Monday, 30 December 2013

Looking to finish 2013 on a high note.

That is what Trail Smoke Eaters head coach Nick Deschenes hopes will happen Monday night when they host the West Kelowna Warriors.

In their final contest of the calendar year, and returning from the nine day Christmas break, his club will look to do something they haven't done since November

Trail has dropped 12 straight games (the second time this season they've lost 10 or more consecutive outings) and sit 26 points back of a playoff spot.

Deschenes has admitted the focus has now shifted to next season, "We're getting close to the end of the year here, we have a two month segment [left], so we're trying to position our older players for opportunities [next year], as well as our younger players [who we want to] kind of put into roles where we can hopefully see them long term."

Deschenes explains they are looking to identify what players will be wearing the orange and black next season.

"The sooner we can start keying in on some players [and] establishing a relationship, it is just going to contribute to a quicker transition into next year."

Trail and West Kelowna have met twice this season, splitting the two previous matches.

The Smokies took the most recent contest, a 5-1 win in West Kelowna on November 2nd - Deschenes second game behind the bench for Trail.

"We need to come out of our shell," said Deschenes after I asked him what his team needs to do to be successful against West Kelowna again. "We need to play more aggressively, with more of an 'attack mentality'. At home or away, we are here now to maximize the next two months and we are here to give a maximum effort."

So the Smokies are not necessarily looking to finish 2013 with a bang, as much as steer the ship in the right direction for 2014(2015).

Coming into Monday's match the Warriors are 20-12-1-2 and with a road record of 10-4-1-2.

They sit one point back the third place Salmon Arm Silverbacks, and nine points behind the division leading Penticton Vees.

Meanwhile, the Smokies are 7-28-2-1 with just 3 wins at Cominco arena this season.

Watch the live broadcast at or listen for free at

Friday, 13 December 2013

A call out from the coach.

Head Coach Nick Deschenes is calling out his veterans.

"We have our youngest players being our best players. [Guys] that haven't even played in the BCHL before are out playing [others] that have been here for three years. Chances of success are not very good when that happens."

This as the orange and black have dropped eight straight games and continue a five game road trip in Vernon Friday night.

Five of those eight contests have finished by one or two goal decisions and Deschenes admits those close outcomes are starting to weigh on their psyche.

"We're trying to do our best to shift our focus a little bit, the past is the past, but with the same have to learn from the past."

In this losing stretch the Smokies were unsuccessful through a three game home stand.

In the case of all three of those games (and like most of the season) Trail just could not string together a full 60 minute effort.

It was the same case Wednesaday night when Trail kicked off their road trip in Penticton against the Vees.

The Smoke Eaters found themselves up 2-0 over the Interior Division's top team, but couldn't hold on and would allow the Vees to score three straight to steal the win.

Deschenes does admit there's a lot of new bodies in the dressing room and there isn't necessarily a lot of chemistry there right now.

"You can't really expect a team gelling [in that short of time], but the compete level, it's kind of scary if its not there. For players, where they wnat to be [and] where they are trying to be...the response is kind of disappointing."

Trail will wrap up the final four games of this road trip in Chilliwack on Saturday December 21st.

Then they will be off for the holiday break until the 30th when they host divisional rivals West Kelowna.

That will be my next broadcast and until then you can the games via the visitor's feed.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

So we meet again...

The Trail Smoke Eaters and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks clash for the sixth time this season Tuesday night.

Trail was only victorious in one of those previous meetings however, and if their luck wasn't hard enough, they are also trying to snap a sixth game losing streak.

Two of the losses in that stretch were at the hands of the Silverbacks, who have been defeated in regulation just three times in their last ten outings.

The'Backs are smack down in the middle of the Interior Division race with 37 points - tied with Merritt - that is only two more than fifth place West Kelowna and six back of second place Vernon.

Yet, S.A is still looking to rebound after losing in to the West K on Sunday.

The Smokies on the other hand are looking to finish a three game home stand with a win.

The two previous matches were one goal decisions that, in all respect, could have gone either way but didn't go Trail's.

Friday saw the Langely Rivermen visit the Silver City - a team that came in having won five of their last six.

Besides the first 30 seconds (that saw a sloppy play in the defensive end somehow get behind Dustin Nikkel) the orange and black competed with the Mainland Division's top team.

Saturday had the Merritt Centennials come into town - a team that has owned Trail at Cominco arena this season.

Through two previous meetings in that building, the Cents outscored the Smokies 11-1.

However, this time around Trail would strike first opening the scoring just over three and half minutes into the game.

They would hold the lead going into the third period but Merritt scored two unanswered in the final frame to steal the win.

"We're working hard but we got to watch out for the mental mistakes, " claimed forward Travis Stephens who had goals in both weekend outings and thinks the team is starting to turn a page, "We're improving as a team. We just need to keep battling in practice and getting better during the week."

Stephens also seems pretty positive about their chances against the 'Backs, "[We just have to] keep working hard [and] play as a team. I think that's a game we can win, they're coming into our barn, and I think it would be a good team game to win."

The club will also be holding their "Toonie Tuesday" promotion when they host the Silverbacks. Kids and students only pay $2 for admission while adults pay $5.

Game time is 7:30, the broadcast will start at 7:20. Watch the game live on or listen for free at

Friday, 6 December 2013

O Captain! My Captain!

The man who wears the "C" for the Trail Smoke Eaters is in a select group of players who started the 2013-2014 schedule with the club and still dawn the orange and black.

Adam Wheeldon has been the leader in the dressing room since the beginning of this tumultuous season and now a much younger, less experienced group will look to guys like him as Trail looks to move forward.

"Well, I just think you need to make sure everyone is focused and has the same mindset which is playing good as team and improving every single game," explained Wheeldon who thinks the changes will help with their goal. "It's not that hard when everyone is buying into it and we're bringing in a lot of guys that want to be here, so I think it'll be good".

The Smokies are heading into a weekend pair at Cominco Arena having dropped their last four outings.

Friday's match kicks off a three game home-stand before Trail spends the majority of December on the road.

After this the Smoke Eaters are only in the Silver City once more in 2013.

"It's always harder going on the road obviously, so every time you are at home you try to win but I think we have been playing really good hockey the last couple of games but they just haven't been going in our favor," claims Wheeldon. "Hopefully we turn it around this weekend."

On top of the busy week Nick Deschenes is coming off, the head coach also decided to release forward Riley Brandt earlier this week.

Brandt - a 16 year old native of Fruitvale -had one goal and six points in 26 games with the orange and black this season.

"Anyone who is of that age [and is], playing at this level [but] not playing in very many key situations...from a development stand-point... you just know if you're not playing you are not getting better," explained Deschenes who says the move was in the best interest of the player.

The coach hopes to work with Brandt in the off-season to get him on a plan to be BCHL ready for next season.

For now, Brandt will return to the Beaver Valley Nite Hawks of the KIJHL where he played 49 games last season.

"I'm excited to be back. The extra month of hockey and [a chance] at the playoffs. Last year was one of the funnest years of my life and I'm excited to join that again," he told me after admitting it was upsetting at first.

Focusing back on the weekend at hand, the Smokies have met the Langley Rivermen just once this season - a 4-3 overtime win in favor of Langley.

That was Friday September 6th at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack - needless to say a much different time for Trail.

They earned three out of a possible for points that weekend and Birk Birks' team stunned an entire league by picking up where they left off at the end of 2012-2013.

Now, where as Trail is at the bottom of the Interior Division,  Langley sits on top of the Mainland Division and holds a solid 10-5-0-1 road record.

There's is more history to season series between the Smokies and Merritt Centennials however.

The divisional foes have clashed three times already this season and Trail has not come out successful once.

They were close in their last meeting, a 5-4 loss in Merritt on October 20th but, in fact the orange and black have been outscored 16-5 by the Centennials.

Now, the title of this blog is taken from an 1865 poem about the death of Abraham Lincoln - but I'm more so aiming at the fact that forward Adam Wheeldon has been the constant through season that has seen a half roster overhaul and a change behind the bench already. 

"Obviously we are [now] going younger. It is the starting to become more of a rebuilding year. It's starting to get good. [Nick] is bringing in new faces which isn't always a bad thing, so we will see how it goes."

Yes we will.

Game times are 7:30PM.

Live broadcast starts at 7:20PM at

Monday, 2 December 2013

Smokies come out of weekend winless and younger.

The Trail Smoke Eaters were zero for three this past weekend.

They were swept in a home and home set with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks that started with a 5-3 loss in Trail Friday and ended in a 3-1 defeat Saturday.

Trail scored a minute and nine seconds into Friday's match but flirted with a one goal lead for too long and the 'Backs came out with a better third period. They opened the scoring at 16:48 and Trail answered back at 13:46.

The visitors then notched a powerplay goal to make it 4-3 just over four minutes later and followed with an empty netter with half a minute left in the game - sealing the deal.

The Smokies were able to find the back of the net in the second period Saturday, but ultimately couldn't generate much else in a 28 shot effort.

Trail then went on to being doubled up 6-3 in Vernon Sunday by a Vipers team that now sits on top of the claustrophobic Interior Division.

That was the fourth straight loss for the orange and black, a team that had almost more transactions in the week leading up than goals scored throughout the weekend.

Its roster has been altered drastically since head coach Nick Deschenes stared behind the bench just over a month ago.

Starting last Wednesday Deschenes' Smokies dealt 18 year old netminder Riley Corbin to the AJHL's Whitecourt Wolverines for future considerations.

Thursday, Trail sent 20 year old blueliner to Chilliwack for 18 year old forward Brandon Volpe and futures.

Friday saw the rights forward Michael Roberts go to Salmon Arm and forward Bryce Knapp shipped to the Cornwall Colts of the CCHL, both deals for future considerations.

And Saturday the Smokies sent 19 year old Valik Chichkin to the Cowichan Valley Capitals for the Ball Brothers, 19 year old Mitch and 18 year old Rylan from Powell River.

During that time, Trail also signed Castlegar native Riley Ostoforoff who started the 2013-2014 season with Alberni Valley after winning a KIJHL championship with his hometown Rebels last season.

They also got Colby Livingston of the KI's Creston Valley Thundercats to put pen to paper and join the orange and black.

When I asked Deschenes if the common theme of all these moves was to get younger he replied, "100%".

Which wasn't really a surprise.

But, I was surprised to the point he made after. "We are getting [guys] that want to play here."

This may not be the last winless weekend we see from the Smokies this season, but Deschenes is working to make sure it is the last effortless one.

Trail brings their four game skid into a pair of games at Cominco arena this coming weekend.

Home games are sparse for the Smokies in the month December as after this weekend they'll already have gone through half.

Puck drop on Friday's match with Langley goes at 7:30PM.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Smokies make more changes/prepare for three in three weekend.

I called head coach Nick Deschenes Thursday morning and asked if I could take two minutes of his time to talk about the upcoming busy weekend.

He admitted he was distracted with everything behind the scenes. Our chat was following Wednesday's announcement that the club had sent 18 year old goaltender Riley Corbin to the AJHL and hours before it was public that 20 year old blueliner Cody Bardock was on his way out of the Silver City and off to Chilliwack.

Friday it came out that forward Bryce Knapp was involved in a transaction with the Cornwall Colts of the CCHL that saw future considerations come back the other way.

Castlegar native Riley Ostoforoff was also signed by the club this week after playing eight games with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs earlier this season.

6' Ostoforoff won't fill the entire 6'5" 215lbs (30lb more than Riley) void that is left by Bardock, but like how many of these moves are influenced, the former Castlegar Rebel brings more youth to the team.

In exchange for Bardock, Chilliwack sent over 17 year old Brandon Volpe.

The former Chiefs player brings only 26 games of BCHL experience to this club and that is spread over the past two seasons.

Take a look at the other transactions made this month by the Smokies and you don't have to have a degree in physics to see the trend.

20 year old Curtis Toneff went to Merritt for 18 year old Dylan Bowen.

The right to Luke Sandler sold to the Surrey Eagles for 18 year old forward Michael Roberts and future considerations.

And forward Brendan Lamont landed in Penticton for future considerations as well.

Tune into Friday's broadcast againt the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, we should have comment in the pregame show from Deschenes regarding all the lineup changes.

But let's shift our focus from the roster to the schedule, as the orange black have a packed one this weekend.

It starts seven days after they came out flat in a 4-1 loss to the Vernon Vipers in Cominco Arena.

That was a bit surprising considering the weekend before that the orange and black were perfect at home.

"It just didn't measure up. At the end of the day we, as a coaching staff, are looking for that compete factor because that's what's going to bring us success,"  explained Deschenes after stating that all 20 guys just didn't show up for the contest against Vernon. "So, that's what we are going to key in on during these weekend games."

This weekend will end a stretch of five games where Trail played either Salmon Arm or Vernon.

"Me personally, I feel comfortable having played these teams already and fairly recently and having done some video work on them. For the most part, the effort and the intensity have to be there...[that's the] minimum...and then we will take the results with that."

Friday and Saturday will be the fifth and sixth times the Smokies and 'Backs face off this season.

"They obviously have a pretty  dangerous first line, so we have to contain them. Their back end is pretty good at moving the puck and they've got good goaltending. For us, it is a simple game. Being smart without the puck and then capitalizing on our opportunities."

That top line is lead by Landon Smith, the BCHL's top scorer heading into the weekend with 20 goals and 22 assists.


Whether these changes Deschenes has made are expected to create short term or long term (or both) results, I can't really say.

If I had to, it looks like long term. However, either way,  by bring in some young blood it may gets rid of some pressure and allows for some potentially exciting hockey.

Broadcast begins 7:20PM for the first half of the home and home with S.A Friday. Watch live on  There's will be no broadcasts for the games in S.A Saturday and Vernon Sunday.

I apologize for the difficulties last week and for not having a mixlr broadcast. I cannot confirm if there will be one this week.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Smokies eye three straight at home.

The Trail Smoke Eaters welcome the Vernon Vipers Friday night in hopes of winning their third straight game at Cominco Arena.

The Smokies were perfect at home last weekend earning wins over Nanaimo and Salmon Arm.

However, the orange and black's record in the Silver City so far this season is still nothing to brag about.

They come into this weekend 3-9-2-0 under their own roof but it feel's that the double overtime win last Saturday was the turning of a page.

When it was all said and done, the hometown crowd were on their feet and the Smokies gave a salute at center ice for the second night in a row.

"It was a great feeling obviously. The crowd seemed like they were into the whole game and for us to win in double overtime, it was awesome," said Captain Adam Wheeldon.

There are a lot of positives for this Trail club right now.

They are coming off back to back wins on home ice for the first time this season.

They are over .500 with Nick Deschenes behind the bench.

Also, Cody Bardock is coming off a BCHL Player of the Week Performance that saw him send two blistering point shots into the top corner of the opponent's net, both goals being game winners.

Wheeldon says with Friday being their only outing of the weekend, it makes it even more important to get the two points.

"One game sets the tone for [all of] next week pretty much. We have no time to redeem ourselves so its a pretty big game and pretty much we [have] to win."

Goaltender Dustin Nikkel agrees with his Captain.

"[Friday's] a huge one. It sets the tone, like Wheels said, for the week and for next weekend too. But I'd say it is also a build off of last week too."

Nikkel has probably the best seat in the house to see how his team is performance night after night, so I asked him what he thinks the biggest difference between the Smokies now to the team three weeks ago.

"I think we are start to trust each other and learn where everyone is one the ice. Before, I think everyone was just kind of confused and new to each other. I think we are just starting to learn our systems a bit more and trust each other to do our jobs."

Even though they are divisional rivals, the Vipes and Smokies have met just once so far this season with a 6-3 decision going in favor of Vernon on their home ice.

It is the second of five consecutive games against Interior foes for Trail, all of which are against either Vernon or Salmon Arm.

The Smoke Eaters will kick off next weekend with a home and home against the Silverbacks that starts in the Silver City.

The series moves to S.A Saturday before the Vipers and Smokies meet in Vernon Sunday.

"Every divisional game is really important because you look at our division and every [other] team in there is neck to neck, so every game is huge," proclaims the Captain.

Friday's game goes at 7:30 at Cominco Arena. If you can't join us watch at or listen for free at Pre-game starts ten minutes before puck drop.

Monday, 18 November 2013

A Perfect Weekend at Cominco Arena

There was plenty of celebration from the hometown fans in Trail this past weekend, as the Smoke Eaters had arguably their best performance on Cominco ice this season.

For the first time in the 2013-2014 campaign the orange and black won back to back games in their own barn.

Friday saw the Smokies halt one of the hotter teams in the league, as they edged Nanaimo 3-2 putting an end to the Clippers three game winning streak and handing them only their second loss in their last seven games.

Talking to assistant coach Craig Clare before Saturday's game he said it was probably the best they looked with the puck in the offensive zone this year.

"I think maybe they are buying into a bit of a system here. We've stressed some structure to our game. Some hard work [and] some little things we need to do to win, " Claire explained after I asked him what he thought the biggest difference between now and they the team that was suck in that 10 game losing streak.

"[We're] doing a little bit of video to [try and] see where our glaring errors [were] during that streak of losses. It's just awareness. Being aware we can get better and I foresee us continuing to improve and hopefully that will result in some more wins."

Trail flirted with two goal leads twice and lost them twice but nonetheless held on and shut down the Clippers' top scorer Sheldon Rempal, who came into the match with 8 goals and 23 points.

The Smokies wouldn't be able to contain the Salmon Arm's, and BCHL's, top point getter the next night though, as forward Landon Smith (38pts before Saturday) scored a pair in a back and forth affair that fortunately ended in their favor, a 3-2 double overtime victory.

For the second night in a row, the game winning goal came off the stick of denseman Cody Bardock.

For the second night in a row, it was a blistering top shelf shot from the point - maybe the major reason he was named BCHL Player of the Week Monday.

"Oh, it was awesome. I haven't been put in an OT situation in a while and just to's awesome. Everyone's happy as you can tell, so its good."

Bardock came over in October from the AJHL's Sherwood Park Crusaders in trade that sent future considerations back the other way.

"It helps when the fans are behind us. That's the loudest I've heard them since I've been here, so I want to thank them," said the 20 year old Lethbridge native.

"I think we got the fans back on our side if they weren't there. It's awesome, we got a lot of confidence [now]," claimed Trail native Scott Davidson who had a goal and an assist in Saturday's victory.

I talked to Davidson in the midst of their lengthy skid this year and he just didn't have the answer.

Now it they've at least found the formula at home and they've gone 3-2-1 with Nick Deschenes behind the bench.

Saturday's nearly 66 minute thriller was the most exciting junior hockey game I've seen this season.

Once again the Smokies were in for a battle against their division rival who came into the contest only two points back of the division lead.

It was a rematch of last Saturday's 3-2 loss in Salmon Arm, and the first of three contests against the Silverbacks in the next four games for the orange and black.

"Well you get a little bit of hatred [going] for them, right? We have seen them early on and we're going to see them in the next couple weeks, so there [will be] no surprises. As a coaching staff we know exactly what to expect," explained Clare amount of times they'll see Salmon Arm this month.

But up next, it will be another division foe, the Vernon Vipers.

The Vipes now sit on top of the Interior division after two weekend wins a total of fifteen points ahead of Trail in the standings.

However, Trail's next four games are all against teams in their own division, and if the group continues with these strong outings - come December the playoff picture could be moving closer from a dream to a reality.

Join us Friday at Cominco arena for the Smokies lone weekend outing.

Vernon Vipers @ Trail Smoke Eaters. Game time is 7:30PM/

Watch online at or listen for free at

Friday, 15 November 2013

The Times They Are a-Changin'

And quickly.

Nick Deschenes' Trail Smoke Eaters made two trades this week.

Forward Brendan Lamont was shipped off to the Penticton Vees for future considerations and defenseman Curtis Toneff is now a member of the Merritt Centennials.

In exchange for Toneff, the top scoring d-man for Trail this season, the Smokies received fellow blueliner Dylan Bowen who brings in 2 goals and 5 points on the campaign.

“Dylan’s a guy we’re confident can handle a significant role with our club,” Deschenes said. “The move also helps us get younger as we go forward."

The new head coach is in his third week with the club who are 1-2-1 with him behind the bench.

"We're full steam ahead with what we are trying to establish here and [we're] trying to get back to competing consistently and
developing players."

Deschenes has hit the ground running.

I also do play-by-play with the BC MML's Kootenay Ice who hosted the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds in Nelson last Saturday and Sunday, the latter of which Deschenes sat in the audience for.

It was one of three games he attended that day. I think it is fair to say Deschenes is revamping this team from all fronts, via trade and recruitment.

He is starting from the beginning. Almost literally.

"I'm kind of throwing everything at them like you would in a camp setting," explained Deschenes. "Not all of it is going to get absorbed and we are going to have to revisit a lot of things but that's persistency - keep drilling home the message until the lights go on."

And why not? Why not start over.

It is pretty much exactly what Deschenes did upon arrival in Grand Forks where he helmed the rebuild of the KIJHL's Border Bruins.

Deschenes came in at the tail end of the 2011/2012 season - one the Border Bruins only earned a single win.

The turnover the next year was immediate as there was only one returning player on the club's roster by the end of the 2012/2013 season.

Just like the people of Grand Forks can now see light at the end of the tunnel, Trail is on the road to redemption.
The doesn't mean the hardship is quite over yet, something Deschenes is fully aware of.

 "The team has gone through some adversity, so [we are] really trying to get everyone in a good head space so that we can move forward. I think that was the biggest hurdle and I think we are slowing starting to overcome that and believe in each other as a group."

The Smokies welcome the Nanaimo Clippers Friday for the second and final meeting this season between the clubs.

Trail left the Harbour City with their tail between their legs on October 27 when the were blanked 5-0 by the Clippers.

They'll now look to return the favor as well as earn only their second win at Cominco Arena this season.

Deschenes says obviously they want to be good on their own stage - but they want to just to be good all the time.
"I always tell the players it doesn't really matter where you are but you have to be your best [all the time] because that's your job. Our preparation doesn't really change [with] where we are."

The Smokies will also welcome division rivals the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Saturday.

You can join me for the broadcast Friday and Saturday at 7:20 (10 minutes before puck drop).

Watch live at or listen live for free at

Friday, 8 November 2013

Smokies look to keep rolling against Spruce Kings

The Trail Smoke Eaters have won the past three meetings with the Prince George Spruce Kings.

The Smokies are unbeaten in their last two outings, earning three out of a possible four points.

It wasn't much of a battle in West Kelowna last Saturday as the Warriors would opened the scoring just over seven minutes into the first periods but the orange and black fought back with five unanswered goals.

This was a night after the Smokies earned only their fourth point (one win, two ties) through a dozen games at Cominco Arena this season.

Arguably their most entertaining home game of the year ended in a 4-4 draw with the Victoria Grizzlies.

The home town crowd was on their feet after the second overtime solved nothing.

When I asked Nick how important it was to get a win during his first weekend behind the bench, he kind of shrugged it off.

He knows this is going to be a "process".

"For me, it is maximizing our opportunities, shift by shift, and as long as we are doing that and I am here to focus on correcting and teaching, [winning] will come as a reflection of that approach I think."

The last time these two met, Trail took a 4-2 victory in Prince George.

Smokies Forward Brendan Lamont had a two goal three game performance in the match.

Since then the Spruce Kings have gone 9-4-1-1 and have earned points in their last six games.

During a chat on MountainFM Friday morning Deschenes recognized PG is second in their division and they are hosting a good team.

In a phone interview the day before he told me, "the focus is going to be inward. It's going to be 'how do we play our game?'. [The game] is in our building and we want to play a certain way. We got that first win on the road and now it wiould be nice to get that first win at home for the fans."

Deschenes said they will be facing some "adversity" in the future and he is still very much trying to get comfortable with his new team after their first full week of practice.

"We [did] some d-zone coverage, we talked about neutral zone and we're really working on our offensive game; so attacking the net, going for rebounds, and then sustained pressure."

Jesse Knowler's five performance last weekend earned him an honorable mention for player of the week.

Knowler is a guy that is expected to be producing every weekend and he performance in the faceoff circle last Saturday in West Kelowna was said to be phenomenal as well.

Two Smoke Eaters netted their first BCHL goal last weekend including blueliner Nate Browne who has only played six games this season due to injury.

Browne was part of the KIJHL's North Okanagan Knights team that made it to the league championship finals with the Castlegar Rebels, with the Rebels taking the best of seven series in five.

The Rebels were actually the same team that also eliminated the Riley Brandt - the other Smokie to notch his first goal in the league - and the Beaver Valley Nite Hawks in the divisional final last year.

Deschenes is even more recently removed from the KI.

A connection that could benefit this Smoke Eater club that has a solid mix of both veteran and rookie players.

Back to the talk with Nick on MountainFM this morning, he said Bill Birks deserves credit for gathering this group in Trail together.

Deschenes sounded excited with the pieces he has - almost as if he could in his head all them falling into place and completing the puzzle,

Monday, 4 November 2013

Nick Deschenes goes unbeaten in first weekend.

The Trail Smoke Eaters took three out of a possible four points in their first two games with Nick Deschenes behind the bench.

The Smokies snapped a 10 game pointless streak Friday in a back and forth dual with the Victoria Grizzlies that ended in a 4-4 tie.

Unlike many games on Cominco Ice this season, the orange and black came out flying and were the first team to find the back of the net.

Jackson Purvis opened the scoring with his first ever BCHL goal after the KIJHL call up had a point shot ricochet off his knee at 11:34 of the first period.

Purvis was playing his second game in a Smoke Eaters' jersey and is no stranger to Deschenes as both were coming from the Grand Forks Border Bruins.

The 5'9" Lethbridge, Alberta native leads all Bruins with 13 goals and 17 points in 30 games this season.

Friday's slug-fest saw the two sides exchanging identical blows throughout the 70 minute contest.

Trail scored. Then Victoria responded. The Smokies netted two consecutively. The Grizzlies answered with a pair of their own.

Trail earned a powerplay marker in the third period but than it was Victoria coming right back on the man advantage just over two minutes later.

Both overtime periods were a series of transitional opportunities coming off big saves by each goaltender, as Trail's Dustin Nikkel and Victoria's Alec Dillion both hovered around the 30 save mark.

The game would finish deadlocked but the hometown fans were on their feet at the end of it all, cheering, clapping, showing their appreciation. They were pleased with the effort they had witnessed - possibly the best they've seen so far this year.

If they liked that they would have loved the way Trail played in West Kelowna the very next night.

The Smokies stormed back after the Warriors scored the first goal 13:21 into the match, netting five unanswered.

Jesse Knowler led the way with two goals and three points, bringing his weekend total to five.

During Friday's broadcast I mentioned, once or twice, how the Smokies could easily build of their effort against Victoria and carry some serious momentum into Saturday's game.

That would be an understatement.

Trail may have allowed the first goal and may have been outshot 47-27, however, they not only came back against (before the game) a team that had the second best record in the league, but they went 2 for 3 on the powerplay and in the last forty minutes were able to shut down the Warriors - the division's first place team.

It isn't necessarily time to celebrate just yet. Both outings are definitely commendable, especially for a team that didn't have many (if any) positives to focus on during a 10 game losing streak, but this is still a team with a lot of work to do.

Trail sits nine points back of the final playoff spot in the Interior division - something that belongs to the Penticton Vees, a team that has played five less hockey games.

Trail also gave up three leads in Friday's game and offered six power plays to their opponents in both weekend outings.

The Smokies are back on home ice Friday when they face off against the Prince George Spruce Kings.

The two clubs have met just once this year, when Trail traveled all the way up to the "Northern Capital" and doubled up the Spruce Kings 4-2.

The Smokies were able to keep their legs fresh after all that time on the bus but they will look to take advantage of a team that has to be on the road for over 12 hours and nearly 1000km.

Friday, 1 November 2013

The Nick Deschenes Era Begins

It won't be easy for Nick Deschenes as his first appearance behind the Trail Smoke Eaters' bench follows the club's tenth straight loss.

Unfortunately for Nick, his arrival in the Silver City is not with much celebration.

Instead, his entire presence is based on the fact that the Smokies are not getting the job done this young season.

It was fifteen games into the season - after their fifth consecutive loss - that Bill Birks was shown the door.

Arguably an unfair exit for one man becomes certainly a tough situation for another.

Now a team that has just 4 wins in their first 20 games and just a single victory on home ice Trail hopes Deschenes - who is jumping up from the Grand Forks Border Bruins of the KIJHL - has an answer.

"I'm not going in there to reinvent the wheel," says Deschenes. That was his response when I asked him if he felt any pressure coming into a team with the current situation.

"Whenever you're in a situation you are spiraling downward, you have to halt and then it is baby steps back."

He says it is a process - one that seemed to turn around a team that was all too familiar with the KIJHL's basement.

Deschenes led the Border Bruins to 6-7-1 before leaving - a record that saw them win three in a row to start the season.

Grand Forks didn't win three games the entire 2011/2012 campaign. The earned just a single victory that year.

However in 2012/2013, Deschenes' first full outing with the team, they went on to win eight.

And they already have six this season.

"Basically he was running a college level program at a Junior B level. The structure that he put in and the team that he was able to know...we are in very good shape here [now]," explains Grand Forks assistant coach and Vice President Matt Zamec.

Zamec says the organization also has a lot of connection in the hockey community now thanks to Nick.

He adds by no means is there any hard feelings between the players and their former coach.

"They're all in this for the same reason. They all want to move up and they see this is Nick's career and this was a step that he felt he had to take and everyone understands that."

Deschenes knows hockey. He's played a lot of it.

Deschenes worked away in the AJHL scoring 85 points for the Fort Saskatchewan Traders in 98-99 and earning a scholarship to the Yale University Bulldogs in NCAA Division 1 hockey. He went onto play in the AHL and ECHL before time overseas.

He hopes his experience can offers lessons to his players who he says will likely have a similar path as him.

"My primary purpose for getting into coaching was to give back to the game and provide the next generation with the opportunities I was fortunate enough to have," Nick admitted. "For me that is always going to be my focus."

"I think I have some strengths in building a team and with getting the players with the right mindset together and developing a team concept not only will we have success as individuals but also as a group."

With all the announcements and changes over the week, the fact of the matter is, Trail doesn't have a win in 10 games.

They host the Victoria Grizzlies Friday night - the first meeting between the two this season after the two sides split the season series last year with both earning a win in their own barn.

They two sides will meet again in Victoria Dec. 20th.

Friday's game gets underway 7:30PM at Cominco Arena.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Trail hits the road for three in three.

Cominco arena will be quiet this weekend as the Trail Smoke Eaters are in action nearly 800km away.

The Smokies play their second straight road match Friday night in Powell River kicking off a busy three days against the league's best Kings.

Trail aims to put an end to their seven game losing streak against a team that has more wins than Trail has points.

Ironically, over this Smoke Eaters slump, one of the best games the Silver City faithful have had was against the Kings.

Talking to Trail forward Bryan Basilico after that Oct.13 loss he said they very much had a chance to win the game that eventually ended in a 3-2 defeat.

The Smoke Eaters are showing shades of last year's squad who seemed to be able to elevate their game against the teams higher in the standings.

However, unfortunately unlike last year's team, the Smokies are not beating those teams but just simply competing.

And competing doesn't necessarily result in wins.

So what do the orange and black have to do to get their first win in the last eight outings.

"Just keep on working hard, [do] the small things right and hopefully in the end we will get some wins," says forward Jesse Knowler.

"Our team has to play a full sixty minutes, be better in our own defensive zone and score more goals."

Over this unsuccessful seven game stretch, the Smokies have only opened the scoring once.

However, to their credit they haven't quit in any of those matches and have showed some applaudable push back when falling behind.

"We have lots of fight in this team," declares Knowler. "We're not going to back down. We can bring positives out of [each] game."

On Saturday, Trail visits the team that last conceded a point to them - The Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

There are few teams in the BCHL that are experiencing more struggles than the Trail Smoke Eaters, however Alberni Valley is one of them.

The Bulldogs are coming off only their second win of the campaign and have only amassed seven points so far.

Then on Sunday, Trail heads to Nanaimo to face a Clippers squad who could have come into this weekend winners of three of their last five if it weren't an overtime loss to the Bulldogs on Wednesday.

Now, I have never been paid for my opinion, nor would I ever expect money for my two cents, but how the Smokies start things off in Powell River is crucial to the amount of success the team sees this weekend.

A win over the BCHL's best, could go a long way in creating momentum through these matchups against Island Division opponents.

And a long way to putting building blocks in place to their return home next Friday.

 With Cominco able to get some peace and quiet this weekend hopefully it can rest up after a rough start to the 2013-14 season.

Hopefully the Smokies can take this road trip to recovery, return home back in the win column, and maybe their own barn might begin to be a bit nicer to them.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Unlucky number 7.

It's seven straight losses for the Smokies after falling 5-4 to the Merritt Centennials Sunday afternoon.

Jake Lucchini and Tyler Lamont scored 53 second apart in the second period to set up a wild final frame.

Merritt Centennials at 7:17 Scott Patterson from Sebastien Pare and Jeff Wight
Trail Smoke Eaters at 8:05 (PP) Bryce Knapp from Cody Bardock and Valik Chichkin
Merritt Centennials at 11:34 Scott Patterson from Wayland Williams and Devin Oakes
Merritt Centennials at 13:03 Zach Hartley (unassisted)
Trail Smoke Eaters at 18:48 Travis Stephens from Adam Wheeldon and Jesse Knowler

It doesn't get much more back and forth than that.

It's an unfortunate outcome for Trail though, a team that has won twice in Merritt this year including the preseason.

It's a blow that now puts nine points between the orange and black and the fourth place Centennials in the standings and therefor a playoff spot.

Team President Tom Gawryletz has made that clear that is what he and the Board of Directors expect, a birth in the postseason.

Still what really isn't clear is why the team has dropped seven straight.

Goaltender Dustin Nikkell's 3-8-1 record does not reflect his play at all this season.

He's been arguably the best Smokie player so far this campaign, and made another 30 + save effort Sunday.

On a night to night basis Nikkell has given his team a chance to win.

Sunday also saw four players find the back of the net for Trail which is a positive for a team that has only five members with more than three goals and collectively have let 33 more goals against then they have put forward.

Brendan Lamont scored for the first time since Sept 21, Travis Stephens continued to prove he is one of the top forwards on the team moving his point total to 11 and newcomer Cody Bardock appeared on the score sheet in his first game as a Smoke Eater.

Bardock came over from the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Sherwood Park Crusader's for future considerations.

The 6'5" 20 year old had 1 goal and 7 points in twleve games with the Crusaders this season.

The weekend also saw the Smokies move blueliner Braeden Jones to the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League also for future considerations.

I'm getting side tracked.

It seems this club is right on the door step and just needs to find a way to open the door so they can finally join the party.

Whether they are going to keep knocking until someone just eventually lets them in for a bit or they just kick it down crash the shindig has yet to be seen.

Maybe it's a matter of finding the key (to their success) that will open that door.

However, for now the Smokies are right on the doorstep but they are on the outside looking in at all the fun.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Smoke Eaters Press On

The post-Bill Birks era starts Friday night in Trail when the Smoke Eaters play host to the Coquitlam Express.

This after Trail lost their fifth straight game Tuesday night that evidently became the tipping point for change.

"This is strictly a business decision" explained team President Tom Gawryletz about the Board of Director's decision to relieve Birks of his duties just 15 games into the season. "Bill and I have had a good relationship over the three and a half years he has been [here]. This hockey club has missed the playoffs the last two seasons [and] it's imperative to us to get into the postseason and when it is all said and done, friendship aside, you have to win".

"I agree it is very early, but we had great expectations going into the season."

And apparently so far those expectations have not been met with The Smokies' 4-9-1-1 record and their single win at Cominco Arena this season.

The team dropped three straight at home, being out scored 17-1 in the period, after a promising outing at the season opening BCHL showcase where they earned 3 out of a possible 4 points.

Gawryletz referred to the home-stand as "embarrassing".

Its been a bit tumultuous since then. Trail has just a single point in their last seven outings but last Sunday's match against the league's best Powell River Kings (10-1-0-1) serves as a good case study.

Heading into the game nine points separated the two clubs in the standings, but Trail pushed Powell River to the limit in a 3-2 loss.

It was a great effort that saw them fight back from a two goal deficit using power plays and hard work to create scoring opportunities.

Bursts of brilliant play that shows Trail can in fact play the elite in this league.

However, that unsuccessful sixty minutes against the Kings sat between two games where the Smokies allowed five goals in each third period.

It is the perfect example of arguably the orange and black's biggest problem so far this season, playing mistake-free-hockey for a full sixty minutes.

"They are a better hockey club than they have shown as far as I'm concerned. I'm not sure what the problem is,".

Gawryletz says a large part in the change behind the bench is the product on the ice.  "The old saying, 'It is a lot easier to fire one guy than 22 guys and I think they have to look in the mirror and realize they need to start [producing].'"

This is echoed by Captain Adam Wheeldon after I ask him if he expects more from the team.
"Yeah definitely. I wasn't on Bill. Us, as players, need to get going and do what we are suppose to be doing out there.

Wheeldon admitted he was surprised Birks was let go. "I didn't expect that to happen but we still have to [keep] moving forward with the season and keep our heads up."

Move on they must.

Coquitlam is coming off a 5-4 loss to Surrey Wednesday night, their first regulation defeat of the campaign.

They currently sit second in the Mainland division, three points behind the Langley Riverman.

Express forward Adam Rockwood is the BCHL's scoring leader with 4 goals and 23 points in 13 outings this season.

It's going to be a good test for this unstable Smoke Eaters team and Wheeldon says they have to pick up their game.

"We've been struggling lately and it is just not acceptable. We have to be better,".

We are just over 25% through the season with 43 games remaining for Trail and let's face it...that's a lot of hockey.

So we move into Chapter Two of the Trail Smoke Eaters' 2013-2014 season. The scene has been set and wouldn't it be poetic if the orange and black could rebound and snap a seven game winless streak on home ice, somewhere they haven't found much luck recently.

Surely that would keep people reading.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Smokies visit red hot Vipers having dropped four straight.

The orange and black will have their hands full in Vernon Tuesday night, as they Vipers are unbeaten in their last three.

If that wasn't daunting enough, Trail is winless in their last six with just a tie in that stretch.

However, they might find solace in the fact that five of their next six outings are on the road.

Intentionally or not, it seems the Smokies prefer to be away from Cominco Arena this year as three of their four wins have been outside the Silver City.

Nonetheless, home or away, the bottom line is the Trail Smoke Eaters need to find a way to win.

"We're kind of in a hole here and we're trying to dig our way out, but game by game we are getting better." Forward Bryan Basilico said after Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Powell River Kings.

The defeat - Trail's second of the weekend - could have easily gone the other way as the Smokies held their own with the league's best Kings (10-1-0-1) to the bitter end.

"We were definitely putting a lot pressure on them there, [but] we have to play the full sixty minutes like [we did at the end] and keep playing the body and put it all on them." explained Basilico who netted both of his team's goals.

The Smokies - once again - found themselves down early Sunday and went into the second period behind by a pair of goals. The beginning of period two saw a club that was as different as night and day from the Trail team that took the ice in the opening frame. The energy. The speed. Whatever head coach Bill Birks said to his team during the first intermission, it seemed to work.

What also acted as a spark to Trail's come-from-behind effort in the 2nd was a hit from behind on forward Dylan Mascarin that sent the orange and black on their first powerplay of the contest. Mascarin was visibly shaken up from the hit and not only slow to get to his feet but unstable once up on them. He would later leave the game (and afterwards tell me he doesn't remember much leading up to the play). It was clear to his teammates that they couldn't waste the man advantage opportunity presented to them, and they didn't.

"The puck just came out and I happened to be there just worked out," said the 6'3" 200lb Basilico whose big frame could be parked in front of the net on the powerplay a lot this season.

That half of special teams has been a bright light in a rather dark start for the Smokies as their 23.31% is good enough for fourth in the league - having scored 13 times with the extra attacker.

Unfortunately though, it is not so much what the Trail is doing, but it is what they aren't doing. They've struggled to string a full sixty minute effort together this season and their defensive zone coverage is offering way too many opportunity to their opponents.

So, with a road heavy schedule to finish the month of October hopefully Trail can build off the early season success they've found away from Cominco Arena but in away that enables them to come home and give their fans what they have not seen a lot of this season: winning.

Sunday's game was a perfect example that the team is talented enough to play with the BCHL's best. The group has it in them to not only come back when down but rally around a hurt teammate put their emotion to positive use. There is still a lot of hockey left in the season and Trail is hardly out of the playoff picture yet.

Good luck boys.

Chris Wahl will be calling Tuesday's game in Vernon. You can watch the pay per view at or listen for free at

Monday, 7 October 2013

Smokies can't crack the code at Cominco Arena.

The struggles continue for the Trail Smoke Eaters in their own barn after another winless weekend on home ice.

The Orange and Black were able to manage only a single point from two outings in the Silver City this past weekend,  which is getting to a stage just isn't good enough.

Trail now sits 1-5-1 when playing host this season, being outscored 33-11 in the process.

"I don't know. I mean, before the game and [during] the intermissions the guys seem focused and into it [but] then we're just flat. There's nothing to really explain it right now, we're trying to figure it out," replied forward Scott Davidson after I asked him if he could give a reason for the troubles they've experience at home early on.

The Smokies didn't get much right in a 6-1 loss to the Merritt Centennials Saturday, preceded by a 3-3 draw with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Friday. The latter saw Trail fall behind 2-0 in the first period and then let a 3-2 lead get away from them in second frame. The match against Merritt saw Trail outshot 37-17.

"We just didn't really show up. The guys work ethic wasn't really there and [we] just kind of struggled," explained Davidson - who was still in full uniform - following Saturday's game.

Head coach Bill Birks had the doors closed for a considerably lengthy post game chat with his team. When they opened, Birks emerged clearly, and understandably, upset and every played was still dressed in their equipment. It seemed like they were staying that way for a while.

When I asked Birks why the group did not appear to be taking off their gear, he said he didn't know yet. However, my guess was even though the Smokies just finished 120 minutes on Cominco ice over the weekend, Trail's bench boss wasn't done seeing his team skate.

Saturday's loss was the second time this season Merritt has come into Trail and won by five goals. The first was 5-0 shutout. The Smokies will meet the Cents again on Oct.20th in the Nicola Valley but they won't have a chance to seek revenge on home ice til Dec 7th.

Looking ahead, four of Trail's next six games are against divisional opponents as they look to get out of this hole they've dug themselves - which happens to land them at the bottom of the standings right now.

"Yeah they're huge," explained Davidson. "We just need to get a good week of practice here and we've talked about how we ended up a bit of slump [earlier] and how these [upcoming] games are huge and next Sunday we could be feeling on top of the world again."

Here's hoping.

The Smokies are on the road Thursday to kick off a home and home with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. We will not have a broadcast on our behalf that game but you can tune into the Salmon Arm's call on,

The second half of the set will be held in the Silver City Friday and the Smokies will try not to make turkeys out of Powell River when they host the Kings on Thanksgiving Sunday.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Another pair on home ice this weekend for the Orange and Black.

The Smokies welcome the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for the first and only time this season Friday night.

Trail returns to Cominco Arena after coming off a split in their own barn last weekend that saw a 3-2 win against Cowichan Valley Friday followed by a 5-3 defeat to West Kelowna the next night.

The Silver City club competed in both games and Defenceman Braeden Pears thinks they worked hard and deserved better a better outcome in the latter outing.

"I don't think we need [to make] any changes necessarily. Just keep picking it up and getting better from here."

Pears says there are little things they will continue to work on, such as better coverage in the defensive zone, but thinks if they tighten up their game they'll be fine. "We have a good team," he declared.

Those thoughts were echoed by newcomer Dylan Mascarin. The 6'0" forward from Thunder Bay, Ontario made his Smoke Eater debut last weekend netting one assist.

"[We] definitely need to stay out of the box" replied Mascarin after I asked him if there was anything he thought the group could change from his first weekend in a Trail uniform. The Smokes had 17 trips to the sin bin - 10 of those coming in Friday's match.

Besides that though, Mascarin - who split last season in the SIJHL and the CCHL - agrees there needs to be a bit more focus on the back end.

"Getting out of our zone a little quicker. You know, making that first pass and getting [it] in deep."

Dylan was one of two players that debuted with Trail last weekend and one of three new faces in the dressing room.

The other new player in the line up for the Smokies last weekend was forward Bryan Basilico who comes from the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL.

"It feels good [to be here]. It's a little different, definitely getting used to it but starting to gel with the guys."

Basilico says he wants to play a power foward role and the 6'3" 200lb Macomb, Michigan native didn't take too long heading towards that goal, dropping the gloves in his first game wearing the orange and black.

Those two forward are joined by blueliner Sean Davies who Trail acquired via trade with the AJHL's Whitecourt Wolverines. The transaction saw forward Brodyn Nielsen go the other way.

All three should be in the lineup for Trail this weekend. The first of two matches is against a Bulldogs team that is coming off their first win of the season after losing seven straight.

In their nine games so far, the Bulldogs have had 22 more goals scored against them than they have netted on their opposition.

Looking ahead to Saturday's match against the Merritt Centennials - it will be the third time this season the two clubs have met.

The last encounter was in Merritt when the Smokies closed a home and home set with a 3-2 win.

However, the previous time these two met on Cominco Ice, it was a 5-0 decision in favor of the Cents.

Trail starts the weekend three points back of the top spot in the division with Salmon Arm, West Kelowna and Penticton all ahead of the Smokies in the standings.

All three teams have at least two games this weekend - West Kelowna has a third Sunday.

However, Salmon Arm and Penticton clash Friday - giving the Smokies an opportunity to make ground in the division standings.

Puck drops is at 7:30 for both games at Cominco Arena this weekend. If you can't join us you can catch the pay per view at or listen for free at

Friday, 27 September 2013

Alright, let's try this again! Smokies return home looking for third straight win.

The tone in Trail forward Tyson Witala's voice was as if he was talking about a completely different team than the one he is with now.

Is there is a difference with the morale in the Smokies' dressing room heading into this weekend compared to last weekend?

"Yeah for sure. [It] got down to a pretty [big] low after that home stand but after two big wins on the road that confidence is back up and we're just going to try to come back and get a win at home."

That first home stand of the season, as if you forgot, saw Trail drop three straight and be outscored 17-1. Only adding to how “big” those road wins really were.

The Orange and Black spent nearly 25 hours on a bus last weekend with stops in Merritt and Prince George.

A 3-2 win over Merritt Friday would redeem a home and home series and build momentum for the Smokies 4-2 victory against the Spruce Kings the next night.

Now the key for the club is to carry
 that momentum back to Cominco Arena this weekend.

They host Cowichan Valley Friday before West Kelowna Saturday and are still after their first victory in Trail this campaign.

“It’s huge. The fans want to see us win and we want to win in front of them,” said Witala after I asked him how important it is that they bring that success they saw on the road and at the Showcase back to their own barn.

But how to do it? Its an interesting situation. How do you replicate the same results at home as you did during a 72 hour road trip, with one third of those hours spent in a bus?

This young season has had its fair share of lessons for the Smokies already. A solid performance on the major stage that is the Bauer BCHL Showcase, that created whispers across the league about a team to be watched. A homecoming that saw a club fall flat on their face, but then pick themselves up.

"I think it was just one of those slumps that you go through in a season and it just happened to be the first weekend at home. "

Talking to other Smoke Eaters like Brendan Lamont, Scott Davidson and Captain Adam Wheeldon, they all seem quite confident this team can be successful. And Witala, who had two assists in Saturday's win, echoed the attitude of his teammates – just don’t hit the panic switch yet.

"It kind of blows it up a little bit more when you’re at home for the first time but we were able to get back [to] winning, so we just have to bring it back home again."

The Cowichan Valley Capitals will be hungry to come into the Silver City and beat the Smokies after losing 6-2 to Trail at the opening weekend festivies in Chilliwack just three weeks ago. Tyson Witala says they know what they need to do to avoid that.

"Play how we did last weekend on the road. [We] can't be too fancy but just play simple [hockey].

I asked Tyson how important it was to get quick starts this weekend?

"We got the first goal against Prince George and [we weren't] on our heels right away [to] start the game."

As the Smokies are looking for the second straight win this season against the Caps, Saturday will be their first meeting with division rivals the West Kelowna Warriors.

The Warriors edged the Orange and Black 4-3 in the season series last year.

Puck drops goes 7:30 both nights at Cominco Arena. If you can't join us you can catch the pay per view live at or listen for free at

Friday, 20 September 2013

Smokies hit the road looking to leave woes behind.

The Trail Smoke Eaters have a two game road trip this weekend as they look to shake off an early season slump.

The Smokies wrap up a home and home in Merritt Friday night - a chance for revenge against the Centennials.

Merritt blanked Trail 5-0 Tuesday night - the Smokies' third straight loss on Cominco Ice.

Things seemed to get away from Trail during their three game home stand after things seemed to go so right at the BCHL showcase the week prior.

The Smokies were outscored 17-1 in those three games - the only goal coming in the first outing last Friday night.

That's back to back games Trail couldn't find the back of the net.

I asked forward Scott Davidson what the feeling in the dressing is currently like?

"Kind of low. [We're] kind of feeling down a bit. We've ran into a little break down but everyone is positive about this weekend though because we know if we take these two games it will turn things around for us." 

The Smoke Eaters are in Prince George Saturday night for a date with the Spruce Kings.

Davidson says they aren't necessarily focusing on their struggle to score goals and feels if they keep sending pucks towards the net, eventually something will go in/

He is more concerned with the teams work ethic.

"Basically our heart. [We need] guys selling out and back checking and doing the little things right."

You can watch the pay per view of the game at or listen for free at

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Smokies come out winless after three game homestand.

The Trail Smoke Eaters are at a loss of words after being outscored 17-1 in three straight games at Cominco Arena.

"We're in a bit of a slump right now. [The] boys are trying to look to find the answer. We're working hard [but] the goals are just not coming. We're going to work hard in practice to get things going because we need to take a step in the right direction," said Defenceman Braeden Pears after their third straight loss.

The tragic trio of games on home ice was capped off Tuesday night with a 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Merritt Centennials.

It was the second game in a row Trail was shutout following 7-0 and 5-1 losses to the Penticton Vees over the weekend.
Pears - who wears an "A" is in his second season with the orange and black - says this is just not acceptable.

The Smokies look to regroup on the road as they  finish off the second half of the home and home set Friday in Merritt.

They'll then visit the Spruce Kings of Prince George Saturday.

wouldn't say hitting the road and getting away from Trail was good for the team but did say just getting back on the ice right away is.

"A game again and a quick turn around. Hopefully we can turn [things} around and get our season going in the right direction again."

Trail won 2-1 in Merritt during the preseason and will look to build off that in an arena that is know to be difficult to play at.

The Smokies then aim to take the only match with the Spruce Kings they have this season.

The Kings are also struggling, with just one win in their four outings so far this season.

Chris Wahl will calls the games on the road. You can watch at or listen live at

If you want to listen to my entire interview with Braeden Pears click here.  

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Smokies kick off home and home with Merritt after rough weekend.

The Trail Smoke Eaters are looking for something, anything, positive Tuesday night as they finish off a three game homestand against the Merritt Centennials.

Head Coach Bill Birks was pressed to find anything close to it after a pair of home games against the Penticton Vees this past weekend.

“I don't know, can you find any?” he said after I asked him if there was anything he thought the team could build on from the pair of matchups.

The Smokies only found the back of the net late in Friday’s 5-1 loss Friday and were completely neutralized in a 7-0 shutout the next night.

Besides the opening ceremony at the beginning of Friday’s game, fans in Cominco Arena didn't have much to cheer about during the homecoming weekend. 

Smokies Captain Adam Wheeldon says they just weren't ready going into the weekend double date.

“I would say maybe [we lacked] preparation. I don't think we were prepared to play those two games [against] Penticton. But that's going to change Tuesday.”

This is surprising because of the great performance the orange and black had at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack a week ago where they took 3 out of 4 points in games against Langley and Cowichan Valley.

“I don't get how we played five real good periods down on the coast and then come back a week later and play, I don't know even think we had five good shifts all weekend.” said a not-so-pleased Birks Saturday night following the game.

Tonight’s match, which kicks off a home and home with the Cents, could help the Smokies put some space in the standings between the them and Merritt as Trail works towards a meeting with other divisional rivals the West Kelowna Warriors at the end of the month.

“It's a [divisional] game and these games at the beginning of the season are big ones. These games are why we didn't make the playoffs last year.” said Wheeldon.

Wheeldon says they know they can play better and they'll be coming out of the gates flying on Tuesday.

They'll have to coming out flying - the Smokies lost the season series 5-2 to the Centennials last year, and win a meeting until Dec.18th.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Welcome Home!

It's homecoming for the Trail Smoke Eaters as they welcome the Penticton Vees Friday night.

The club is returning to Cominco Arena after a solid showing at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack last weekend.

The Smokies were narrowly defeated in their first outing of the event - falling 4-3 in overtime to the Langley Riverman.

They returned in their second contest to walk over the Cowichan Valley Capitals 6-2.

They'll be looking to recall that Cominco magic they had last year - winning eight of their first eleven games in their own barn.

Netminder Adam Todd says they are looking forward to playing on their own pad again."I think [they guys] are really excited to show the fans that I think going forward we do have a really strong team and we will put on an exciting show for the fans [during] the season."

Todd was a member of last year's team who narrowly missed the playoffs by just four points after a bumpy start and he says the returning players don't want to experience that again. "You know we didn't want that feeling sitting in our stomachs when we're battling down the stretch [for] that final playoff spot so we kind of made it a point to come out strong at the start of the season and get as many points as we can at the beginning."

The Smokies saw success against the Vees during the 2012-2013 campaign - taking the season series 4-3 and winning four of the last five meetings.

The two clubs played their final three regular season games against each other as Trail was looking to earn the Interior Division's final playoff spot.

Trail impressed the entire league with their efforts through February and the beginning of March, being the second hottest team in the province.

They'll look to take all those positives and build off them as they hit Cominco Ice for the first time this regular season.

Puck drops 7:30PM Friday and Saturday night for the pair of weekend games against the Vees.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Smokies nearly perfect at BCHL Showcase.

The Trail Smoke Eaters earned three out of a possible four points at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack this past weekend.

Trail kicked off the event with a back and forth affair against the Langley Rivermen on Friday. The contest saw seven lead changes.

The Smokies opened the scoring just over six minutes into the game, with a goal off the stick of forward Jesse Knowler. However, the orange and black found themselves down 3-2 halfway through the third period until Jake Kaupilla netted his first ever BCHL goal on the power play with 2:09 left in regulation.

The game would need extra time, but not much, as Langley Captain Mitch McLain would end the game 22 seconds into OT with a power play goal.

“It took us a bit to get into it. The rink was hot [and] it was a little foggy on the ice and it was a long day on the road [to get there]." said Smokies head coach Bill Birks. The bench boss went on to say the effort "gave ourselves some confidence that we can play with anybody. I was pretty happy with the point. [I was a] little upset we didn't get two but a point is a point and it was huge."

The Smokies would take any frustration from that game out on the Cowichan Valley Capitals Sunday afternoon in a 6-2 decision.

The Caps needed just 19 seconds to find the back of the net, however Trail newcomer Brendan Lamont answered with a pair in the first period to put the Smokies in control.

"[Their first goal] was a little bit of a wake up call for us but after that we dominated the rest of the game for sure. We got better every period." says Birks.

With the win the Smoke Eaters get a taste of revenge after last year's 8-1 loss to Cowichan Valley at the BCHL showcase.

Birks went on to say that the play of both his goaltenders stood out to him and that allowed other pieces to fall into place.

"Both [Adam] Todd and [Dustin] Nikkel played unreal. They gave [us] a lot of confidence. There wasn't a bad goal let in all weekend. Our goals against was down, our power play was clicking both nights and our penalty kill was really both nights."

He is confident coming home for the season's first match at Cominco Arena Friday against the Penticton Vees.

"We're going to be a team to be reckon with that's for sure.  We're pretty deep we had four lines rolling all night and everyone played top notch. There are some guys talking down here that Trail is going to make some noise, so it's a good feeling!"

Friday, 6 September 2013

Here we go!

It’s what we’ve been waiting for since Sunday April 21st …ok maybe Monday the 22nd.

Here we are at the beginning of another BCHL hockey season.

All 16 teams gather in Chilliwack this weekend for the second annual BCHL Showcase.

The Smokies are looking to fare better than last year's showing in Victoria.
They dropped both outings - being outscored 12-2.

Their first match this weekend will be against the Langley Rivermen on Friday night.
Trail won each of the two meetings with Langley last season, including an overtime finish on home ice.
The orange and black will have the day off Saturday before wrapping up the Showcase Sunday against the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
With the entire league watching, this is a chance for redemption after the Smokies were shut down 8-1 by the Caps in their opening game of last year’s Showcase.
The two sides went on to split the following two meetings last season.
Trail head coach Bill Birks says that it is very important for his team to see some success in these two games.
"[We got to] start where we finished off last year. We were the second best team in the league from Christmas on. We got to come out and have that desperation we had from Christmas on."
After getting erased from the playoff picture during the last weekend of the regular season, Birks says his returning guys haven't forgotten that feeling and that they'll have to work hard to avoid putting themselves in that position again.
"We're a hard working group. We got some skill. We got a little bit of everything. Everyone's played in the league before [and] they know what to expect. It's hard work and perseverance - hopefully we come out on a good end of it."

Trail hits the ice 7PM Friday night at and 2:30PM Sunday.

Their home opener goes 7:30PM Friday September 13th at Cominco Arena against the Penticton Vees.