Friday, November 16, 2012

Game Preview: at Trail Smoke Eaters

Cameron Lawson scores a buzzer beater
against the Trail Smoke Eaters on Sept 14

There is a sense of deja vu for the Spruce Kings this weekend, especially those that have been around for at least the previous season. The Spruce Kings made the trip to the Interior Division outpost yesterday to face the Trail Smoke Eaters tonight. Somehow the trip just seemed different then what the team has grown accustomed to so far this season.

Playing out of the Mainland Division this year, the majority of road trips have meant a trip through the Fraser Canyon to the Lower Mainland with a stay in Langley. This time the bus turned left at Cache Creek and continued on until it reached Castlegar late last night - home base for the first night of the three game road trip.

Interestingly enough, this is the second and final trip for Prince George through the Interior having already played Vernon, Merritt and Penticton earlier in the season. This weekend the stops are Trail, West Kelowna and Salmon Arm. It will be the first meeting against the Silverbacks, second against the Warriors and also the second against the Smoke Eaters.

The first meeting between these two teams was at the home opener for the Spruce Kings two months ago on September 14th. Trail erased a 2-0 and 3-1 lead in the third period to force overtime where they came away with the 4-3 victory. Prince George goal scorers included an end of period buzzer beater from Cameron Lawson and the first BCHL goals for Bryant Christian and Justin Rai.

Unfortunately for Prince George, Rai remains on the shelf for this weekend and will not be able to relive any of his heroics tonight. Joining Rai on the injured and scratched list for the game is Ryan Keis. Sean Landrey works himself back into the lineup after missing the lone game last weekend against the Victoria Grizzlies. For Landrey and the rest of the Spruce Kings, this is the perfect time to get back on their game.

Aside for a few bright spots, the Spruce Kings last three games have all been forgettable outcomes with only a point to show against the Surrey Eagles in an overtime loss two weekends ago. The Trail Smoke Eaters have been sorting out their game as of late and are .500 for the month of November and have four wins in their previous six games.

Struggling with consistency might be their only concern right now, but head coach Bill Birks has the team believing in themselves and believing they can win any game especially those played in the Cominco Arena. At home the Smoke Eaters are 6-4 with a 2-1 record in their three most recent games played under the big smoke stacks that identify Trail.

The Trail Smoke Eaters are led offensively by Brent Baltus (14G, 9A) who is one goal away from equaling his 15 goal rookie season with the Smokies last year. Second on team scoring is Garrett McMullen with 17 points (8G, 9A) followed by Tyler Berkholtz (3G, 12A), Luke Sandler (7G, 6A) and Scott Davidson (2G, 10A). Shane Poulsen is the top contributor from the Smoke Eaters blue line with 4 goals and 7 assists with defensive partner Braden Pears (2G, 8A) rounding out the point leaders.

The Spruce Kings don't boast any players in the League's top twenty this year but have a twenty year old vet and a young stud from the blue line hoovering at the door. Coltyn Hansen, who was acquired from the Victoria Grizzlies has shown a lot of speed to get to the net and ability to finish the play with 7 goals and 11 assists in 20 games. Now 18 years old, rookie defenceman Mitch Eden has found himself using his foot speed and slick moves to open up plays and has cashed in on 18 goals as well (2G, 16A).

The rest of the team scoring is pretty well spread out with key players being Cameron Lawson, Tyson Witala, Lyndon Martell, Liam Board, Bryant Christian and Brad Ryan from the blue line. Shane Morrissey can be included in that group as well. Morrissey (3G, 5A) has been chipping in on a regular basis since coming over from his home in St. John's Newfoundland and is still hasn't hit his stride.

Using the past as a guide for tonight, it is safe to say that an early start is key for Prince George. Something to instill that confidence that brought the team national recognition. Nothing like a little deja vu and a little incentive to provide that. The team had an early skate at the arena to help shake the bus legs out and I do have my eye on a few players tonight to make a statement in the game.

I'll tell you who those are during the broadcast of the game beginning with the Treasure Cove Casino's pregame show at 7:05pm on 93.1 CFIS-FM radio. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30pm and you can listen online at or catch the full pay-per-view broadcast on

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