Oh what a difference 10 days can make. When Merritt beat Trail 4-3 in overtime back on December 30th there were many who believed the Cents were now a lock to finish ahead of Trail in the Interior standings. However, since that time Trail got a point in an OT loss against Salmon Arm and a gutsy 2 points in an overtime win against Penticton. Meanwhile, Merritt has lost a couple of games in a row against the very tough Westside and Vernon clubs. Now Trail finds themselves within striking distance. They're only 3 points back of Merritt and Quesnel for 5th place in the Interior. With Prince George free falling now is the time for Trail to get on a bit of a roll and secure their playoff spot. The one problem with that? Trail can't seem to solve Merritt this season. Here's how the series breaks down...
The season series has been very different in Trail than it was in Merritt. When the Smokies went to visit the Cents we saw some of the sloppiest games of the year. The most recent battles between the two teams at the Cominco Arena displayed a couple of groups that have really tightened up their play. Both Merritt and Trail are significantly ahead of the teams we saw back in September. The Smokies carried the play in both the December 11th and 30th games, but Keith Hamilton has been terrific against Trail. He has made 40 or more saves against the Smoke Eaters 3 times in 4 starts this season. The 17 year old may be the key to tonight's contest for both teams. Today's game is also the final contest for Trail before the trade deadline and the debut of new defenceman Taylor Swaffield. It appears the Smokies have made their moves, but this game could influence any decisions both coaching staffs are considering heading into Sunday.
Trail: 2/22 (9%) Merritt: 5/14 (36%)
TRAIL TOP SCORERS
1. F Scott Jacklin (2-7-9) 2. F Sam Mellor (5-2-7) 3. F Nick Sandor (1-5-6) 4. D Steve Koshey (2-2-4) 5. D Ben Matthews (1-2-3)
MERRITT TOP SCORERS
1. F Derek Hills (5-6-11) 2. F Jeff Jones (3-5-8) 2. F Duston Johnson (5-3-8) 4. F Andrew Pickering (1-6-7) 4. F Jordan Soquilla (1-6-7)
There is no home radio broadcast, but the game is available on BCHLPPV. I should have a new colour commentator with me tonight. Hopefully that will add something to the broadcast for the fans watching at home.