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- The Vees are looking for their seventh straight win against the Trail Smoke Eaters, and it would be the first time the Vees would sweep a season series against Trail under Fred Harbinson. In fact, going as far back as 2003-2004, the Vees have never won every game in a season series against Trail in the last 10 years.
- The Vees can move one step closer in solidifying their playoff picture with a win tonight. Yes, they’ve already clinched a playoff spot, and with a win tonight they can clinch at least second in the Interior. The Vees would have 74 points if they would win and even if Vernon wins, the best they could do is tie the Vees on points; Penticton owns the tie-breaker.
- How good have the Vees been at home against Trail over the years? Well, they’re 21-2-0-1 at Memorial Arena / SOEC versus Trail since 2007-2008. The Vees are 9-0-0-1 in their last 10 games at the SOEC versus the Smokies. Trail’s last regulation win in Penticton came back on February 4th, 2011; a 6-0 victory.
- To the line-up, the Vees welcome back Erik Benoit, who sat out Tuesday’s game after battling the flu. Travis Blanleil is still out, recovering from a lower-body injury picked up last Saturday versus Victoria. It will be Cam Amantea or Josh Blanchard taking Blanleil’s spot in the line-up.
- Hunter Miska gets the call between the pipes, and has won three of his last four starts heading into this one. Miska is 4-0-0 against the Smokies, while sporting a 1.75 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. Miska is 17-7-2-4 with a 2.31 goals-against average, while maintaining a .913 save percentage in 31 games this season.
- Tonight has “trap game” written all over it, given how the Vees schedule sets up this week. Tuesday was a first place showdown with the West Kelowna Warriors, tomorrow it’s a date with long-time rival Vernon. Sandwiched in the middle is a date with the last place team in the BCHL, one that only has nine wins. But, the Vees have been pushed by the Smokies this season, two of the six games thus far have been decided by one goal. The Smokies are playing for pride, playing for jobs, and they want to show their coaching staff they can play at this level. The Vees will have to weary of a team that will be playing without any pressure or expectations. They’ll be coming hard at Penticton.
- Mike Babcock had a great quote before Canada’s opening game against Norway at the Olympics. Babcock said, “If you respect your opponent, you respect yourself.” If the Vees overlook the Smokies, they’ll only be cheating themselves. They can’t start having bad habits creep into their game and start taking shortcuts, especially going into tomorrow’s clash with Vernon. They need to treat tonight like they would if it was West Kelowna or Vernon coming to town.
- Brad McClure sure likes playing Trail, the Vees Captain leads the team in scoring against the Smokies, with four goals and 10 points in six games. He had a five-point game back on February 5th when these two last met. McClure is just two goals away from the 40 goal plateau and would be just the second player in the BCHL to hit 40. He’s got four games to do it, but considering the way he plays against Trail, can he get there tonight?
- With Benoit back, he will finally get to center the new-look first line. Benoit, along with Steen Cooper and Brad McClure were suppose to make their debut Tuesday but they’ll get their chance tonight. Cam Amantea filled-in admirably on that line on Tuesday, as those three played well together. But Cooper will go back onto the wing, where he’s looked good this season and they get Benoit’s experience back down the middle.
- Another player to keep eyes on is Nic Pierog, who excelled on the wing on Tuesday, moving over from center. Playing down the middle has a lot of responsibilities associated with it, one being the simple fact of covering a lot of ice. Pierog seemed to be a bit more energized on the right-wing Tuesday and it showed with his two-goal effort.
- Lastly but certainly not least, it’s a big night for the Vees organization, as they are donating 50 percent of walk-up sales to team chaplain Jamie Weberg and his family, as he battles cancer. Please, lets pack the SOEC tonight and raise a lot of money for a great man.
Vees Scoring vs. Trail:
McClure 4-6-10 Dalpe 4-0-4 Hilderman 0-2-2 Amantea 0-1-1
Coatta 3-4-7 Serratore 2-1-3 Rygus 0-2-2 Blanleil 0-1-1
Ramsey 2-5-7 Cooper 1-2-3 Stoykewych 0-2-2
Benoit 2-4-6 McColgan 1-2-3 Blanchard 1-0-1
Beauvais 2-3-5 Coulombe 0-3-3 Pierog 1-0-1
DePourcq 1-4-5 Sexton 2-0-2 Alferd 0-1-1
Smoke Eaters Notes:
- Trail’s struggles have been well documented this season. They got off to a slow start, relieved Head Coach Bill Birks, and replaced him with Nic Deschenes but the losses continue to pile up. Trail Has just nine wins and are pace to finish with their second-worst record in franchise history. Trail Has 24 points with four games remaining on their schedule. Their worst finish came during the 1999-2000 season, where they posted an 8-47-0-5 record in 60 games and finished with 21 points.
- They have lost 10 straight and their last win was back on January 17th, when they beat the Surrey Eagles 5-3 in Surrey. Nine of their last 10 losses have come in regulation, including a 7-3 setback against Vernon on February 12th; the last time they played. I’m not trying to pile on the Smokies, these are young kids chasing a dream of playing Jr. ‘A’ hockey. They’re trying. The results are just not there.
- They at least have youth on their side, as they don’t have one positional player over the age of 19 and have 15 players on their roster 18-years-old or younger. These kids are auditioning for next year and playing for pride. No one likes to lose, but the one concern I have, is if losing is becoming accepted? When you go through rebuilding phases, losses can pile up and the worry is a losing culture develops as a result; players get accustomed to losing. From what I’ve seen, this team puts out an honest effort but just doesn’t have the depth or experience to turn that into wins. For Trail’s sake, you hope these kids, the ones that will be coming back, will not be disenchanted but the results this year.
- The Smokies will push the Vees right to the bitter end and they have some weapons that can hurt you. Their top line of Bryan Basilico, Jesse Knowler and Scott Davidson have combined for six goals and 14 points in the last three games. They were a handful on February 5th and the Vees will have to be weary of those three.
- Basilico (3-3-6) and Davidson (5-1-6) are riding four-game point streaks and Knowler has four assists in three games since returning from a lengthy absence.
Scoring vs. Penticton:
Bowen 1-1-2 Wheeldon 1-0-1
Davidson 1-1-2 Cross 0-1-1
Mascarin 1-1-2 Lucchini 0-1-1
Schartz 0-2-2 Basilico 1-0-1