Venue: South Okanagan Events Centre
Game Time: 7pm
Listen: EZ Rock AM 800
Season Series: Sep 26th 3-1 Vees, Nov 1st 6-2 Vees, Dec 3rd at Vees, Jan 17th at Smokies, Jan 30th at Vees, Jan 31st at Smokies, Feb 14th at Smokies.
Vees Home Record: 11-2-0-0
Vees Record vs. Interior Division: 13-3-0-0
Vees Leading Scorer: Riley Alferd 17-16-33
Smoke Eaters Road Record: 4-7-0-1
Smoke Eaters Record vs. Interior Division: 3-7-0-0
Smoke Eaters Leading Scorer: Charlie Zuccarini 16-14-30
The Penticton Vees and the Trail Smoke Eaters meet for the third time this season and second at the SOEC. These two teams last met on November 1st, where the Vees cruised to a 6-2 win at home.
That was 32 days ago and since then the Vees have compiled a 7-3-0-1 record in their last 11 games. They’re coming off a 4-3 loss last Saturday against the West Kelowna Warriors at the SOEC, a game in which the Warriors rallied from 2-0 down to stun the Vees in the third period; just the second home ice loss for Penticton.
Trail has had its share of up’s and down’s in the last month posting a 4-6-0-1 record since last playing Penticton. The Smokies did rattle off three straight wins from November 14th-22nd but have just one win in their last four games.
The Vees still hold a 12 point lead atop of the Interior Division coming into Wednesday’s action, as the second place Vernon Vipers are idle tonight but have two games in hand and host Penticton on Friday. Trail has played the fewest games out of any team in the Interior Division, as tonight will be just their twenty-sixth game of the season but they do have a busy December, playing 10 games in 27 days starting tonight.
The Vees have only lost back-to-back games once this season but one of those two losses came in overtime. Though they haven’t done it a lot, the Vees know how to bounce back from a loss, as they’re 2-1 this season after losing the game prior. They’re also very good against their own division, sporting a 13-3 record against the Interior. Trail’s hovering around the 500 mark and maybe their struggles within the division are a reason why. Coming into tonight’s game the Smokies are just 3-7-0-0 against Interior teams; their third win coming last Friday against West Kelowna.
The Vees will be missing Matt Serratore, as the veteran forward will be going home to Bemidji, Minnesota to rest and then start rehabilitating his broken ankle. Fred Harbinson said this week Connor Russell will draw back into the line-up on the blue-line; no word yet on who comes out. The Vees also might have an Affiliate Player dressed up front tonight, as there are a few players fighting through some minor injuries. If the Vees do need to sit a forward, look for 15-year-old Jordy Bellerive from the Okanagan Hockey Academy to dress on one of the four lines.
Hunter Miska will be making his second straight start and third this season against Trail. Miska is 15-4-0-1 on the season and against Trail sports a 1.50 goals-against average and owns a .948 save-percentage.
Despite their struggles the Smokies know how to put the puck in the net and no one knows how to do that more than Charlie Zuccarini. The rookie import forward leads the Smokies in goals (16) and points (30) and is just ahead of line-mate Jake Lucchini (29) in the team scoring race. Trail is missing a key piece to their top-six, as Craig Martin was put on the injured reserve retroactive to November 15th, after he went down with a knee injury. Despite Martin’s absence, the Smokies still have the likes of Scott Davidson (7-12-19) and Bryan Basilico (6-13-19) on their top two lines.
20-year-old Adam Todd has started both games against Penticton this season but is winless against Penticton and owns a 4.58 goals against average and .833 save-percentage against the Vees. 19-year-old KIJHL graduate Brett Clark did take the loss last Saturday in Vernon, stopping 27 of 32 shots. Both Todd and Clark have sub nine hundred save-percentages this season, and the Smoke Eaters will need some strong goaltending from one or both if they’re going to chase down the fourth and final playoff spot.