The Smoke Eaters needed to come out with a lot of passion and hunger this weekend with their playoffs lives at stake. They did just that. Trail went toe to toe with two of the BCHL's top teams and were with them the whole way. They also got scoring from the whole group rather than having to lean on any one guy or one line. The Bennett/Oursov/Wilkins line really seems to be clicking now. That's what you need so that if your top guys don't score a ton in one game you can look to your depth to get it done. Trail did that this weekend.
There were many positives from this weekend to build on as we head into Tuesday's game against the Vees. From the net out it was one of Trail's best weekends of the year. The schedule isn't easy, but these guys are proving they can play with and compete with anyone.
Hats off the Bulldogs as well who are obviously never out of any game. They have won 18 in a row on the road and 9 of those 18 games were decided by a single goal. That's the sign of a very talented club that knows how to win. If they make the finals this year it will be a huge test for whichever team makes it out of the Interior.
This is the kind of team I think the Smokies are capable of being. A lot of people will say "yah... next year" but don't count this year's club out. You learn a lot of lessons over a full season when you're a young team. The skill is not in question. It's just the consistency, the decision making and the lapses in work ethic we can see at times. If these guys are putting together their mental game it doesn't matter who they play... they can take down anyone in this league. Maybe after this weekend they'll realize it.
Here's my recap from trailsmokeeaters.com:
Trail, BC - It looked for 40 minutes like the Smoke Eaters were going to spoil Alberni Valley's party. Trail had a 4-2 lead and were a period away from breaking the Bulldogs' 17 game road winning streak.Don't forget to tune in to Mountain FM's Overtime on Monday night from 6pm to get reaction from the game and the weekend as a whole. You can also check out Hammer's Bulldogs Blog for his perspective on the game. Sounds like their coach wasn't pleased with his team's effort for the most part. I don't think the Bulldogs were bad as much as Trail played well and tested them. The Smokies have been to overtime with Vernon and Penticton at home. Cominco Arena is not an easy place to play.
Instead, Alberni came back with an overtime win that broke the record they had shared with two other teams. In addition to winning 18 straight road games the Bulldogs have also won 21 of their last 22.
The Smokies certainly didn't make it easy on them. Sean Nugent set up Mike Betz on the power play in the first period for the second straight game. This time the goal gave Trail a 1-0 lead after one.
Mark MacMillan set up Kevin Ross for the tying goal early in a wide open second period. The teams scored a combined 5 goals with Wade Bennett notching his first 2 BCHL goals for the Smokies. They also got one when Scott Jacklin tipped in a point shot by former Bulldog Curtis Tonello on the power play.
It was Jacklin's 20th of the year and 6th goal in his last 7 games. He becomes the third Smoke Eater to reach the 20 goal mark this season along with Nick Sandor and Sam Mellor.
The Bulldogs started their come back when Mitch MacMillan scored his league leading 60th goal of the season on a terrific set up by David Dziurzynski. Dziurzynski then stole a puck during a brief 4 on 4 and roofed his second of the game to tie it at 4 with 6:46 to go in the third period.
Dziurzynski struck again in overtime as he set up Mark MacMillan for the winner just over a minute into the 3 on 3.
Each team had their chances to win it in regulation and overtime, but both Kiefer Smiley and Scott Lewan came up with some big stops. Lewan made 28 saves for his 10th straight win, while Smiley stopped 37 pucks in a losing cause.
Matt Wilkins and Steve Oursov each had 2 assists for Trail. Betz added an assist to his goal for a 2 point night.
The Smokies are now 3 points ahead of Prince George for the final playoff spot in the Interior with 2 games in hand. They're also 2 points behind Merritt for 6th and 3 behind 5th place Quesnel.
Trail will host Penticton on Tuesday night.
ON THE TRAIL: Mitch Kaufmann, Justin Brown, Travis St. Denis and Thomas Abenante were all still out of the line-up with injuries. There is no time table for any of them although St. Denis appears to be the closest to returning ... 16 year old Keanan Patershuk of the KIJHL's Fernie Ghostriders played another solid game as an AP for Trail. The Kelowna native brought a physical edge and didn't look at all out of place ... The goals came fast and furious for Bennett in the second period. He had come so close but had yet to score his frist BCHL goal until tonight. While it took him 40 games to get the first one he only had to wait 8 minutes for the second ... Former Smoke Eater Tye Lewis got tossed from the game in the second period for a hit from behind on Steve Koshey. It was his only game at the Cominco Arena as a visitor ... Any Smokies fans who were scoreboard watching tonight got good news when Prince George lost to Victoria and Merritt dropped a home game against Cowichan Valley. Only 6 points separates the 5th and 8th team in the Interior with only a couple of weeks left on the BCHL schedule ... The Bulldogs broke the road winning streak record originally set by the New Westminster Royals in 1989-90. A comment on Evan Hammond's blog pointed out that one member of that team was non other than Smoke Eaters Coach and GM Jim Ingram. He came close to protecting his old club's place in history tonight, but I think the points for his current club were the only thing on his mind. Trail got 3 out of 4 on the weekend and that has to be considered a success.