This is it.
If the Smoke Eaters are going to make any kind of a push towards the top of the Interior Division standings in the BCHL, that push simply has to start with two wins this weekend.
That will not, to be minimalist about it, be easy.
Trail’s last long home stretch begins with games against Surrey, with whom they have split two games so far, and against whom they lost just two weeks ago. The Eagles had a slow start to the season, but have now climbed ahead of Langley, which had a much smoother beginning to 2017/18, into second place in the mainland division and have a real shot at winning it.
Trail’s top line is still potent, but hasn’t been able to carry the club of late – the team itself scored only four goals in two games last weekend. Surrey’s big two are among the hottest skaters in the league and rank higher than any of the Smoke Eaters’ big three. Lots to play for, for both lineups, the tonight should be a cracker.
Then, Sunday, the Vernon Vipers hit town. The Smoke Eaters are 0-4 against the Vipers, have been blitzed twice (9-0 and 4-0) on home ice, and the Vipers still have hopes of a top two finish, the attendant playoff benefits, for this season.
Two massive tests for Trail. Find a way through the snow, especially on Sunday, because crowd support, although ineffective against the Vipers to date this season, cannot hurt.
• Beaver Valley is on a familiar tear late this KIJHL season, and, even though it is unlikely in the extreme that they can change their position in the Neil Murdoch Division standings over the few weeks left in the regular season, seem to be gearing up for a solid effort in the next, playoff, portion.
The Nitehawks can make it interesting in the division as the season winds down, may even effect the final top two standings spots with their final game, against Nelson, but, will likely be intent on making sure the lineup is healthy for the playoff push.
The division’s big three are providing playoff intrigue already.
• I kind of get the economic arguments for the KIJHL not allowing Quesnel, with William’s Lake to follow, into its ranks, but only kind of.
The league already has a franchise in 100 Mile House, which already gets them within easy driving range of the two more northerly cities. An extra overnight cost, twice a year, should not be prohibitive of allowing two cities with which the league has long historical connection into the mix.
It will be interesting to see how the Cariboo’s wishes play out down the road.