage sale for the Castlegar Hospital Foundation on the weekend. We'll have some pictures from that day up on the Mountain FM website soon enough. They've been very active in the local communities so far this season. Hopefully that will lead to an increase in support from fans all around the West Kootenay.

Given my light schedule with the Smokies, I had a chance to call two Beaver Valley Nitehawks games this weekend. Check out if you ever want to see their broadcasts. The local Junior B league is very credible and exciting hockey for you fans looking for as much live hockey as they can get. You just have to look at Trail's roster to spot a ton of former KIJHL players. Justin Brown, Steve Koshey, Patrik Martin, Brandon Clark, Chad Gehon, Ryan Bulach, Riley Loyst, Jayson Readon, Jeff Zmurchyk... they all made their marks in the KIJHL before moving up to the Smokies. It's worth checking out.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

World Junior A Challenge Alienating International Teams?

Canada West beat Russia 5-2 in a huge game for them at the World Junior A Challenge. After a shoot out loss against Belarus the CW team needed a big rebound. The two time defending champions got that on Tuesday night. Click here for a game summary.

To me that's not the big story.

Something from Cam Tait's blog caught my eye:
"Things turned ugly when the Russians skated off the ice, refusing to line-up on their blue line for the rational post-game ceremony. Before that, the Russian goalie made an obscene gesture towards fans at the Edgeworth Centre."

At first glance you would just think it's another case of a bunch of immature sore losers, right? But wait, there's more!

"When reporters gathered for their post-game interviews, Hockey Canada officials said the Russians weren’t going to talk to the media. We were basically told that Hockey Canada wasn’t allowing the Russians to speak to us."
"THERE WERE QUESTIONS begging to be asked. How did the Russians feel about their parade to the penalty box in the second period when they took nine infractions in a row?"

Interesting. I take particular interest in this because I was directly involved in last year's World Junior A Challenge in Trail, and this gives me flashbacks. I can't tell you how many people have talked to me about what they've called the shamefully biased officiating in last year's tournament. I'm talking about Canadian fans who were embarrassed at how the international teams got jerked around by the refs. I'm not one for calling out officials. I think they have a tough job to do and take way too much flack for doing it. That being said, if it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck and it sounds like a duck...

At last year's tournament Belarus was in a tight 2-2 battle with Canada West before the officials took over and basically handed Canada West the game. Belarus probably deserved more penalties than Canada West did, but not to the alarming extent they were called. As a result, the Belarusian team flipped out in the third period. They started gooning Canadian players and their bench nearly got into a physical altercation with the Canada West bench. It was a shameful display that you rarely see in international hockey.

Earlier in that week Canada West lost a tight battle against Russia in the preliminary round. They had about 235 power play opportunities in the second period alone. Eventually Canada West was able to come back and tie the game, but they still ended up losing. The Russian team was very unhappy with how the game was called. However, their victory probably took the sting out of it that night.

Both Canadian teams limped to the semi-finals in games that were closer than they should have been. I didn't see either semi-final game (I was on the road in Merritt with the Smokies) but I've been told by local fans that those games were full of questionable calls that favoured the Canadian teams. Both Canada East and West won their games and made it to the final. The United States and Russia, the teams that most felt had played the best hockey in last year's tournament, ended up facing off in a very entertaining bronze medal game. The Canadian teams battled for gold in what just amounted to a showcase of Canadian talent instead of a real emotional battle for national pride.

The tournament itself was a wonderful success. They sold thousands of tickets and packed the Cominco Arena with fans from the entire Kootenays. However, the event was tarnished in the eyes of many hockey fans by the questionable officiating.

It looks like history is repeating itself.

It's fair to blame the Russians for their offensive behaviour last night. A respectful athlete wins and loses with class. However, when Canadian teams continue to benefit from an excess of power plays from one year to the next, I believe it's time to start asking questions. I also think they are in major danger of alienating the top international teams. If Russia feels like they've been jobbed two years in a row why the heck would they come back for next year's tournament?

I'm not accusing Hockey Canada of fixing these games. I am saying it's up to them to ensure that the officials do their jobs right. The credibility and future of the very exciting World Junior A Challenge is at stake.

What do you think?

UPDATE: There's a video on youtube of the Russians post game reaction. Take a look.

Again, no matter what you think about the officiating there is no excuse for this behaviour. It's beyond immature and unsportsmanlike. That being said, the credibility of this tournament is on the line when we keep seeing these kind of incidents. How often does something like this happen at other international tournaments?

Trail 3 Alberni Valley 2 (New Audio Player)

(Nugent scores the winner - Photo Randy Emery)

Click here for tonight's boxscore. If you want a full post game wrap and preview of this weekend in Kootenay-Boundary sports tune in to Mountain FM's Overtime with Jeff Sargeant tomorrow night. He's filling in for me as I get set to head up to Westside on Friday. Here's some post game audio from the Smokies dressing room:

New Smokies forward Adam Gummer

Click here to download

Smokies forward Travis St. Denis

Click here to download

Smokies forward Sean Nugent

Click here to download

Smokies Coach Jim Ingram

Click here to download

Let me know how the new audio player works for you. Did the links work properly? Do you like this system better than the ones we have been using?

I'm of two minds on tonight's game. On one hand it was a hard fought win over a game Bulldogs squad. On the other hand it was frustrating to watch. The power play is a major cause for concern right now. Once ranked 1rst in the BCHL they've dropped all the way to 8th. That's not a blip it's a nose dive. As the old cliche goes, the Smokies probably wished this was football so they could decline penalties. They went 0 for 5 tonight and gave up a short handed goal. When they were on a power play and CJ Legassic took a slashing penalty to send them to 4 on 4, Trail scored almost immediately. It's like the confidence with the man advantage is just shot.

Will the PP problems last? Probably not to this extent. Frankly I think the ranking on top of the BCHL was a little bit deceptive. In talking to the coaches early on they were saying that in actually watching the PP they had several concerns with it, but it was getting the job done. Perhaps those concerns are just now starting to catch up to the team. Perhaps teams went a little easier on them early in the season and then really upped their game once they saw Trail had the best PP early in the year.

A couple of other factors include injuries and competition. The Smokies kind of ran up their PP totals in a couple of blow out wins over Merritt. Recently they've had to play Penticton twice, Victoria, Westside, Salmon Arm twice and Alberni Valley. The Silverbacks, Warriors and Grizz are all top 5 on the penalty kill. The Vees and Bulldogs are a different story (15th and 16th) but those other three teams are very tough shorthanded. Four out of five of those teams are among the best in the entire league. As for injuries, Trail was missing Chad Gehon and Nick Sandor tonight and Saturday. Gehon has 3 power play goals this season and you can bet that he and Sandor played a part in Andrew Pickering's 4 goals on the PP. Take away two of your top 6 forwards and that's going to limit how effective you can be.

Gehon will likely return to the line-up on Friday and Adam Gummer would look pretty good out there with he and Pickering. I'm not sure if that's the way Coach Ingram is going to go, but hopefully something can get them going. I also noticed Steve Koshey was playing less with the man advantage and that's one of the better parts of his game. Perhaps he'll work his way back onto the PP. Any local fans saw how effective he was in that role last year in Beaver Valley.

There are no easy answers. The whole team isn't playing as sharply as they were during their great run at the start of last month. After the game today they had a long chat and from the interviews I got it sounds like the message was to simplify their game and put on their working boots. We'll see what kind of results they get on Friday. I still believe they have a top 5 power play, but they just need to find themselves again.

Incidentally, I should give some credit to the Bulldogs. I say the game was frustrating to watch, but that was also because of how well Alberni Valley took away lanes. Once they got a lead it felt like the Smokies couldn't find any dangerous openings. The Bulldogs have lost an absurd amount of one goal games. They're a hard working team that won't give you anything. Trail finally seemed to realize that late in the second and in the third period. It's looking like a long season for Alberni Valley, but hopefully fans don't blame the players for not busting their butts. They worked very hard. It's easy to get down and lethargic when you've lost ten in a row, but I didn't get that impression from them at all.

Good luck to the Dogs the rest of the way. I'm sure a number of Smokies fans are hoping they'll give the other Interior teams some trouble. These boys are not a night off!

(St. Denis takes the body - Photo Randy Emery)

...Heck of a game for Travis St. Denis tonight. Coach Ingram told me he felt like it could be a turning point game for the 16 year old Trail native. He's played well in the first 20 games, but we haven't seen as much of that creative offensive side as we saw in training camp. He scored a terrific goal to tie the game late in the second and really seemed to be doing good things with the puck today. Travis has shown that he can play smart hockey (face offs, defensive positioning, PK, few turnovers) and now perhaps he's going to start bringing the production on top of that. It's a steep learning curve for someone that young, but he's very much on the right track.

(Raimondo with a huge stop - Photo Randy Emery)

...Marco Raimondo played an excellent game in his return to the line-up. I'm very glad to see him back in goal and making the kind of athletic stops that he's known for. If it weren't for a few game saves from Marco in the third period we wouldn't be talking about a Smokies win. A healthy Marco paired with Paul Barclay is a wonderful luxury here in Trail. Barclay has shown he can carry the ball on his own, but add another elite veteran to the mix and you're laughing. I do want to mention that Barclay has been playing sick for a couple of weeks now. He said he was at his worst in the Westside game a couple of weeks ago, but it carried over to the double header with Salmon Arm. Credit to Paul for battling through it and delivering solid performances even while very much under the weather.

(Gummer in his Smokies debut - Photo Randy Emery)

...Adam Gummer made his Smokies debut and looked good. It'll take some adjustment to get used to the new team, the new linemates, the new systems and the new league. Despite all that he played hard, physical and effectively today. Gummer even set up the winning goal on a very nice play that had the Bulldogs fooled. Everyone was looking shoot. Sean Nugent is happy Gummer decided to make the pass because Nugent's fifth goal of the season won him a bet with Captain Ryan Bulach that you can hear about in the interview I posted above. Riley Loyst also made a nice save and pass to set up that winning goal. I think Loyst has been among the best Smokies forwards since he returned from injury. He's not flashy, but he has good vision and seems to come away with more pucks in the corner than anyone.

...Jayson Reardon has quietly become perhaps Trail's steadiest defensemen. There's not a lot of recognition for guys who just do the job in their own zone night in and night out, but there should be. It's a big leap for any player to go from Junior B to Junior A. Reardon took a few games to adjust and has been getting better and better ever since. I can't think of many times when the big guy has turned the puck over or made a really dumb play. He's hard hitting, strong, aware and keeps it simple. He knows where to be and he has strong anticipation. There are sides to Reardon's game that we haven't seen a lot of yet. He has a big shot that helped him score a ton in the KIJHL last year and he is apparently pretty good when the gloves come off. For now the Smokies are surely happy to have a guy they can set their watch by. Those are rare.

...As much as I've been hard on the power play over the past few days (and the guys are working hard at it they'll turn it around) I do want to note that they've improved their penalty kill numbers. Trail is now 7th in the BCHL on the PK. After starting the season near the bottom of the league it's a good turn in the right direction. 8th on the PP and 7th on the PK isn't where they want to end up at the end of the season, but it's probably better to be balanced than to have one really working while one isn't. That leads me to an interesting statistic. The Smokies have the fewest power play and penalty kill opportunities in the BCHL. Their 90 power plays are 11 less than the closest team (Merritt) while their 82 penalty kills are 16 fewer than than the closest team (Penticton). Powell River has been on the power play 81 more times than Trail has while Langley has had to kill 77 more penalties. I don't know how to explain that. It has nothing to do with the refs in Trail because the Smokies have similar numbers at home and on the road. What do you think? Check out the numbers here:

...Next game is Friday night in Westside. Last time we were there the Warriors brought a work ethic and ferocious fore check that really impressed Coach Ingram. He says the only way the Smokies are going to go toe to toe with the Warriors is if they're prepared to match that work ethic. That's what both teams are known for. Trail can absolutely hang with Westside, but the Smokies must have a better start than they've had in their last few road games. They spotted Penticton, Westside and Salmon Arm significant leads. They can't afford to keep doing that. A strong start and perhaps scoring the first goal would go a long way towards making the road to victory a little bit easier.

I say all this but a win is a win. Coach Ingram says the guys were not happy with the way they played. They have higher expectations. That's good. In the end the most important thing is that they got the two points. They came through with a victory even after the frustrating shorthanded goal in the third. But they expect more from themselves, and they'll have to deliver a better effort on Friday if they want to win.

You can catch the game on Mountain FM. AM Ford Trail Smoke Eaters Hockey can be heard on 104.1 FM in Trail, 99.3 in Castlegar, 103.5 in Nelson and 96.7 in Grand Forks. You can also catch our broadcast on the BCHL fanzone if you're out of range.