Familiar foes face off for the first time this season as Trail visits the Westside Warriors. Trail only managed one win against Westside last season despite the fact that almost every game was decided by a goal or two. The Warriors swept the Smokies in the playoffs, but two of the games went to overtime after Trail held early leads. The Warriors just had Trail's number late in the game last season, but this is a new look Warriors squad with a new coach in Darren Yopyk. That being said, the Warriors do have several players who were dynamite against Trail last year. Trevor Bailey and Cam Reid are part of the first line with Scott MacDonald that has been tearing up the BCHL so far this season. Bailey and Reid were also Trail killers last year. Kyle Singleton and Alex Grieve had some of their best success against last year's Smoke Eaters as well.
However, the Warriors are without their one/two punch of Justin Schultz and Corey Pritz now that both players have moved on. They were the straws that stirred Westside's drink for the past two seasons and now it's up to returning vets like Brendan Ellis and Joel Woznikoski to carry the load. It will be interesting to get our first look at this year's Warriors. Traditionally these are two hard working teams that role four lines. However, Mark Howell is gone and we'll see what kind of game plan Darren Yopyk throws at the Smokies.
You can click here for Ryan Pinder's recap of last night's game.
The Smoke Eaters may have lost 5-3 last night in Penticton, but the team is focusing on the positives. After getting down early (despite some great chances and another crossbar) the Smokies battled back and won the second half of the game. Their special teams also improved significantly in holding Penticton to 1-7 on the power play and in converting 2 out of 3 of their own power play opportunities. The forward lines all seemed to have a lot more jam and success on the attack. They still need to do a better job of converting their chances around the net, but that was the best the forward group has looked since the start of the season.
Trail does need to do a better job clearing the front of their net and in clearing their zone when given the opportunity. Too many open clearing opportunities ended up on a Penticton stick early in the game. Both first period Vees goals were scored on rebound scrambles in front of the Trail net. It's something Coach Ingram addressed and feels they were improving on in the remainder of the game.
I caught up with Smokies forward Scott Jacklin after the game. He had two points in what was a very strong game for the Kimberley Konnection line (Jacklin, Sam Mellor and Matt Wilkins) last night.
Jacklin is one of two Smokies (Tye Lewis is the other) who are currently at a point per game pace. Some of the other veterans are going to have to start putting pucks in the net for Trail to get their first win here tonight.
As always you can hear every road game on Mountain FM at 104.1 in Trail, 99.3 in Castlegar, 103.5 in Nelson and 96.7 in Grand Forks. It's also available online at our website. We'll have the City of Trail pre-game show starting at 6:45. I also want to say thank you and welcome to our new broadcast sponsor Nelson Ford. As of today our games will be known as Nelson Ford Trail Smoke Eaters hockey. Thank you to the folks at Nelson Ford for being a big part of making our broadcasts possible for this season!