The Trail Smoke Eaters will enjoy a rare set of back-to-back games at home this weekend as they prepare to face off against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs tonight and the Wenatchee Wild on Saturday.
The Smoke Eaters look to rebound from two losses to the Langley Rivermen and Powell River Kings at the Bauer BCHL Showcase last week, and face two very different teams this weekend with the Bulldogs sporting a 2-4-0-0 record, while the defending BCHL champions Wild are tied for first place in the Interior Division with a 4-3-0-0 record.
“I think it (the Showcase) was a great experience,” said Smoke Eaters head coach and GM Jeff Tambellini. “It’s a great learning time for our guys to learn how to play with scouts in the building and people that have high expectations. We’re going to take a lot into the weekend, we’re excited we have a homestand coming up, and we’re looking to have really bounce back games.”
Alberni will have two recent pickups from Penticton, Henri Schreifels and Ryan Miotto, in the line up when they face Trail tonight. The two were acquired in a trade for former Smoke Eater 20-year-old forward Andre Ghantous on Tuesday.
The 19-year-old Miotto spent the 2017-18 campaign with the Chilliwack Chiefs, where he helped his team capture the 2018 RBC Cup. The Canisius College commit scored nine goals and 21 points in 57 regular season games with the Chiefs. Schreifels, a California native, was a standout in the 18U Elite league last season, scoring 26 goals and 56 points in 36 games.
The two additions will give the Bulldogs desperately needed fire power up front. Alberni has scored just eight goals in six games, the least in the league, with their two most recent losses to Interior teams Salmon Arm, 4-1, and Wenatchee, 5-1, at the Showcase.
The Wild, in stark contrast, have scored the most goals, 27, in the BCHL (tied with Merritt). Wenatchee owns the three top scoring forwards in the league in veterans Lucas Sowder (1-10-11) and Matt Gosiewski (5-5-10), and rookie Christophe Fillion, a Sherbrooke native, whose five goals and nine points lead all rookies. The high-powered Wild are coming off a 5-2 loss to West Kelowna on Wednesday in a penalty-filled match, in which Wenatchee outshot the Warriors 44-25.
Despite, the two losses at the Showcase, Trail is 3-2-0-1, and just one point out of top spot in a tight Interior division. The Smokies scored just two goals at the Showcase, and will need to bring their game to another level this weekend, particularly against the Wild on Saturday.
“You’ve got to push, and it’s the same with every player in the league, the standard has to be so high to have success in a tight division,” said Tambellini. “And it’s hard to grind out every single game, every night, but that’s what this league is, which is a great thing.”
The Smokies line of Braeden Tuck (3-5-8), Levi Glasman (3-2-5) and Kent Johnson (3-2-5) has been the most consistent line for Trail with 18 points between them, and Trail has received great production from defencemen Diarmad DiMurro (0-6-6), Jeremy Smith (2-3-5) and Trevor Zins (2-3-5).
Special teams has been a strength for the Smoke Eaters early in the season, however, they have been out-scored at even strength by a 15-7 margin.
Missing top-line forwards like Hayden Rowan, Spencer McLean and Owen Ozar to injury is a big loss for the Smokies, but Tambellini is looking for more from veteran players and hoping rookies seize the opportunity to step up.
“That’s part of the game, some guys are getting an extended look, they are playing minutes they might not if those guys were there. They are going to have a couple weeks left, then were going to have those guys back and it’s going to be a different looking team.”
The Smoke Eaters play Alberni Valley on Friday and Wenatchee on Saturday with the puck drop at 7 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.