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.