Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2009-10 Smokies Alumni (Campese, Bloodoff, Limbert, Martin, Clark, Jago and company)

I haven't done nearly as good a job this year at keeping track of the Smokies alumni. At this point most of them are done or close to done their seasons. If you see that anyone is missing off of the list please let me know by e-mailing me.

It's been a busy couple of weeks for former Smoke Eaters. In fact, one of them just became a champion. Rossland's Patrik Martin and the Simon Fraser University club won the BCIHL crown a couple of weeks back. Martin not only provided the grit and leadership he always brought the Smokies and Nitehawks, but he was also an offensive force for SFU with almost a point per game this season.

A couple of former Smokies got closer to championships. Brandon Clark's Iowa State club was one win away from the ACHA championship, but they fell 2-0 in the tournament final against Lindenwood. Clark's team also included former Nelson Leaf Mike Lebler. Speaking of the Leafs, former Smoke Eater Scott Jago helped take Nelson to another KIJHL finals before losing to Revelstoke. That wraps up a junior career that took Jago to Victoria, Trail and a KIJHL champinoship with the Leafs last season.

Back to the college game, one time Trail Captain Kevin Limbert helped Yale University to their first ever victory in an NCAA tournament game. However, the Bulldogs were stopped in the second round and expectations are certainly rising for this team. I know he's not their top scorer or anything, but I guarantee you Limbert is a big part of the fabric of a team that has gone to the NCAA tournament in back to back years now.

There was also news this week about a former Smoke Eater bench boss. Bruno Campese has re-upped with the WHL's Prince Albert Raiders for another 2 seasons. It's a commitment to Bruno and his whole staff as they try to shape the Raiders into their vision. He did very good work in Trail and in Penticton so I would expect he'll turn that team into a contender soon. I had a good long chat with him tonight and it'll air on Overtime tomorrow evening.

I also had the chance to catch up with former Smoke Eater Lucas Bloodoff this week. He scored the series winning goal for Kelowna in their first round WHL playoff match-up with Everett. Bloodoff is now the Rockets Captain after being a big part of their WHL championship team last season. They battled a lot of injuries in the regular season and seem to be rounding into form at the right time. Here's my interview with Bloodoff previewing their second round battle with Tri-Cities and I might as well also post the interview I did with Trail native Craig Cunningham (not a former Smoke Eater though) on Vancouver's sweep over Kamloops...

Kelowna Rockets forward Lucas Bloodoff

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Vancouver Giants forward Craig Cunningham

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There are several local products still involved in the WHL playoffs. Castlegar's Luke Walker (Eric's cousin) and the Portland Winterhawks came from down 3-0 in game 7 to beat Spokane 5-4 in overtime. Walker scored a late goal to tie the game. Very strange to see the road team win every game in that series. That sets up Portland against Vancouver. In addition to Cunningham the Giants also feature Grand Forks' Brett Lyon. It's a real war of the West Kootenay Boundary.

Getting back to Smokies alumni, here is a list I have of how active former Smoke Eaters did on the stat sheet this year. If you notice any mistakes or missing players again feel free to let me know in comments or by e-mail.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

KIJHL Championship Audio


Congratulations are due to the Revelstoke Grizzlies for winning the KIJHL championship. They beat Nelson 4 games to 1 to complete a giant turn around after quite a poor season in 2008-09. Troy Mick and the rest of the ownership group deserve a lot of praise for showing how quickly a team can go from the bottom to the top with the right people in charge.

I also think Nelson deserves a big congrats for making it to the KIJHL finals for the third time in the past four season. I got a chance to call their roads games in the semi-finals and finals. They're a very talented and classy group of young men. They're also a very young group who perhaps fell victim to the veteran defensive core on the Grizzlies when they made it to the finals. I still would have to say the Leafs organization should be very proud of their record over the past four years.

The KIJHL does have to fix their playoff system though. It seems ridiculous to me that the top two teams in the Okanagan would get a bye while the top two teams in the Kootenays had to play in the first round. I'm not saying that Revelstoke's victory is tainted by this unbalanced format, but it's just not very professional in my view. Can you imagine the NHL's Eastern Conference giving a bye to their top teams but the West being forced to play? Of course not. It has to be fair and consistent throughout the entire league.

Both organizations had deep teams who played smart and skilled hockey. They are both examples of what the KIJHL strives to achieve. It was a pleasure being able to extend my own broadcast season by taking part.

Audio Highlights of Games 3 and 4

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Nelson Coach and GM Simon Wheeldon

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Nelson Forward Gavin Currie

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Revelstoke Coach and GM Troy Mick

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That ends another season of play by play for me here in the West Kootenay. I know my girlfriend will be happy to have me around more (at least I hope she will!) but I know I'll miss the headset after a while. A few months off is nice, but sometimes these off seasons seem to go on way too long. How about an August 1rst start?

Coming up I'll be doing an update on Smokies alumni (a BCIHL champion and a historic NCAA win) as well as a preview of the BCHL Championship with the local participants. Nelson's Mitch Labreche and the Powell River Kings will take on Montrose's Jones Twins and the Vernon Vipers. This is the fifth consecutive year Labreche and the Jones' will go head to head in the playoffs dating back to their days with Nelson and Beaver Valley in the KIJHL. I also want to do some more analysis of this year's Smokies club when I have some time.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Assistant Coach Job Posting

The Trail Smoke Eaters Junior A Hockey Club of the BCHL is currently accepting applications from interested individuals for the position of Assistant Coach for the 2010-2011 hockey season.

The Assistant Coach will work closely with the Head Coach/GM on overall team development (including on-ice practices/games, dryland, scouting, etc), other duties include:

  • Video Breakdown and Review
  • Community Relations and Involvement
  • Planning road trip itineraries
This contract position will run from August 2010 through the end of the season in March/April 2011. Salary negotiable.

Resumes can be submitted to: Jim Ingram, Head Coach/GM

PO Box 313
Trail, BC
V1R 4L6
Fax: (250) 364-9920
Email: tsecoach@telus.net
and remax1@telus.net

Deadline for applications is April 23, 2010. Thank you for your interest, only successful candidates will be contacted.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tappe to Trail (with audio)

The Trail Smoke Eaters have made their first addition of the off season. 1992 born forward Dylan Tappe committed to the Smokies earlier this week.

The Spokane native played the past two seasons with his home town Braves in the KIJHL. He scored 46 goals and 103 points over 96 games playing against men as a 16 and 17 year old. For comparison his 16 year old numbers are actually 10 points ahead of what Smokies rookie of the year Sam Mellor was able to score in that same season when playing for Kimberley. It's impossible to know if he can thrive when jumping to Junior A hockey the way that Mellor did, but it's a nice place to start. Tappe's performance last season would have been enough in my view to get him into the BCHL if he were not restricted (as a US born player) from making the leap until his 18 year old season.

Dylan also took his goal scoring up a notch in his 17 year old season. He went from scoring 0.38 goals per game to 0.59 -- a very solid leap. Tappe was named to the Neil Murdoch roster at the KIJHL All-Star game and was second on the Braves in point production. Dylan was also a significant part of Spokane's strong playoff performance this season. They knocked favoured Castlegar out in 6 games and took the heavily favoured Nelson Leafs to a 7th game. Tappe scored a cold blooded hat trick in game 5 of the Rebels series in Castlegar that set his team up for a series win on home ice.

However, for a player that is known for his offensive attributes he also talks a lot about his willingness to play gritty and go to the dirty areas. Tappe told me he loves to back check, block shots and feels he can play a complete game in the BCHL.

So why Trail? Jim Ingram drove down to Spokane earlier this week to get to know Tappe and his family. Trail's coach was very impressed with the character of the whole Tappe crew and made his pitch. In addition to the opportunity the Smokies provide, I do think it helps that Trail is the closest BCHL team to Dylan's home in Spokane. It also helps that Tappe grew up playing with and against the likes of Sam Mellor, Travis St. Denis and Mike Betz. As any coach will tell you, the players can often be your best recruiters.

I had a chance to catch up with both Tappe and Ingram on Mountain FM's Overtime this week.

New Smoke Eater Dylan Tappe

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Smokies Coach Jim Ingram on Tappe

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I'm looking forward to seeing what Dylan has to offer the Smokies. In my time watching and covering the KIJHL I thought he was one of the best prospects out of that league. It's a nice catch for the Smokies. We can also get a look at some more future Smokies with the Spring Camp coming up on the first weekend of April in Trail.

KIJHL TONIGHT

Wild game in the KIJHL finals tonight as Revelstoke beat Nelson 4-3 to earn that big road split. The Leafs got up 2-0 on power play goals by Patenaude and Currie, but let that lead slip away. Revelstoke's 2 goals in 25 seconds at the end of the first totally changed the momentum of the game in their favour.

The Grizz ended up picking up a 2 goal lead in the second and then tightening up with a wall around their goal in the third. Nelson fired 11 shots on the Revelstoke net in the final frame (not including the many pucks chipped wide) and couldn't beat goaltender Andrew Parent until the final second of the game. Too little too late.

Revelstoke Coach Troy Mick told me after the game that his team played a "dirtier" game. By that he meant going to the tough areas to score in far greater numbers. They were rewarded. The Leafs certainly had moments in the game where they out played Revelstoke (shots were 38-21 Nelson) but key mental errors at the wrong time hurt them. The message from Coach Simon Wheeldon after the game was that they need to simplify things again when the teams hook up again for game 3 in Revelstoke.

Tune in to Mountain FM's Overtime tomorrow night for audio reaction to game 2 and stay tuned to us for play by play of games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Thursday. Thanks to Nelson Ford (sponsors of the Trail broadcasts this year) for backing us for our continued coverage of the Leafs run for a second straight KIJHL crown.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cunningham, Wilkins and Mellor interviews, KIJHL playoff results

Trail's Craig Cunningham had a weekend to remember in the WHL playoffs. The former Beaver Valley Nitehawk scored 4 goals and had 3 helpers in 2 games as Vancouver took a 2-0 series lead over the Kamloops Blazers. That's impressive stuff. Cunningham won the Giants MVP award this season and was named to the Western Conference first all star team. He has really found that extra gear this season.

Other local products didn't have quite as much success this weekend. Former Smoke Eater Lucas Bloodoff (and his brother Evan) found himself on the losing end as Kelowna dropped a couple of games in Everett. Lucas did have a goal and 2 assists in a losing cause. Castlegar's Luke Walker (Eric's cousin) and the Portland Winterhawks are going to have a big hill to climb as well after Spokane beat them twice in Portland this weekend.

As for Cunningham, it'll be hard for NHL scouts to ignore what he's done this season. Stuck behind a ton of talent on a deep Giants club over his WHL career, he nearly doubled his point total from 50 last year to 97 this year. He got a look in the NHL rookies tournament this past summer. I suspect he'll be a hard free agent to pass up this summer.

I had a chance to catch up with Cunningham on Overtime before the start of the first round...

Vancouver Giants MVP Craig Cunningham


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WILKINS AND MELLOR

After chatting with Scott Jacklin during game 2 of the KIJHL semi-finals in Fernie I then caught up with the other two members of Trail's Kimberley Konnection during game 5. Matt Wilkins and Sam Mellor joined me during the overtime intermission. I have a pretty good feeling the trio will re-unite as a line next season. Certainly it's something Coach Ingram has to be considering. Wilkins really showed what he can do during the playoffs. If he has a good summer I could see him hitting the same point levels Mellor and Jacklin have been hovering at.

Smokies forwards Sam Mellor and Matt Wilkins


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KIJHL FINALS

Chris Cucullu scored 3:53 into the second overtime to give Nelson a 3-2 win in game 1 of the KIJHL finals against Revelstoke. It was as even a game as you're likely to see. Both teams hit posts, both teams had strong goaltending, both teams struggled on the man advantage, both teams played solid D... and in the end it took a second extra fame to find a winner.

It's a very unique situation in the KIJHL finals because the only time they two clubs met was in the third game of the regular season. There was really no telling what to expect out there. What we saw was a couple of deep and talented teams that are going to challenge each other in a big way. If you're in the Kootenays do yourself a favour and catch game 2 on Monday night in Nelson.

I had a chat tonight with Billy Faust (who returned from injury to get the win), Cucullu and Simon Wheeldon.

Leafs goaltender Billy Faust


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Leafs fowrard Chris Cucullu


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Leafs Coach Simon Wheeldon


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DYLAN TAPPE

I told you yesterday there was a new Smoke Eater to talk about. Dylan Tappe is his name and his name is listed over at trailsmokeeaters.com -- but I haven't done the usual profile here yet. I'm still waiting to talk to Dylan before I do too much of a write up. I may do one tomorrow (with a Jim Ingram interview) even if I don't talk to him quite yet. I think this is a player Smokies fans should be excited about. I've had several people say positive things to me about the addition over the last couple of days.

More to come!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

KIJHL Audio

Tomorrow night marks the first game of the KIJHL finals between Nelson and Revelstoke. Game time is 6pm in Nelson and I hope a big crowd from the West Kootenay area will come and check it out. The two teams don't know each other very well as they only met once during the regular season. It was a 3-3 tie in Nelson's third game... both clubs have come a long way since then.

The obvious advantage for Revelstoke is that the ever evolving KIJHL playoff system rewarded them with a first round bye for winning the Okanagan. However, none of the Kootenay teams got he same honour. Nelson has played 19 playoff games compared to only 10 for the Grizzlies. That's no one's fault but the league governors who approved the system, but it certainly could make a difference if it ends up being a long series.

Nelson is in their third KIJHL final in the past four seasons while Revelstoke is making a trip to the big dance in the first season of their new ownership and management regime. We don't know much about them so I had chance to catch up with their coach (and former BCHL and WHL coach) Troy Mick. I also have highlights from game 5 against Fernie (we'll again call the Leaf road games during the finals on Mountain FM) and a chat with assistant coach Frank Maida after the series win by Nelson.

Game 5 of the KIJHL Semi-Final: Nelson 3 Fernie 2 (OT)

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Nelson Leafs Assistant Coach Frank Maida

Revelstoke Coach and GM Troy Mick

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Check out trailsmokeeaters.com for an announcement about Trail's first off season addition. I'll have something about that and an interview with Vancouver Giants star Craig Cunningham on the blog coming up shortly. Again I hope you'll join us for KIJHL championship action tomorrow night in Nelson.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hughes out in Salmon Arm

Just read on the Salmon Arm website that they've let go of Coach Matt Hughes. He took over as Head Coach this season after spending some time there as an assistant. Clearly the Silverbacks were disappointed by their lackluster finish to the regular season and first round exit against Quesnel. I think it's too early to give up on Matt Hughes... but I'm not in the room there. It's easy to have an opinion when you have no stake in it. I do know that with Rylan Ferster taking over the coaching duties again they'll still have an excellent coach behind the bench either way. I hope he'll be given full authority over hockey decisions. That being said, with Hughes getting let go today and Brian Youngson in Trail yesterday the league has lost a couple of real class acts (or "beauties" as the players would say) in the last 48 hours. Tough part of this business for sure.

What do you think?

I'm in Fernie right now broadcasting game 5 of the KIJHL semi-finals between Nelson and Fernie. They remember their alumni here for sure as I've had a ton of questions about Youngson no longer being with Trail. For the record I really don't have any definitive answers at this stage. The Leafs lead this series 3-1 with a chance to wrap it up tonight. Tune us in on your radio or if you're not in the Kootenays join us at http://www.mountainfm.net/

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Smokies part company with Youngson

Word today that the Trail Smoke Eaters have not renewed the contract of Assistant Coach Brian Youngson. I was able to confirm that Brian would indeed not be back with the club. However, the Smokies didn't make an official statement on the matter.

As for Brian, I know he has been pursuing full time work opportunities in the community. He's a family man who welcomed a young son to the Youngson clan last summer. It strikes me that at this point that family is Brian's top priority. As much as hockey is a passion for him I think practical interests come into play as well. I know we all have those thoughts sometimes! Either way he'll be successful at whatever it is he does.

I know I'll miss having him around. Over the past 3 years I've certainly come to consider Brian a friend. I also owe him big because he introduced me to my girlfriend. That's a debt I can never repay. He's a great guy with a hell of a sense of humour who it is always fun to talk hockey with. I know he was always very accommodating to me whenever I needed something and I look forward to continuing that friendship away from the bus and the rink.

Youngson joined the Smoke Eaters for the 2006-07 season under Tim Kehler. The team had a very good season finishing 3rd and winning a playoff round. He's been with the club now for four seasons and has become ingrained in the community. I've always known Brian to have a good relationship with the players, but he won't pull any punches either. He's got a good eye for the game and I've learned a lot from our conversations. No one can say he didn't make a very solid contribution over his tenure with the team.

Youngson started his coaching career as an assistant with Fernie in the KIJHL. That's a team that Brian has been proudly associated with as a player and a coach. He had a good junior career and has proved to be a capable and personable coach as well. That booming voice alone can make an impression.

For whatever reason at this time both the team and Brian needed a change. Sometimes the same situation can get stale. I think it'll end up being good for all involved. I'm certainly curious to see what Coach Ingram and the club do in terms of filling that void.

For now I just wanted to say thanks for Brian for everything he's done for me and for the Smoke Eaters. I'm sure a lot of people in and out of the organization feel the same way.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Catching up with Jacklin, KIJHL Playoffs



While broadcasting the second game of the KIJHL semi-finals in Fernie I ran into Smoke Eaters MVP Scott Jacklin. Scott lives in Kimberley during the off season and made the drive with his dad to take in the action. I had the chance to chat with him during the first intermission.

Scott Jacklin in Fernie

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I can't imagine Scott is a player who will have any difficulty finding a place to play college hockey if he has another season like 2009-10. Especially with the built in chemistry he seems to have with Sam Mellor. I know losing Nick Sandor will hurt that top line, but there are a number of options to fill that void. They had Matt Wilkins there to start the season and it's not a huge stretch to think he could jump back in.

I'm looking forward to seeing the next level of Scott's game next season.

KIJHL PLAYOFFS

The KIJHL semi-finals hit game 4 tonight in Nelson with the Leafs leading 2-1. Puck drop is 7pm. Nelson could take command of the series with a victory tonight. I'm sure with their injuries they're hoping it won't be a long one, but it's hard to imagine this battle ending in just five games. We'll have the broadcast of game 5 in Fernie on Wednesday. For now here are the highlights of the first two games at the historic Fernie Memorial Arena.

Games 1 and 2 of the Nelson/Fernie series on Mountain FM

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Any fans near Nelson or Fernie should check out the series. It's great hockey and these teams are the last ones playing in our area outside of the WHL clubs a couple of hours away. Again you can join us for game 5 in Fernie on Mountain FM. Also keep your eyes on the BCHL schedule tonight to see if Quesnel can keep playing Cinderella. Great to see their fans have something to cheer about. I'm also really interested in the Westside/Penticton series. How cool would it be to have a game 7 back at the old Memorial in Penticton? I really enjoyed calling games in that barn.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mountain FM to broadcast KIJHL semi-finals



For the second straight season the Nelson Leafs and Fernie Ghostriders will meet in the KIJHL semi-finals. With the end of the Smoke Eaters season we at Mountain FM will continue our commitment to local hockey by picking up the broadcasts of Nelson's road games in this series and any other future series should they advance past Fernie. That won't be an easy task.

Nelson and Fernie have been the two most dominant teams in recent KIJHL history. As I said they met in last year's KIJHL semi-finals and the 2007 KIJHL finals. The Leafs knocked the Ghorstriders out of the playoffs last season ending their run of two consecutive KIJHL championships. The Leafs went on to win the league title themselves. It was revenge for Nelson after Fernie came from down 2-0 to win the 2007 series between the two clubs. Between them they have won the last 3 league crowns.

It's also an interesting match up for Smokies fans for a number of reasons. For one, former Smoke Eater Scott Jago is one of Nelson's key veterans. Trail had APs on both teams as well. The Leafs supplied Gavin Currie, Michael Spring, Phil Patenaude, Bennett Hambrook and Taylor O'Neil to the Smokies at various times. Fernie sent Jesse Niemi and Keanan Patershuk to Trail during the year. All of those APs made solid contributions to Trail's line-up including a 5 point weekend for Niemi. Finally, there are alumni from both teams on the Trail roster. Garrett Beckwith and Tommy Rizzardo are former Leafs while Josh McEwan and assistant coach Brian Youngson are former Ghostriders.

How do the two teams match up? It's hard to say. However, Fernie has breezed through the first two rounds of the playoffs while Nelson has had very difficult seven game wars with Beaver Valley and Spokane. You would have to think with only one day off between game 7 against Spokane and game 1 against Fernie that the Ghostriders will have a physical edge to start the series. Of course sometimes the team that is just coming off a series win could have a momentum edge over a team that has been resting for close to a week. We'll see how it goes! Should be very interesting tomorrow night on Mountain FM. If you're feeling adventurous you could even jump in your car and head up to Fernie for the game. I hear the atmosphere there is terrific and I know I'm looking forward to it.

Thanks again to the Leafs for letting me tag along and to the Ghostriders for accommodating me at the rink so that we can bring this coverage to Kootenay Boundary airwaves. Game time tomorrow night is 6:30 with the pre-game show getting started at 6:15.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

End of Season Audio, Playoff Predictions



Sorry for the lack of updates after the season came to a close last week. I was sick in bed all weekend and have been keeping busy at work. It's always easy to update things when there is something specific you're looking forward to... but the prospect of trying to summarize the end of the season is generally pretty grand.

I don't think I'm going to do it here yet either.

There are lots of things I would like to discuss. At some point in the future I want to do a post talking about each player and the strides they've made since August. Really when you look at how far the team has come it's pretty amazing. They were getting killed by the good teams back in September and October. Now we can look at the playoffs and only wonder "what if" because of so many injuries. That said, they still put up a hell of a fight. Only one of the games in the five game series didn't require an empty netter to finish it.

I know people hate hearing the "injury excuse" when a team loses. That's fine and I understand it. However, the Smoke Eaters were decimated by injuries in the first round. They came in to the playoffs without Thomas Abenante, Steve Oursov and Wade Bennett guaranteed for the entire series. They were also missing Justin Brown to start. He would later make a return but still not at 100%.

In the first game of the series Darnell Dyck got injured to the extent that he didn't play a shift in the next three games. He made his return in Game 5, but he was no where near 100% and wouldn't have played in a game 6 if there was one.

Curtis Tonello then got hurt in Game 3 and Trail was missing a key member of their back end for the rest of the series. One only has to have watched Trail's improvement in the last month of the season to see what a difference Tonello can make.

So in addition to all of those guys who missed time I can tell you that at least Travis St. Denis, Scott Jacklin, Graeme Strukoff, Mitch Kaufmann, Sean Nugent and Sam Mellor were all playing at significantly bellow 100%. That's just what I know about and I understand there were even more than that. These guys were all hurt to the level that they easily could have been sitting out of the line-up if the team didn't need them so desperately.

I can hear people saying already that every team runs into injury trouble in the playoffs and has to battle through it. That's fine and I agree, but Trail's situation was well beyond the normal playoff grind. It was in my opinion just too much to overcome in the end. Part of that is because Westside is such a deep team that they can throw all four lines over the boards and run a short team ragged.

Full credit to the Warriors for a well played series. I'm not saying Trail absolutely would've won if they had been at 100%. Instead I suspect we'd have seen a longer series. I just think we have to give this Smokies roster a ton of respect for digging deep within themselves and battling as hard as they did under the circumstances. They were very close and could have won in every game but one.

What a goaltending battle it was too between Kevin Jebson and Kiefer Smiley. Full marks to both for a terrific series.

Hopefully all Smokies fans recognize that effort and recognize how much potential there is in this roster for next year... and also thank the hard work and dedication of the Smoke Eaters who will leave the BCHL (Nick Sandor, Sean Nugent and Taylor Swaffield) after their 20 year old seasons.

Again as I said I'll have more to come in the days and weeks ahead. For now here's some audio from the end of the season...

Game 5 Audio Highlights from Nelson Ford Trail Smoke Eaters Hockey on Mountain FM

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My "Thank You" at the end of the broadcast

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Post Game 5 with Coach Jim Ingram

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Nick Sandor before his final BCHL game

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PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

Just wanted to put in my 2 cents for the second round of the BCHL playoffs as they get started tonight. I did this last year and I seem to recall having pretty good results. I'm not going to check that out for fear of proving myself wrong!

First congrats to Quesnel for pulling off their first playoff series win in the BCHL from what I understand. That's a terrific achievement for the franchise. They really made strides by adding some scoring depth in the second half of the season. However, this is where the run comes to an end. As much as I'd like to see a lower seeded team shock the world I just don't think the Millionaires much up well with the Vipers. Unless Vernon runs into a rash of injuries and goaltending trouble I'm saying it'll be the Vipers in 5. There is just too much depth in the Vernon line-up. However, I don't think the games will be one sided. Quesnel knows how to battle and will lean heavily on their strong vets I imagine. They do need Halcrow to be in top form though. If he falters it could get ugly.

As for the other Interior series... it should be a dandy. The Warriors and Vees are both nationally ranked teams with terrific depth. I think Kevin Jebson may give Westside an edge in goal because of his big game experience and how amazing he seems to play in those clutch situations... but he hasn't looked great against Penticton so far this season. The Vees have the most dangerous players in the series (Manderson and Bennett) so Westside I think has to hope that their 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines can out perform Penticton's. The Vees have a ridiculous power play so the Warriors have to stay out of the box. Their discipline was a major factor in their loss in game 1 against Trail and they can't afford that stuff against a man advantage that operates at basically a 30 perecent clip. Westside also has to hope that Trevor Bailey finds his scoring touch again after only picking up a single point in 5 games against Trail. If Bailey and Cole Wilson are shut down again I can't see how they can get past Penticton. I'll take the Vees in 6. However, I am intrigued by the possibility of a game 7 in Memorial Arena. That barn might actually favour Westside if it gets that far.

I don't know have nearly as much to say about the coast as frankly my knowledge of those teams is not quite as deep. I'll take Alberni Valley in 5 over Nanaimo. I know the Clippers have found their playoff form and did a great job against Victoria. However, the Bulldogs have all the top offensive guns in the series. They also have the best defenceman and in my view the better goaltender. The Clippers are going to test the Bulldogs with their tenacious team game, but the talent levels just don't match up in my view. The other series could be very interesting as I like both Langley and Powell River. Each club has scorers, agitators, two way players and good goaltending. They work hard and it should be a war. I'll take the Kings in 7 partially because the Chiefs take too many penalties and that can kill you against a good team in the playoffs. That being said, I don't like either of their chances against Alberni.

KIJHL GAME 7

Finally I hope as many of you as possible head to Nelson tonight for game 7 of the Neil Murdoch Division finals. It's been quite a series. Games 5 and 6 went to double overtime and the home team has won each game so far. The Leafs are obviously hoping that trend continues, but even with a win tonight there's little time to rest before facing Fernie in the semi-finals on Thursday. Puck drop is at 7pm tonight in Nelson. It should be a terrific game!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Game 4 Video Highlights: Westside 4 Trail 2



Tonight's game 5 is live on Mountain FM at 6:45pm. Join us at 104.1 FM in Trail and at www.mountainfm.net

Playoffs Game 5: Trail at Westside



Do or die tonight. Here's how the season series breaks down...

REGULAR SEASON RECORDS

Trail: 20-32-1-7 (8-8-0-4 in 2010)
Westside: 38-18-1-3 (12-7-0-2 in 2010)

POWER PLAY

Trail: 6/46 (13%)
Westside: 9/39 (23%)

TRAIL TOP SCORERS


Nick Sandor (4-6-10)
Scott Jacklin (2-7-9)
Sam Mellor (6-3-9)
Travis St. Denis (2-4-6)
Paul Mailey (1-5-6)
Mike Betz (2-3-5)
Sean Nugent (2-2-4)
Matt Wilkins (2-1-3)
Josh McEwan (0-3-3)

WESTSIDE TOP SCORERS

Grayson Downing (7-4-11)
Tyler Krause (3-7-10)
Alex Grieve (3-7-10)
Brendan Ellis (5-4-9)
Cam Reid (5-4-9)
Quinn Gould (3-5-8)
Kyle Singleton (2-5-7)
Trevor Bailey (3-4-7)
Max French (5-1-6)

GOALTENDERS

Kevin Jebson (WES) 7-2, 2.08GAA, 0.932%
Kiefer Smiley (TRA) 3-6, 2.76GAA, 0.926%
Cam Gorchynski (WES) 0-1, 3.01GAA, 0.909%
Garrett Beckwith (TRA) 0-0, 8.00GAA, 0.805%

ROSTER

TRAIL

WESTSIDE

BROADCAST

We'll have the game for you on Mountain FM with Nelson Ford Trail Smoke Eaters Play by Play starting with our City of Trail Pre-Game Show at 6:45pm. It's 104.1FM in Trail and available at http://www.mountainfm.net/

GAME DAY AUDIO

Smokies Coach Jim Ingram

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Canadian Sledge Hockey Assistant Coach Mike Mondin

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Mountain FM's Chris Wahl interviews Canadian Sledge Hockey Forward Derek Whitson

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rebels part ways with Brent Heaven


A coaching change in the local KIJHL ranks today. You can read more about it by clicking here for Chris' Rebels blog or by clicking here for the Rebels official website. The bottom line is that Castlegar isn't entering into negotiations to retain Coach and GM Brent Heaven now that his contract expired at the end of the season. Heaven compiled a 91-50-2-10 record over 3 seasons as the bench boss in Castlegar. He also just recently won the Neil Murdoch Division Coach of the Year award. However, the board of directors was concerned about the team's lack of success in the playoffs. They only won one playoff round over those three seasons.

I wish Brent the best with his future plans. He was always very accommodating to us at Mountain FM and I'm sorry to see him go. I'm sure we'll see him behind the bench again someday. Of course I do also hope there are good things in Castlegar's future. They are technically my "home" team as I live and work in that fine city. I'm sure it was a difficult decision for the board and they'll work hard to find the right guy to guide their club next season. It's interesting to note that they are looking to develop a closer relationship with the Smoke Eaters under the new coaching regime.

Here is the team's perspective with their president...

Castlegar Rebels President Jim Craig on Mountain FM's Overtime

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PLAYOFFS

The KIJHL playoffs have moved on to the second round now. Nelson beat Beaver Valley 4-3 in a first round war. That means the end of former Smoke Eater goaltender Paul Barclay's junior career... at least it would appear to anyway. He went out with a bang by helping the Nitehawks take the Leafs to the limit. Not many gave Beaver Valley a chance in the series, but I know Nelson Coach Simon Wheeldon told me he knew BV was going to be a huge test for them. The Hawks got great goaltending and sacrificed themselves for just a chance to win.

Actually the series is at least an interesting comparison for Trail because again it was a situation where the underdog got a split on the road and then lost both games at home. In the KIJHL series the Nitehawks came back with wins in game 5 and 6 to force a deciding game. It would seem like losing both games at home really takes away a team's momentum, but there is something very dangerous about a team who are playing desperate and without many expectations.

In any event, congrats to former Smoke Eater Scott Jago and company for advancing to the second round. There are a bunch of Trail APs on the Nelson roster that we can keep our eyes on as the Leafs continue into the Neil Murdoch Division finals against Spokane. Nelson leads that series 2-0. It's far from over though as Spokane got down 2-0 to Castlegar and came back to win that series. They are great in their own barn. Also congrats to the Nitehawks for taking Nelson to the limit. Longtime BV Coach Terry Jones told me he's going to take a couple of weeks to contemplate his future there, but I have to think no matter what he'll be involved again. It just seems to be in his blood.

Post Game 4: Westside 4 Trail 2

Trail, BC - If there's a team that is already familiar with having their backs against the wall this season it's the Smoke Eaters. They now have another opportunity to come back from the brink after a 4-2 loss in game 4 put them down 3 games to 1 in their first round series with the Westside Warriors.

One month ago the Smokies were injury ridden and in the midst of a 5 game losing streak with their playoff hopes looking bleak. Trail responded by earning points in 7 of their last 9 games and playing their best hockey of the season.

The orange and black find themselves in a similar situation heading into game 5 in West Kelowna. They're severely banged up and have lost 3 straight games, but it's way too early to count them out.

Westside managed to get ahead in the series by turning strong starts in game 3 and 4 into hard earned road victories. After controlling the play in the first period on Wednesday the Warriors got an early second period goal from Cam Reid to take a commanding 2 goal lead.

Trail answered immediately when Sam Mellor scored to turn the momentum in their favour. However, Kevin Jebson shut the door the rest of the way. The veteran goaltender stopped 30 of 32 Smoke Eater shots to give his team a chance to close the series out at home. Kiefer Smiley was also again strong as he stopped 30 of 33 Warrior shots.

The game was really a battle between two lines. Trail's top unit of Mellor, Nick Sandor and Scott Jacklin has produced all their offence in the last 3 games while Westside has been relying on Grayson Downing, Reid and Tyler Krause. Downing leads the series in scoring with 5 goals and 2 assists.

Special teams was again a difference maker in game 4 as the Warriors went 1 for 2 on the power play and Trail failed to convert their man advantage opportunities. The Smokies haven't scored with the extra man since their game 1 victory.

Game 5 is Thursday night at 7pm in West Kelowna.

ON THE TRAIL: The Smokies were again down to 10 healthy forwards for game 4. Darnell Dyck, Wade Bennett, Steve Oursov and Thomas Abenante all sat out with injuries. Defenceman Curtis Tonello also missed the game and was replaced in the line-up by affiliate defenceman Colton Semenok of the KIJHL's Beaver Valley Nitehawks ... Game 4 wasn't nearly as chippy as the previous night. There were a combined 120 penalty minutes on Tuesday compared to only 18 on Wednesday ... Trail welcomed the Canadian sledge hockey team to the Cominco Arena with a ceremony during the first intermission. Former Smokies assistant coach Mike Mondin is now an assistant for the sledge hockey club. They're the defending Paralympic champions preparing for the 2010 games in Vancouver.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Playoffs Game 4: Westside at Trail



Again a special note that tonight's game starts at 7pm rather than the usual 7:30 start time in Trail. The Canadian sledge hockey team will be special guests of the Smoke Eaters for tonight's game. It will also be Mountain FM night up in the box. It should be a fun night and hopefully we'll see a big crowd. Here's how the season series breaks down...

REGULAR SEASON RECORDS

Trail: 20-32-1-7 (8-8-0-4 in 2010)
Westside: 38-18-1-3 (12-7-0-2 in 2010)

POWER PLAY

Trail: 6/43 (14%)
Westside: 8/37 (22%)

TRAIL TOP SCORERS


Nick Sandor (3-5-8)
Scott Jacklin (2-6-8)
Sam Mellor (5-2-7)
Travis St. Denis (2-4-6)
Paul Mailey (1-5-6)
Mike Betz (2-3-5)
Sean Nugent (2-2-4)
Matt Wilkins (2-1-3)
Josh McEwan (0-3-3)

WESTSIDE TOP SCORERS

Grayson Downing (6-3-9)
Brendan Ellis (4-4-8)
Quinn Gould (3-5-8)
Tyler Krause (3-5-8)
Alex Grieve (2-6-8)
Kyle Singleton (2-5-7)
Cam Reid (4-3-7)
Trevor Bailey (3-4-7)
Max French (5-1-6)

GOALTENDERS

Kevin Jebson (WES) 6-2, 2.09GAA, 0.931%
Kiefer Smiley (TRA) 3-5, 2.72GAA, 0.928%
Cam Gorchynski (WES) 0-1, 3.01GAA, 0.909%
Garrett Beckwith (TRA) 0-0, 8.00GAA, 0.805%

ROSTER

TRAIL

WESTSIDE

BROADCAST

There is no radio broadcast of home games but it is available on BCHL PPV.

GAME DAY AUDIO

Smokies Coach Jim Ingram

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Game 1 Audio Highlights on Mountain FM

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Game 2 Audio Highlights on Mountain FM

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