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.