Venue: Cominco Arena
Game Time: 7:30pm
Season Series: Vees (5-0-0-1) Sep 26th 3-1 W, Nov 1st 6-2 W, Dec 3rd 3-1 W, 6-3 Vees Jan 17th, 4-3 Vees Jan 30th, Jan 31st 3-2 OTL, Feb 14th at Trail.
Vees Road Record: 18-6-2-2
Vees Record vs. Interior Division: 22-7-1-1
Vees Leading Scorer: Lewis Zerter-Gossage 17-27-44
Smoke Eaters Home Record: 12-11-0-3
Smoke Eaters Record vs. Interior Division: 7-20-0-3
Smoke Eaters Leading Scorer: Jake Lucchini 31-42-73
The Penticton Vees make one final trip to the West Kootenays this year, as they visit the Trail Smoke Eaters at Cominco Arena on Valentine’s Day. The Vees are coming off a 4-2 win over the Nanaimo Clippers on Friday, in a showdown of the top two teams in the BCHL standings. The Smoke Eaters stunned the West Kelowna Warriors in overtime, winning a wild affair 8-7 at Royal LePage Place.
The Vees snapped a three-game winless streak last night with the win over the Clips’ at the SOEC. Demico Hannoun scored twice, Tyson Jost had three helpers and Jack Ramsey and Connor Chartier, on a penalty-shot, also scored for the Vees. Hunter Miska made 28-saves for his 29th win of the season and first in his career against Nanaimo.
A win tonight combined with a Nanaimo loss, tie or overtime loss in Vernon, would clinch the BCHL regular season pennant for the Vees. They haven’t won the BCHL pennant since 2012 and would be the first Interior team do so in four years.
It won’t be easy and the Trail Smoke Eaters reminded the Vees of that back on January 31st, when these two teams last met. Trail erased an early 2-0 third period deficit and stunned the Vees 3-2 in double-overtime. Smokies Captain Jake Lucchini scored the game-tying goal with three seconds left in regulation and then scored the OT winner in the three-on-three period.
Trail has put the rest of the division on notice, as they won’t be pushovers down the stretch. They may be eliminated from post-season contention for the fourth consecutive year, but they’ve fully embraced the role of spoilers. They dealt the Warriors a serious blow to their playoff hopes with that wild 8-7 win in West Kelowna last night, and are 2-0-0-2 in their last four games; teams are going to have to earn their points against Trail.
The Smokies can do and have done a lot of damage with the trio of Jake Lucchini, Craig Martin and Dallas Calvin. Those three combined for five of Trail’s eight goals Friday and that line had 14 points. Martin was named the game’s first star and Calvin took home third star honours.
Lucchini has embraced the role of being the leader and face of the franchise after the Smokies dealt away Scott Davidson at the BCHL trade deadline. After Davidson left, Lucchini was given the ‘C’ and hasn’t looked back. The Trail product has 31 goals and a team best 73 points in 52 games.
His line-mates are as dangerous, as Craig Martin has 18 goals and 42 points in 35 games and Calvin has 13 goals and 38 points in 27 games. Both have been hampered with injuries this season but are still averaging over a point per game. If you take Martin’s point per game average and extrapolate it over a 58-game season, he would have been on pace for a 70-point season; Calvin an 80-point year.
The Vees power-play was given some CPR last night as both Jack Ramsey and Demico Hannoun scored on the man-advantage. The power-play went two for four against Nanaimo after being marred in an oh for 24 slump in the previous seven games. Hannoun’s power-play goal early in the third period turned out to be the game-winning goal. Trail has held the Vees without a power-play goal in the last two meetings, as the Smokies have the fourth-best PK in the BCHL at home. A power-play goal would go a long way in getting two points though.
Hunter Miska will get the start tonight, as he makes his third consecutive start and fifth in the last six games. Cam Amantea will sit out again as he rests an upper-body injury. Brendan Barry didn’t make the trip with the team, as he’s battling the flu and the Vees will have a familiar face backing up Miska. Mitch Newsome, yes, Mitch Newsome will be the emergency back-up goaltender tonight. Newsome grew up playing goal and only gave it up about five years ago, so he could focus on development as a forward; no word on what his career minor hockey numbers are.