Thursday, December 31, 2009

Post Game: Merritt 4 Trail 3 (OT)

Trail, BC - Keith Hamilton continued his mastery of the Trail Smoke Eaters on Wednesday night. For the second time this month Hamilton made over 40 saves in leading Merritt to a one goal victory at the Cominco Arena. 4 of Hamilton's 7 wins this season have come against the Smokies.

Trail got out to 2-0 and 3-1 leads in the first half of the game, but Hamilton shut the door the rest of the way. His Centennials found a way to score key goals in the final minutes of each period in order to complete the come back.

Silvan Harper scored 2:53 into the first overtime to give Merritt their fifth win over Trail this season and seventh straight win over the Smokies dating back to last season. Derek Hills and Jordan Soquilla each had 3 points on the night for the Centennials.

Sam Mellor and Scott Jacklin each had a goal and an assist for Trail. Darnell Dyck scored the other Trail goal and was robbed by Hamilton in the third period on a great chance to secure the victory for Trail.

The win vaults Merritt into sole possession of 5th place in the Interior Conference while the overtime loss puts Trail into a tie for 7th with Prince George. The Smokies and Spruce Kings now have identical records of 12-24-1-3.

Trail's next action is Sunday afternoon in Salmon Arm. The broadcast will be available locally on Mountain FM.

ON THE TRAIL: Trail played the game in their new third jerseys. They are close to exact replicas of the 1939 World Champion Smoke Eaters jerseys that were recently featured in the Hockey News. The jerseys are being auctioned for the rest of the season and we will set up some kind of online auction shortly ... Graeme Strukoff missed the game with an upper body injury. The All-Star rep for Trail may be in danger of missing that game depending on the severity of the injury ... Thomas Abenante left the game with what appeared to be a serious lower body injury. Abenante had been playing the best hockey of his young BCHL career of late ... Kiefer Smiley made 26 saves on 30 shots in the loss ... Trail finished their 7 game December homestand with 2 wins and 2 overtime losses.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Game Day: Merritt at Trail



It's a big game tonight for the Smokies as they take on a Merritt club that has for whatever reason controlled the season series so far. The first three games were in Merritt where the Cents have been at their best. However, the most recent contest was in Trail and the first road win of the season for Merritt. It was a game that Keith Hamilton stole with a fine performance. It was also a surprisingly loose and sloppy performance from a Trail team that has tightened up and played a much more complete game this month. They can't afford to have another let down like that tonight. Merritt needs and deserves the same effort and discipline that every other opponent has received this month. Their four wins over Trail should certainly prove that. They're also a team that Trail should be able to beat at the Cominco Arena. The season series should not be as lopsided as it is based on the talent level. That means more than anything Trail's mental game and their work ethic is the key. Here's how the series breaks down...

September 11: Trail 2 at Merritt 4
October 6: Trail 3 at Merritt 8
October 24: Trail 5 at Merritt 8
December 11: Merritt 3 at Trail 2

POWER PLAY

Trail: 1/18 (6%)
Merritt: 5/14 (36%)

TOP SCORERS

1. F Derek Hills (MER) 4-4-8
2. F Jeff Jones (MER) 3-4-7
3. F Scott Jacklin (TRA) 1-5-6
3. F Duston Johnson (MER) 4-2-6
3. F Andrew Pickering (MER) 0-6-6
3. D Steve Tresierra (MER) 0-6-6
7. F Sam Merllor (TRA) 4-1-5
7. F Nick Sandor (TRA) 1-4-5
7. D Ryne Bodger (MER) 2-3-5
7. F Colton Sobchak (MER) 2-3-5

GOALTENDERS

1. Keith Hamilton (MER) 3-0, 3.33GAA, 0. 917%
2. Kiefer Smiley (TRA) 0-2, 5.71GAA, 0.835%
3. Garrett Beckwith (TRA) 0-2, 6.02GAA, 0.822%

ROSTER

Trail

Merritt

BROADCAST

There is no home radio broadcast, but the game is available on BCHL PPV.

NOTE

Trail will be debuting their new third jerseys. I can almost guarantee that old school Smokies fans will love it.

Post Game: Vernon 4 Trail 1, News and Notes

I thought the Smokies put up a terrific fight tonight against Vernon. That's a team that will probably only lose a handfull of games for the rest of the season. Trail battled them hard for a full sixty minutes. The Smokies have significantly cut down on their defensive errors and major blunders. Compare the game to a Smokies effort from two months ago and it's night and day.

Garrett Beckwith and strong positional team defence held Trail in the game through the first two periods. They gave themselves a chance to win down only 2-1. However, the Smokies made a couple of mistakes on pinches while trying to press for the tie game. Those mistakes turned into goals and put the game out of reach. If one or both of those pinches are instead successful we could be talking about a different result. That's hockey.

The main problem for Trail is that all these improved efforts against the league's top teams haven't turned into points. They're going to need victories over teams above .500 is they're going to make any kind of move in the standings. Right now they're seemingly a goal or two away from being able to do that. Their ability to get those wins will possibly be the difference between making and missing the playoffs.

As for the game coming up against Merritt tomorrow... I heard a lot of fans say it's a must win. I think it's an important game. To me if Trail plays the same way against Merritt as they do against Vernon or Westside they should be able to beat the Cents. If they play loose and relaxed like they did that last time Merritt was in town they'll allow the Centennials to continue a surprising dominance over the Smokies this season.

The Merritt game won't make or break this season. A couple of wins down the stretch over other sub .500 teams like Merritt and Williams Lake only leads to an early playoff exit or even missing out on the big dance. If Trail is really making the kind of progress I think they are, they're going to have to find a way to get points against the teams they aren't expected to beat. That way no single game will make or break anything. They must have higher ambitions than that.

Here's my recap from the official website:
Trail, BC - The improving efforts don't seem to be lending themselves to a lot of points for the Smoke Eaters this month. On Tuesday Trail battled the top ranked Vernon Vipers for 60 close minutes and came up short.

Similar efforts against Penticton, Westside and Salmon Arm this month have rendered similar results. Trail's overall game has improved significantly, but they are still a goal or two away in games against the Interior's top teams.

11 saves from Garrett Beckwith were key as the Smokies and Vipers ended the first period in a scoreless tie. Vernon would jump out to a 2-0 lead in the second before Thomas Abenante answered back for the Smokies. The Trail native knocked home a nice feed after Wade Bennett forced a turnover and sent the puck to the slot.

Down a goal entering the third period the Smoke Eaters started taking some risks to try and get the tying goal. Two missed pinches turned into goals for Cory Kane and Braden Pimm as Vernon secured the victory.

Beckwith stopped 36 shots in the loss while Graeme Gordon made 25 saves for the Vipers.

In what may be his final game in the Cominco Arena, Montrose native Connor Jones scored the game winner and added an assist for Vernon. Tuesday was the final game of the season series between the two teams. Connor and his brother Kellen will be leaving the BCHL to play NCAA hockey next season.

The next action for Trail will be Wednesday night at home against Merritt.
NOTES

...We named our first Mountain FM Athlete of the Year award winners tonight on Overtime. Vipers forward Connor and Kellen Jones are co-winners for 2009. They were key contributors on a RBC Cup championship team, a silver medal winning team at the World Junior A Challenge and an American Legion Baseball team that went to the state tournament. The Montrose natives did it all in 2009. Kellen even threw a perfect game. It'll be pretty tough for them to top that in 2010. I do know Smokies fans probably won't miss watching them burn their hometown team as they have so often in their three season BCHL career. Once they're in college I'm sure it'll be OK to cheer for them again.

Other athletes considered included Smokies forward Travis St. Denis, Phillies pitching prospect Chris Kissock, former Smoke Eater Scott Jago who came back from cancer to win a KIJHL championship in Nelson, Rossland cross country skier George Grey and Trail's Jason Bay. Bay set career highs in home runs and RBIs with Boston this past season. He had a couple of great seasons with the Red Sox and now appears headed to the New York Mets. If I were a local sports store I'd be stocking up on those Mets hats as soon as possible.

...Former Smoke Eaters Wade Dubielewicz and Travis Roche suffered their first loss at the Spengler Cup today. Dubielewicz got the hook in the second period as Canada fell 5-2 to Germany.

...Castlegar's Luke Walker and Team USA beat Latvia 12-1 today at the World Junior Hockey Championship. That's setting up quite a match up between the US and Canada on New Year's Eve.

...Castlegar native and Beaver Valley Nitehawk forward Aaron Hadley scored in his first game with Team Pacific at the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge. Pacific lost the game 6-2 to Russia.

...Speaking of the Nitehawks, they've carded former Smoke Eater Paul Barclay. The 20 year old goaltender was recently cut by Surrey in the BCHL because he was still injured on the December carding cut down deadline. Barclay is now healthy and ready to go. He told me in an interview there was interest from other Junior A clubs but for now he has decided that he'd rather be back in the West Kootenay. I'll have that interview up on the blog sometime later this week. In my view Barclay is instantly the top goaltender in the KIJHL and gives Beaver Valley a huge boost in a very tough Neil Murdoch Division. He had a save percentage over 90 with Surrey earlier this season. He should be lights out at the Junior B level.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Game Day: Vernon at Trail



Tomorrow is the sixth game of the season series between the two teams. The Vipers have dominated it so far, but Trail really tested them in the most recent game. It's also the first game back from the Christmas break for both the Vipers and Smokies. Trail is coming into it on a two game winning streak. Trail has won 5 of their last 10 with points in 6 of those games. Vernon has won 7 of their last 10 with points in 9 of those games. The Smokies can jump past Prince George into 7th place in the Interior with a win. Vernon is holding a 4 point lead on Penticton for top spot in the entire BCHL.

September 18: Vernon 7 at Trail 1
September 19: Trail 1 at Vernon 5
November 13: Trail 4 at Vernon 8
November 14: Trail 1 at Vernon 7
December 5th: Vernon 3 at Trail 2 (OT)

POWER PLAY

Trail: 3/21 (14%)
Vernon: 11/26 (42%)

TOP SCORERS

1. F Connor Jones (VER) 5-4-9
1. F Mike Collins (VER) 2-7-9
3. F Cory Kane (VER) 5-3-8
3. F Braden Pimm (VER) 2-6-8
5. F Dan Nycholat (VER) 2-5-7
5. F Kellen Jones (VER) 1-6-7
7. F Cole Ikkala (VER) 3-3-6
7. F Dylan Walchuk (VER) 0-6-6
9. F Bryce Kakosky (VER) 2-3-5
10. F Travis St. Denis (TRA) 4-0-4
10. F Sam Mellor (TRA) 1-3-4
10. F Rob Short (VER) 1-3-4
10. D Kevin Kraus (VER) 2-2-4

GOALTENDERS


1. Blake Voth (VER) 2-0, 1.46, 0.945%
2. Graeme Gordon (VER) 3-0, 2.00, 0.911%
3. Garrett Beckwith (TRA) 0-1-0-1, 3.63, 0.905%
4. Kiefer Smiley (TRA) 0-2, 7.81, 0.819%

ROSTERS

Trail

Vernon

BROADCAST

There's no home radio broadcast of the game but it is available on BCHL PPV.

NOTES

Check out an article on Sam Mellor that Randy Emery posted on the official website.

Geneseo Smoke Eaters

I just spent an hour creating an alumni update and blogger completely destroyed it. Lovely! Well I'm not going to do it all over again. You can click some of those links yourself over at the Smoke Eaters Alumni page. What it doesn't say over there is that Travis Gawryletz has made the leap to the AHL to play on Lake Erie with Brett Skinner. Nice to see Travis make the leap and do a pretty strong job there so far. Hopefully the NHL (where Skinner has played before) is the next step for the son of Smokies President Tom Gawryletz.

Also our picture here is David Arduin and Stefan Decosse celebrating a big Geneseo goal. Arduin has 12 points so far this season while Decosse has 10. Much of that time the one time dynamic duo with the Smokies has been re-united. In fact, they recently threw former Trail Captain Ryan Bulach on the line to complete a Smoke Eaters trio. The line had a 12 point weekend before the holiday break. Hopefully we'll see them stick together and take the NCAA by storm. That's a group of guys who certainly made a big impression here at the Cominco Arena. Thanks to David for the photo by the way.

Another note on the alumni page is that Patrick Raley has been moved from Chicago in the USHL to St. Louis in the NAHL. The Bandits are the top club right now in the North American league so hopefully Raley can be a big part of that team making a championship run. I'm sure that's not what he expected when he left Trail in the off season to go to Chicago, but it looks like the Steel are looking to the future after some recent struggles. They traded Raley for a couple of young players despite what had been a successful year so far for Raley. The NAHL also features former Smoke Eater Braden Kinnebrew who plays for Kenai River.

There is currently one former Smoke Eater in the NHL, four are in the AHL, two in the ECHL, two are playing in Europe and a whole pile in college hockey. There are also a number of guys elsewhere in Junior A and Junior B. It's nice to see Scott Jago (Nelson KIJHL), CJ Legassic (Ridge Meadows PIJHL) and Matt Malenstyn (Aldergrove PIJHL) having great seasons. There are eight former Smoke Eaters scattered around the BCHL, two in the AJHL and even one in the LHJAAAQ.

If you have an update on a former Smoke Eater you'd like to pass on please send it to my e-mail. I'll have a full alumni update coming up again sometime soon. Hope to see you all at tomorrow night's game against Vernon.

Dubielewicz gets the win over Davos



Former Smoke Eater Wade Dubielewicz only allowed 2 goals today in a 6-2 Canada win over Davos at the Spengler Cup. Both Dubielewicz and former Smoke Eater Travis Roche dressed for the red and white in their second straight win to start the tournament. Roche didn't score today but had a goal and an assist in Canada's first game. Sportsnet will broadcast the game on tape delay starting at 2pm this afternoon. There's also World Junior Hockey action going on as we speak. Canada is up 2-0 on the Swiss after the first. Castlegar's Luke Walker and Team USA have won both their games so far at the tournament including a win yesterday over the Swiss.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Roche and Dubielewicz help Canada to an opening win


(Roche gets instruction from some random coach)

Former Smoke Eater Travis Roche scored once and had an assist in a 7-6 Canada win over Karlovy of the Czech Republic. Canada won the game in a shoot out after what was a back and fourth battle to open the Spengler Cup tournament. Former Clipper David LeNeveu got the start while former Smoke Eater Wade Dubielewicz was his back up. Wade replaced LeNeveu in the third period and took Canada to a W. Not a bad start although I would imagine Coach Craig MacTavish won't be psyched about all the goals against.

I'm right now watching Canada demolish Latvia at the World Juniors. Ugly stuff but not unexpected. Tonight Castlegar's Luke Walker and Team USA open the World Juniors against Slovakia. Another Castlegar boy Aaron Hadley will be with Team Pacific in the World Under 17s which start on Tuesday.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Audio



This audio has nothing to do with Christmas in particular it's just the day I'm posting it. I had the chance to chat with Castlegar's Luke Walker and his father Gord after Luke was selected to the American World Junior Championship team's roster. I also caught up with several Smokies after their win over Victoria on Saturday. Here is that audio. Make note of the video game trash talk by Strukoff. I think he and Oursov have to have some kind of tournament to settle this once and for all. Happy Holidays to all Smokies players, staff, volunteers and fans!

American Junior Team Forward Luke Walker

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Former NHLer Gord Walker

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Smokies Captain Paul Mailey

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Smokies All-Star Graeme Strukoff

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Smokies Goaltender Garrett Beckwith

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Smokies Coach and GM Jim Ingram

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Luke Walker makes US Team, Roche and Dubie at Spengler Cup

Congratulations are in order to Castlegar's Luke Walker. The cousin of Trail Smoke Eaters defenceman Eric Walker has made the final roster for the American entry at the World Junior Hockey Championship. Walker did all that despite suffering a pretty severe injury to his face when he was hit by a puck in a recent game.

Instead of walking away and giving up the dream he threw on a full face shield and went to the evaluation camp anyway. Walker must have made quite an impression to get on the team despite being less than 100% at the time. That heart and determination will be a big help to the US squad as they start the tournament on boxing day.

Walker can play for them because he was born in the US while his father Gord was playing pro hockey. We'll have interviews with both Gord and Luke Walker tonight on Mountain FM's Overtime. They'll be on in the first hour of the show and later on the podcast. I'm sure everyone around the West Kootenay will wish Luke the best of luck but we'll all probably still want to see Canada get that gold medal. Maybe Luke can score a hat trick and go +3 in a 4-3 Canada win over the US in the gold medal game.

SPENGLER CUP

Speaking of international competitions, Canada's Spengler Cup team will have a distinctly Smokie feel to it. Former Smoke Eaters Travis Roche and Wade Dubielewicz will suit up for Coach Craig MacTavish and Team Canada in what should be a terrific opportunity for them to showcase themselves to NHL clubs. Roche is playing for Bern in the Swiss league while Dubielewicz is with Minnesota's AHL farm team in Houston. Both guys have been to the big dance before and I'm sure would like nothing better than a chance to show they deserve a chance to get back there again.

We'll have more Smoke Eaters alumni talk over the holiday break as I get you up to date on what other former Smokies are doing this season. I know for example that one NCAA school has been trying out an all Smoke Eater line recently. Stay tuned to the blog for more on that and audio from this past weekend coming up over the next couple of days. Also scroll down to get video highlights from Trail's two wins before the holiday break.

Video Highlights: Trail 4 Victoria 0

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Post Game: Trail 4 Victoria 0

This was perhaps the best 60 minute effort we've seen from the Smoke Eaters this season. Usually in any game this year you could point to a segment where Trail wasn't at their best. Tonight the Smokies battled hard all night and didn't make many if any big blunders. It was certainly the kind of complete performance we've all felt this team was capeable of. They got clutch scoring, big hitting, smart play in their own end, good penalty killing and of course very good goaltending in the team's first shut out of the year. 5 out of the 6 periods this weekend were as good as a Trail team has played in my team here. There are many reasons for optimism as we head into the holiday break.

Of course those pesky Centennials had to go and win twice this weekend too. It should be a big game when Merritt is in town on December 30th. The next game for Trail though is against Vernon on the 29th. For now I hope the players, coaches, staff, volunteers and fans all have a wonderful holiday. Enjoy the break and recharge those batteries for a tough battle down the stretch the rest of the way.

Here's my game report from trailsmokeeaters.com:
Trail, BC - Victoria goaltender Ryan Holfeld was involved in his third straight shut out, but this time it was on the losing end. Holfeld shut out both Merritt and Salmon Arm on the Interior road trip for the Grizzlies. On Saturday night it was Smoke Eaters goaltender Garrett Beckwith who blanked Victoria.

Beckwith made 24 stops for the first shut out of his BCHL career. It was also the first shut out for the Smoke Eaters this season.

Holfeld and Beckwith matched each other save for save in a scoreless first period. Trail didn't waste any time once the puck dropped in the second as Sam Mellor scored only 12 seconds in to break the deadlock. It was his 20th of the season which puts him only 3 back of the rookie goal scoring lead.

Travis St. Denis, Paul Mailey and Nick Sandor also scored for Trail. Sandor and Mellor each had a goal and an assist.

Neither team was able to score on the power play. Trail went 0 for 3 while Victoria was 0 for 4. The Smoke Eaters PK only allowed a single power play goal all weekend and has shown huge strides.

Trail has allowed an average of just over 3 goals per game in December. That's a significant improvement from the over 5 goals per game they were averaging in the previous 3 months.

The Smoke Eaters are now on holiday break and will play Vernon on December 29th.

ON THE TRAIL: Mike Betz, Wade Bennett and Tom Rizzardo sat out for the Smokies ... This was the first game between the two teams since last fall. The Smoke Eaters will visit Victoria in the new year ... Both Mellor and St. Denis scored in back to back games this weekend for Trail. They're the highest scoring duo of 1992 born players in the BCHL ... Josh McEwan dropped the gloves twice for Trail and fought a total of three times on the weekend. He now has more than 100 penalty minutes in 24 games ... The Grizzlies thought they'd scored late in the first period when referee Graham Waugh signalled for a goal on a shot that actually had hit the side of the net. It was waved off after Waugh conferred with his linesmen.
Don't forget we'll have reaction and interviews from the weekend on Mountain FM's Overtime this week. We're running shows on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. On Thursday and Friday Mountain FM will instead have Christmas content. Tune in to the radio or if you're an out of town listener we'll have the podcast. I'll also post some Smokies related audio on the blog this Monday or Tuesday. You can also expect video highlights from this weekend's games at some point.

For now I wish all the boys headed home over the next couple of days a safe trip and happy holiday season. Enjoy the time off now, because the hardest work is still to come!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Post Game Audio: Trail 9 Nanaimo 5

What a roller coaster that was! With the Underwear Band's music blasting in the background it seemed like Trail was on the way to one of their most dominant victories of the season. The first ten minutes of the game were all Smoke Eaters with an early 4-0 lead.

However, the Clippers turned it on in the second period with a gutsy effort. Talk about not giving up in the face of impossible odds. You could tell the fans feared the worst early in the third period as Nanaimo cut Trail's 6-1 lead to 6-5.


That's when Trail's energy line of Thomas Abenante, Sean Nugent and Josh McEwan made sure to turn the momentum right around. It was the second time in the game that the hard working trio answered a Nanaimo goal with one of their own. McEwan's goal was his first of the season and all he needed to finish up his first Gordie Howe hat trick.


Darnell Dyck also took a big step to energize the bench when he stood up for teammate Travis St. Denis after a questionable hit from big AP defenceman Kiefer McNaughton. Dyck may not have had the size edge in the fight, but his gutsy effort and the McEwan goal seemed to re-ignite Trail.


The Smokies obviously got too comfortable with their first period lead. Hopefully that is another lesson learned for this young squad. They found a way to bounce back and re-take control of the game with an excellent last 18 minutes. The bottom line is Trail put 9 goals on the board against a tough Nanaimo team and got a much needed victory. They don't have to be perfect as long as you get the two points.


Smokies Forward Thomas Abenante


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Smokies Forward Josh "Gordie" McEwan

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Here is my game recap from trailsmokeeaters.com:
Trail, BC - Josh McEwan knows how to pick his spots. The Kelowna native scored his first of the season at 1:47 of the third period to halt Nanaimo's come back and lead Trail to a 9-5 win over the Clippers.

The goal came only 13 seconds after Nanaimo cut Trail's 6-1 lead to 6-5 on a goal by Cody Bremner. Nanaimo scored twice in the second and twice in 38 seconds early in the third to put a scare into the Smoke Eaters.

Scott Jacklin and Matt Wilkins put the game out of reach. It was the second goal of the game for Wilkins.

Thomas Abenante also scored twice for the Smokies as they opened up a big early lead with 6 first period goals. Eric Walker, Travis St. Denis and Sam Mellor had Trail's other goals. St. Denis, Darnell Dyck and Nick Sandor had 2 assists each.

McEwan added an assist and fought Nanaimo's Nick Bell to complete his first career Gordie Howe hat trick.

The Clippers fired 19 shots on Smoke Eaters goaltender Kiefer Smiley in the second period to claw their way back in the game. Both teams played musical goalies as Nanaimo made three changes in goal while Trail replaced Smiley with Garrett Beckwith early in the third. Beckwith stopped all 8 shots he faced to secure the Trail win.

Trail's next action is Saturday night against Victoria. Nanaimo heads to Vernon.

ON THE TRAIL: Steve Oursov made his return to the Trail line-up on a line with Paul Mailey and Justin Brown. Mike Betz, Wade Bennett and Tom Rizzardo sat out for the Smokies ... The win secures a sweep of the season series for Trail as they beat the Clippers 4-2 on October 16th in Nanaimo ... The world famous Underwear Band made their return to the Cominco Arena for the first time since the fall of 2007 to help Trail break their five game losing skid. There were a staple of the Smoke Eaters' senior hockey glory years ... Smoke Eaters fans also generously donated hundreds of food items to the local Salvation Army.
That was certainly an entertaining night! The game had it all. Hopefully we see a big crowd out for the game against Victoria tomorrow night/tonight. It's the only time the Grizz will be in Trail this season. Hope to see you there.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Game Day Audio: Nanaimo at Trail



Smokies Forward Steve Oursov

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Smokies Assistant Coach Brian Youngson

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Nelson Ford Trail Smoke Eaters Play By Play from October 16th: Trail 4 at Nanaimo 2

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Don't forget tonight is a food drive for the Salvation Army and the return of the world famous Underwear Band!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Guess Who's Back?

The rumours you've been hearing around the Cominco Arena for the past few weeks? They're true. Steve Oursov is once again a Trail Smoke Eater.

Smokies fans will remember Oursov as the fast skating, hard hitting and energetic 16 year old who made a significant impact on the 2007-08 Smoke Eaters club. The Chilliwack native scored 12 goals as a BCHL rookie playing mostly on the third and fourth line. He showed all the physical tools of a future sniper who could handle himself at both ends of the ice. He was also a favourite of fans, coaches and teammates because of his attitude and enthusiasm. Oursov was so impressive that he was named to Team Pacific for the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge. He was also plucked by Red Deer of the WHL after the season was done.

As much as he loved his time in Trail, Oursov had already played some major junior games with Seattle so he continued down that path. That doesn't mean that he left Trail behind. Steve is very close friends with both Graeme Strukoff and Darnell Dyck. They grew up playing hockey together in Chilliwack and Oursov was a big part in Strukoff deciding to go to Trail last season. Now the hard hitting defenceman is an All-Star. Strukoff and Oursov were also both a part of why Darnell Dyck became such a good fit on the Smokies roster this year. It's a connection that has paid off. It's also a reason why Steve is now coming back "home" to a place he loves to play with friends on the team.

So how did he end up back in Trail? Oursov was having a fine 17 year old season in the WHL. He was playing mostly third and fourth line duty while making the transition to the level of play in major junior. As a 17 year old he wasn't expected to score a ton of goals, but the idea was that he would grow into that role in years to come. Steve also has the ability to play a gritty and smart game in a checking role so it seemed to be working out well. He was a plus player on a poor team and chipped in with 4 goals. Unfortunately, Oursov sustained a serious concussion that put a stop to all that positive momentum. It was bad enough that at times he feared his career was already over.

Just in the past few months there has finally been some light at the end of the tunnel. Oursov started to recover and was able to skate again. He's been working hard to make sure he's healthy enough to resume his hockey career. After ten months away from the game he and Red Deer both decided it would be better for Steve to make his return with the Smoke Eaters. Steve can come back to a team, a city and a coaching staff he's comfortable with and get back on track. It will take him some time to find the form he is capable of, but this is a player who will make a significant positive impact on the club. He was second on his major midget team in scoring (20 goals and 38 points) as a 15 year old, he scored 12 goals in the BCHL as a 16 year old, he's fast, skilled, gritty and a very hard worker both on and off the ice.

I'm sure we're all hoping the best is yet to come after what has been a really tough year for Steve. I don't know if Oursov will get back into the line-up tomorrow night against Nanaimo, but when he does the Smokies will be a better team for it.

Listen to Mountain FM's Overtime (or the podcast) tonight for an interview with Brian Youngson. Tomorrow night before the game we'll have our interview with Steve. Both will be on the blog after they've aired on the radio.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mountain FM partners with KIJHL

Here's a press release from the KIJHL website that talks about a new arrangement that we've come to with the best developmental Junior B league in Canada:

December 14th, 2009

Castlegar, BC – It is with great pleasure that the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) would like to announce a partnership agreement with Mountain FM. The agreement sees Mountain FM become an official media partner of the KIJHL and as such will be responsible for live radio broadcasting of the 2010 KIJHL All-Star Game in Beaver Valley, BC. The deal is a continual agreement between the KIJHL and Mountain FM which is sure to enhance the brand and image of the league.

“We are very excited to have Mountain FM on board as an official media partner with the KIJHL,” says KIJHL President, Bill Ohlhausen. “Mountain FM has already shown that they are willing to support local sports in the communities they serve; this will definitely change the way our brand is viewed overall.”

“We are proud to have reached an agreement with the KIJHL,” states Program Director, Justin “DrexWilcomes. “We are excited about continuing to bring great local sports to our listeners. The KIJHL has a long standing tradition of great junior hockey, and we are pleased to be broadcasting the 2010 KIJHL All-Star Game live from Beaver Valley.”

Through this partnership KIJHL fans will be able to catch a live radio and web broadcast of the 2010 KIJHL All-Star Game from Beaver Valley, BC January 12th, 2010 @ 7:00pm. Along with the All-Star event look for more KIJHL news, stories, player and coach interviews, statistics, and updated KIJHL scores on Mountain FM and www.mountainfm.net. Tune into “Overtime” with sports reporter Shawn Mullin as he brings all the exciting news from around the KIJHL to you week nights from 6pm – 10pm.

For more information and to listen live to Mountain FM online 24-7 please visit: www.mountainfm.net. For all your KIJHL scores, stats, new stories and webcasts please visit www.kijhl.ca.


Ever since I got to Mountain FM almost 3 years ago I've made an effort to do everything I can to increase the depth of our KIJHL coverage. Obviously we have a large commitment to the Smoke Eaters that keeps me very busy. That being said, I think we've always done what we could to make sure the KIJHL is also a priority. We interview coaches and players regularly on Overtime, we preview and give results for every game and we've even done play by play when Nelson went to the KIJHL championship.

I'm glad to have an official partnership with the league, but it really won't change the way I approach my work. I've always dedicated as much of our airtime as I could to the league because I know how important it is to our communities. I know I and my co-workers at Mountain FM will continue to do as much as we can to promote what is really a terrific league that does great things for both the communities and the young men who play in it.

As for the All-Star festivities... I look forward to getting behind the mic at the Beaver Valley Arena in Fruitvale. However, it is my hope that everyone who can will attend the game. It's the best chance you have to get an up close look at the future of the BCHL and WHL ranks. Nobody moves players to the next level like the KIJHL. The Smoke Eaters are just one example of that as by my count 9 of the members of their roster come from the KIJHL. Support your local team and if you have any suggestions for how to improve our continuing coverage of the league let me know: shawnsamsmullin@hotmail.com

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nick Sandor Highlight Package

Autograph



Whether it's Mr. Hockey or your favourite BCHL star, an autograph can really mean a lot to a young hockey fan. I want to first of all say thanks to the Smoke Eaters who joined us at Ferraro Foods for the Miracle Marathon on Saturday. Sam Mellor, Travis. St. Denis, Matt Wilkins, Justin Brown and Ben Matthews helped us secure a big pile of donations for the Salvation Army in Trail. Mountain FM was doing the same thing in Rossland, Castlegar, Nelson and Grand Forks. Thanks to everyone who helped out and donated.

When we told our Salvation Army rep that Matthews was coming she instantly made a call. Big Ben happens to be her granddaughter's favourite Smoke Eater. Apparently she's quite the loud and proud fan during the games. However, when she got there you could tell she was nervous. I asked her why Matthews was her favourite, but she couldn't really explain it. You could tell he was though because she turned down a chance to go get some candy in order to wait for him to get there.

Ben and Justin arrived and she hid behind her grandmother with a shy smile on her face as I introduced them. I'm not sure Ben has ever met someone who specifically identified herself as a fan of his so it was a pretty cool little moment. The big Alaskan who can be mean and fierce on the ice as a little nervous himself! She raced up to him and then backed off before he said hi and signed the autograph for her. She also asked and received the same thing from Justin Brown. You could see a smile a mile wide on her face as she left.

That's what it's all about.

Can you tell me these kids don't deserve your support? They come to events, they read with kids and are great reps for the community on the road. I hope we see some big crowds this weekend in some key games for Trail on Friday night against Nanaimo and Saturday against Victoria. This is a classy group of young men who are really on the cusp of finding their stride. Even though there have and will continue to be growing pains, one can't help but be proud to be associated with the club in a small way.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Post Game: Merritt 3 Trail 2

Here is my game report from trailsmokeeaters.com. On one hand you look at the shots and the chances and say it just wasn't in the cards tonight. The Smokies hit several posts, Keith Hamilton made some terrific stops and sometimes those things happen. On the other hand, these are games you have to win. Merritt is now 4-0 against Trail and have jumped ahead in the race for the final playoff spot.

My problem with tonight's outing was with how loose Trail played. You got a sense especially early in the first and third periods that the Smoke Eaters thought they could take it easy. There were a lot of little fancy plays, cherry picking and half hearted back checks. Inconsistent and incomplete efforts get you inconsistent and incomplete results. What on earth would possess this club to think they would get an easy night at the rink against Merritt? The Centennials have now won all four games the two teams have played this season. They won't give you anything.

Frankly there were times in this game where I felt the Smokies played like they think they're a lot better than they are. Guess what? That's a big "L" with a clear message. You don't get to play shinny hockey with anyone. You have to bust your butts the same way against Merritt as you did against Wetside and Vernon. Did anyone who saw that game feel that Trail worked as hard or executed as well in it as they did against those Okanagan clubs?

To me it's not acceptable to raise your level of compete only when the opposition is a so called top team. This club has to work hard, drive the net, win puck battles, play smart and do the little things right night in and night out. Get away from that and you'll lose some games and make their goalie look pretty darn good. Just my 2 cents you may have all seen the game differently.

I'll be at Mountain FM's Miracle Marathon tomorrow from 8am until 4pm at Ferraro Foods. Please drop by and donate some food or money to help feed families in need during the holidays. The Smokies will be joining us sometime around noon hopefully. Shaun Johnson and I will be there throughout the day. Feel free to come talk hockey with us while you make your donation.

After that my girlfriend and I are taking a well deserved two day trip to Cranbrook. The blog will be quiet until Monday because if I brought the computer with me I think I may end up in a body bag. Have a good weekend and hope to see you tomorrow.
Trail, BC - As one of many odd man rush opportunities sailed wide you could sense the game slipping away. A snake bitten Trail club couldn't seem to find their touch around the net in a 3-2 loss on Friday night against the Merritt Centennials.


Keith Hamilton stopped 40 shots to secure Merritt's first road win of the season. He was very good in the Centennial's goal, but Trail also appeared to be gripping their sticks tightly as they failed to execute on an incredible number of quality chances.

Only Sam Mellor could find the net for the Smokies. The 17 year old has now scored 18 goals. He is second only to highly touted NHL draft prospect Beau Bennett of the Penticton Vees in rookie goal scoring.

Colton Sobchak notched the winner mid-way through the third period for Merritt on a mad scramble in the Trail zone. He added 2 assists while his linemate Derek Hills contributed 2 goals and an assist to the cause.

Kiefer Smiley made 24 saves for Trail including several big stops early in the third period. It was an inconsistent effort for the Smoke Eaters as they fired 22 shots on Hamilton in the second period, but had lulls early in the first and third periods.

The Smoke Eaters will have the whole week to think about that game as they don't play again until next Friday at home against a hot Nanaimo club. Trail beat the Clippers on the road in October.

ON THE TRAIL: Merritt now jumps ahead of Trail for the final playoff spot in the Interior. It was the fourth straight win for the Centennials over the Smoke Eaters season, and the sixth straight Merrit win over Trial dating back to the end of last season ... The Smokies have now dropped 5 consecutive games in which they've only scored 8 times. That's after scoring 23 goals in their previous 3 games ... Graeme Strukoff made his return to the line-up the day he was named to the BCHL All-Star team. He hit a crossbar in the first period. Matt Wilkins later rung one right off the middle of the post early in the third period. Both shots could have given Trail the lead they never had all game long ... Hundreds of fans launched stuffed animals onto the ice on Friday when Mellor scored late in the first period to tie the game at 1. It was the first Teddy Bear Toss by Trail in three seasons. Next weekend the club will be collecting food for families in need over the holiday season.

Click here for the game summary

Game Day: Luke Pierce and All-Star Audio

The Smoke Eaters do battle tonight with the Merritt Centennials. It's the fourth meeting between the two teams so far this season. The Cents have won all three thus far, but the games were all in Merritt. This is obviously a big game for both teams as Merritt is just a single point behind Trail for the final playoff spot in the Interior Conference. Both teams are also on four game losing streaks. Trail dropped those games against the Okanagan power houses including a 3-0 loss to Westside on Wednesday. The Cents lost all three of their games on a recent northern road swing. Merritt has yet to win a game away from home and you have to think they feel like this may be a chance for them against a team they've had some success against this season. The Smoke Eaters can not afford to give Merritt another game. It's a big one tonight.

It's also a the return of the teddy bear toss in Trail. Bring stuffed animals to the game and fire them onto the ice when Trail scores their first goal. They'll be passed on to a worthy cause so that some kids get a nice surprise over the holiday season.

I had a chance over the last couple of days to chat with the new coach in Merritt (that's Luke Pierce in his playing days in the photo) and to do a couple of interviews on today's All-Star announcements.

Merritt Coach Luke Pierce

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Smokies Coach Jim Ingram on Strukoff being an All-Star

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Smokies Assistant Coach Barry Zanier on Westside game

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Burnaby Play by Play Broadcaster Eddie Gregory on Dylan Herold

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Strukoff an All-Star



The BCHL today announced the line-up for the All-Star team that will play the Vernon Vipers. Smokies defenceman Graeme Strukoff will represent Trail at the game. Strukoff is without question one of the most talented and valuable members of the club. If the move is a little surprising it's only because he's missed half of the season so far with a lower body injury. If anything Strukoff's injury shows how valuable a player he is. When you look at the recent close losses to the likes of Penticton, Vernon and Westside you have to wonder that if the inclusion of a guy like Strukoff would be the difference between a win and a loss. I'm looking forward to finding out when he's healthy again.

I do like that this is a guy selected not because of huge numbers, but because of the hard nosed and intelligent way that he plays the game. Graeme is a force on the ice and he'll make the BCHL All-Star squad tougher to play against. It's good that a player can get recognized for contributions other than piling up points. However, I do feel there are some odd choices among the coaches selections. I'm running behind a little right now though so I'll come back to that in a little bit.

For now congratulations to Graeme for being recognized as one of the best this league has to offer.

UPDATE: Obviously with only one team for the entire BCHL there are going to be some very worthy players left off the team. For example, nobody has cored more goals in the last 2 months than Nick Sandor and unfortunately he won't be there in his final season. Scott Jacklin, Sam Mellor and Travis St. Denis have been forces offensively all season. Steve Koshey is among the top 10 scoring defencemen in the league. That's just a few names from Trail that easily could have also made the team along with Strukoff. However, if you look around the league there are some other names that certainly stand out. David Kilip, Brooks Robinson and Cam Reid are all among the top 10 BCHL scorers and they're no where to be seen thanks to the limited roster spots.

Here's the actual line-up:

FORWARDS

Trevor Bailey (Westside Warriors), Justin Bardarson (Williams Lake Timberwolves), Colton Beck (Langley Chiefs), Beau Bennett (Penticton Vees), Cody Bremner (Nanaimo Clippers), Dylan Herold (Burnaby Express), Trever Hertz (Quesnel Millionaires), Mike Krgovich (Surrey Eagles), Mitch MacMillan (Alberni Valley Bulldogs), Denver Manderson (Penticton Vees), Andrew Pettitt (Powell River Kings), Mark Zengerle (Salmon Arm SilverBacks)

DEFENCEMEN

Mat Bodie (Powell River Kings), Brendan Ellis (Westside Warriors), Jordan Heywood (Victoria Grizzlies), Wes McLeod (Prince George Spruce Kings), Graeme Strukoff (Trail Smoke Eaters), Shayne Taker (Cowichan Valley Capitals), Steve Tresierra (Merritt Centennials)

GOALTENDERS

Loic Boivin (Nanaimo Clippers), Sean Bonar (Penticton Vees), Frank Slubowski (Alberni Valley Bulldogs)

Congrats to Strukoff and former Smoke Eater Dylan Herold for making it. It's well deserved. I actually went through this exercise myself a couple of nights ago just for fun (I didn't have Strukoff on the team as I thought his injury would take him out of the running... but obviously I'm glad it didn't) and here's what I came up with:

TEAM MULLIN FORWARDS

Beau Bennett (PEN), Denver Manderson (PEN), Trevor Bailey (PEN), Nick Sandor (TRA), Mark Zengerle (SA), Trevor Hertz (QUE), Cody Bremner (NAN), Colton Beck (LAN), Mitch MacMillan (AV), Ryan Stanimir (WL), Garrett Jackson (CV), Brad Reid (BUR)

TEAM MULLIN DEFENCEMEN

Jordan Heywood (VIC), Greg Noyes (SA), Victor Newell (NAN), Wes McLeod (PG), Kevin Ross (AV), Derek Hills (MER)

TEAM MULLIN GOALTENDERS

Josh Watson (PR), Kevin Jebson (WES), Vinny Lessard (SUR)

The biggest difference between the two teams is that the goaltenders are entirely different. When you look at the top save percentage in the league Watson is ahead of everyone but both Vernon goaltenders, and Jebson is right behind him. Lessard is a couple of points behind Bonnar and Slubowski, but he has been absolutely lights out since having to take over as permanent starter due to the injury to Paul Barclay. I also note that Bonar has split duties with Joel Rumpel and actually has almost identical stats.

Slubowski and Bonar certainly deserving all stars. However, their teams already have a couple of players each on the roster I built. If we had teams for each conference I have no doubts that they would've been on my team. I'm sure they're not worried about it given the fact that they made the actual team anyway!

My list isn't hugely different I just felt like posting it because I only just put it together two days ago. It'd be interesting to put together a "best of the rest" team to see how it stacks up. Again a huge congratulations to all of those who made the team, especially to Graeme Strukoff.

A lot of times I've thought of Strukoff as an "unsung hero" type who doesn't get enough recognition for the way he plays because he doesn't have gaudy numbers. It's good to know the league has take notice of everything the Chilliwack native brings to the table. I know Smokies fans are just looking forward to getting to see that again for ourselves when Graeme is back in the line-up.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Post Game: Westside 3 Trail 0

Here is my game summary from the official website. I thought tonight was another well played and close game. As someone put it to me tonight, it seems like Trail is just two or three plays a game away from really being competitive with the top teams in the BCHL. Obviously the guys are frustrated they've just lost their fourth straight game, but they were in this one from the drop of the puck. Unfortunately they couldn't find a way to put any of their chances away.

Westside didn't give them much. The Warriors were stingy all game and even stingier once they got the lead. They were as good as any team I've seen this season at blocking the lines and eliminating second chances. Jebson played well but did leave some rebounds for the taking... Trail just couldn't get to it! It's interesting that Jebson (who did play well) gets the shut out, but I really actually thought that Kiefer Smiley was the better of the two goaltenders tonight.

When you look at how many 91s and 92s are on that Warriors squad it's hard to imagine how poised and controlled they play. It was a heck of a chess match especially in the first half of the game. However, I felt like when Trail couldn't take advantage of their third and fourth power play opportunities the wind really got sucked out of their sails heading into the third.


There are so many positive steps forward in the recent games against Penticton, Salmon Arm, Vernon and Wetside. When you are within a goal or two of three teams that are in the top 20 CJHL rankings and another that's just as good... you're doing something right. Just not quite enough. There is also only one single point to show for it. That makes Friday night's game against Merritt crucial.

Trail, BC - The Westside Warriors were road warriors in Trail on Wednesday night. They played perhaps the prototypical road game by keeping it simple and pouncing on their opportunities in a 3-0 win over the Smokies.

The two teams battled in a scoreless draw for the first half of the game as neither side gave an inch. It was Warriors leading scorer Trevor Bailey who finally found the back of the net on a strong individual effort with the only goal Westide would need.

The Warriors added a marker from Tyler Brickner and Cam Reid iced the game into an empty net.

Kevin Jebson made 29 saves for the shut outs. He made a particularly noteworthy stop on a Nick Sandor shot from the slot that could have changed the momentum. Kiefer Smiley also had a strong game with 34 saves on 36 shots in the Trail net.

Trail's power play let them down in the game as the 5th ranked unit in the BCHL failed to convert on all 5 chances they had.

The Smoke Eaters have now lost four consecutive close games against the BCHL's tough Okanagan clubs. They'll try and get back in the win column when they host Merritt on Friday night.

ON THE TRAIL: Friday's game will be a teddy bear toss night at the Cominco Arena ... Graeme Strukoff was still out with a lower body injury. Garrett Beckwith also missed the game after being hit by Vernon's Connor Jones on Saturday night. He may be good to go by Friday. Creston Valley Thunder goaltender Chad Katunar filled in as an AP. He was the last goalie cut at Smokies camp ... There was quite a match up game as Trail tried to get the Justin Brown, Paul Mailey and Matt Wilkins line against Westside's top guns. The Smokies trio did a very effective job of shutting Trevor Bailey, Cam Reid and Cole Wilson down for the most part. However, they were at their most dangerous when Westside was able to change on the fly to avoid the match up ... Merritt comes into Friday night's game in Trail without a single road win this season. The Cents hold 3 wins over Trail, but all the games were in Merritt.

Click here
for the game summary

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Game Day: Yopyk Interview, Free Tickets

Tonight for the first time this season the Smoke Eaters host the Westside Warriors. The last time Westside was in Trail, Trevor Bailey scored in Overtime to secure a first round playoff series win. While the Warriors swept the Smokies 3-0 in that series, Trail had leads in 2/3 of the games and sent both those games to overtime. It could have been a whole different series if just one or two extra pucks bounced in a different way.

The teams have only met once so far this season with Westside blowing Trail out 9-2 at the Royal Lepage Place in West Kelowna. That was very early in the season and a totally different Smokies club than the one we've seen of late. After an overtime loss against Vernon on Saturday I expect the Trail to be ready to test Westside tonight.
How good are the Warriors this season? Certainly better than many of us expected. Despite losing their two best defenceman (Justin Schultz and Cory Pritz) and a load of talent up front (Ron Kelly, Chad Gehon, Jordon Gagne), the Warriors are still among the top teams in the BCHL. Their depth players are mostly very young, but it seems like they've been carried by super vets like Trevor Bailey, Brendan Ellis and Nashville Predators draft pick Cam Reid. There is also the red hot Kevin Jebson in goal. You can read the Warriors perspective on this game over at their website from broadcaster John Harding. Also I had a chance to chat with their coach Darren Yopyk who is making his first trip to the Cominco Arena while behind the Warriors bench.

Westside Coach Darren Yopyk

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The coolest thing about tonight's game? Kids 12 and under get in free with an adult. It's part of several Christmas themed promotions planned by Trail with 7 home games this month. Tonight's game is a Christmas present to our youngest fans. On Friday the Smokies will be hosting a Teddy Bear toss. That's just the beginning! You'll also have a chance to win a turkey from Ferraro Foods and an extra large pizza from Twisted Tomato at every home game this month. I got some more details on that and an update on a former Smoke Eater from the boss...

Smokies President Tom Gawryletz

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By the way in some other Smokies alumni news, Travis Roche has been named to Canada's Spengler Cup team. Travis is playing hockey in the Swiss league this season after a few seasons in the NHL.

Smokies and Warriors -- 7:30pm tonight!