Friday, 7 March 2014

A quick look back while things already move forward.

The first round of the BCHL playoffs are well underway, and for the third straight year the Trail Smoke Eaters aren't apart of the excitement.

Rather, head coach Nick Deschenes has already started the puzzle that is the 2014/2015 campaign. It is not even a week after the regular season wrapped up and Deschenes is looking for pieces across region, the next province over and well...the entire continent. Trail's bench boss has taken in minor hockey in Vernon and Calgary over the past week. We caught him before he was about to board a plane for Michigan, where he was going to watch some puck in Lansing before taking his studies further East, to Boston, Massachusetts.

"That's my job. This is a year-round thing and I'm committed to making things current in Trail. I think it is just the matter of putting in a lot of hard work and the hours [to] find the right players. You know, matching our opponents as far as [their] recruiting efforts."

So far a team that finished 10-42-2-4 and 41 points behind a spot in the playoffs, what is Deschenes and the Smoke Eaters looking for?

"We need to score more goals. We had a 20 year old goaltender that graduated as well, so we have a position open [there]. We do expect Adam Todd to be back. "

Trail scored 151 times in 58 regular season games, the least of the BCHL's 16 clubs. Their total was 14 less than anyone else and 74 less than the top offensive team, the West Kelowna Warriors.


With nearly six months for Deschenes to accomplish his offseason goals, let's first ask did he accomplish the things he wanted to coming into the organization nearly two months late?

"[Pause] I don't know. I didn't have expectations as far as winning a certain number of games or achieving a certain amount of points. I think a lot of decisions where made based on circumstances and as the season the progressed [we were] just trying to make the best decision at the time.A lot of things happened that you don't anticipate or don't plan for, as far as players not reporting and [injuries] so that's all part of it."

From the roster that appeared on the game sheet of their season opener September 6th in Chilliwack, to the list of names that compiled the team on their finale March 1st, only eight were the same.

"The biggest thing the last four months, for me, was identifying a solid core of players that I think we be able to carry the team next year and we'll compliment them with the right mix."

When Deschenes left the Grand Forks Border Bruins in late October to join the Smokies, talking to people in the Bruins' organization they said he had installed a "structure" for success around the team that with or without him they can build off of to win.

(Grand Forks went from a team that won just a single game in 2011/2012, to eight in 12/13, and finished with 16 this season. They were destined for their first postseason birth since 95/96 but a 10 game losing streak to finish the schedule derailed that.)

However, with only 38 games behind the Smokies bench this season did Deschenes have the time to do the same in  Trail?

"There's always room for improvement as a coach and a player. I hope what I bring to the table next year is going to be a little bit more that what I was able to bring this year. In Grand Forks, it was a great opportunity for me to help that program and see what worked and what didn't and expand my repertoire."

Until next season...

Friday, 28 February 2014

One last skate at Cominco

The Trail Smoke Eaters wrap up their 2013/2014 home schedule Friday night when they face off against the West Kelowna Warriors.

Trail shoots for back to back wins for the first time since November 16th as they are coming off maybe their greatest achievement of the season, an epic 6-5 win over the Vernon Vipers - a team who came into the Silver City Wednesday the hottest in the league.

The Smoke Eater faithful were once again stunned by the visiting Vipers, who scored four goals in the first five minutes of the game. This was just two weeks after Vernon came into Cominco Arena and scored three goals in the opening 54 seconds of the match!

But on Wednesday, when the Smoke Eaters went to the dressing room down 5-1 after just 20 minutes of play, forward Scott Davidson says a never-say-die attitude took over. "I think [that's] what we were preaching a lot over on the bench and during intermissions."

Sure enough, it worked. Trail would render Vernon scoreless in the final forty minutes, while the top line of Davidson, Jesse Knowler and Bryan Basilico lead with way with four of Trail's six goals and a total of 12 points.

Davidson says they refocused on their game plan "which, in the first period, we just didn't stick to at all. After that we kind of got back to it and we ended up being all over them."

Talking to the coaching staff after the game, they were blown away by the difference in the team that took the ice at the beginning of the game and the team that skated off after regulation. Asking what was said to the team in the dressing prior to their two powerplay goals in the second period, Nick Deschenes joked he probably shouldn't share the exact wording but suggested it was...constructive criticism.
Nonetheless, it was a big win for many reasons not just because it was their first in 13 games, a stretch that dates back to January 17th. It was only their 10th of what has been a disappointing season and just their fifth victory in front of the success-starved home town fans.

Davidson - a native of Trail - says it meant a lot to go centre ice and salute the fans at the end of Wednesday's game, "That's the best feeling. Knowing that we won and especially that kind of win. It really shows what our team is capable of."

The Smokies will look to carry that momentum over from Wednesday when they play for their final time on home ice this season.

Trail finishes the home and home series in West Kelowna Saturday - which will wrap up the season for them.

West Kelowna comes in with back to back wins, and currently sit tied on top of the Interior Division with the Penticton Vees.

The Warriors boast an incredible 17-4-2-5 road record this season. They - as well as the Vees - have two games remaining in the regular season heading into this final weekend and both obviously will be looking for wins in both.

Game time is 7:30PM at Cominco arena. Watch live online at or listen for free

Apologies for the troubles with mixlr during last game, we HOPE to have it running Friday night.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Awards Night

The hardware was handed out Tuesday night at the Silver City's Riverbelle.  Forward Scott Davidson was the standout from the 2013/2014 season picking up two awards. Just prior to the recipients being named I was able to say a quick word about each player based on watching them at home this season. For both goaltenders, Adam Todd and Dustin Nikkel, I tried to make it clear that I thought these were the two best players in orange and black throughout the season, and both Adam and Dustin gave the team a chance to win every night. So it was good to see them recognized. Here are all the winners:

ED SHELLY AWARD (hard work and perseverance) - Scott Davidson

MOST IMPROVED - Jake Lucchini

MOST DEDICATED - Brandon Volpe


FAN FAVORITE - Adam Wheeldon

TOP ROOKIE - Bryan Basilico


SCHOLASTIC AWARD - Greyson Reitmeter

Coaches' Unsung Hero(es) - Dustin Nikkel and Adam Todd

Special recognition: Tiger Milburn, who has been doing the P.A at Cominco Arena for 50 years. (I just wanted to say that no matter what is happening around the team, Tiger always seemed to brighten everyone's day and always had a smile on his face, that made it impossible for you to not have a smile on your face.)

Only three games left on the schedule for the Trail Smoke Eaters, two of them under the roof of Cominco Arena.

The Smokies welcome the Vernon Vipers Wednesday night who sit third in the division with a record of 30-16-4-6, which has made them the third team in the Interior Division to clinch a postseason birth (Merritt just needs one more win to grab the fourth and final ticket).

The Vipers are 13-10-1-3 on the road and are currently the hottest team in the BCHL having won five in a row.

If either Penticton or West Kelowna (who currently both have 74 points for first) lose their two final games and Vernon extends its winning streak to seven to end the season, the Vipers could move into a three way tie for the most points in the Interior Division, but I do believe the top spot would be awarded to the Vees, who would finish with the most wins.

Nonetheless, the Smokies aren't really concerned about all that as they coming into this three-game-finale with their focus directed more internally.

"It's been an audition [for the players] for two months. They got three games left, right? It's a big part of what's going to happen in the future for them in this organization," said assistant coach Craig Clare after I asked him what these final three outings mean for guys looking to come back next year. "These kind of games seperate the guys that are playing to improve and playing for the pride of the jersey."

Trail has lost 12 straight and boasts a dismal record on home ice, 4-18-2-2 and are still looking for the elusive 10th win on the season. But as president Tom Gawryletz pointed out at the dinner, there's nothing wrong with being happy about getting three wins in three final games. And it would be nice to share that with the Smoke Eaters faithful who have been starved for success this year.

"For the way this year has gone, we've had very good fan support so we are looking to [pay them back] and rewarded them with a win."

The orange and black will play their final home guy Friday against the West Kelowna Warriors before wrapping up the regular season in West Kelowna Saturday.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Three to go.

It's the first of three final home games when the Trail Smoke Eaters host the Vernon Vipers tonight. The Smokies haven't had much luck at Cominco Arena this season only earning four wins in 25 appearances in the Silver City. However, before the 2013/2014 campaign wraps up, Head Coach Nick Deschenes wants to see another victory in their own barn.

"Now it's going to take from us an effort from everybody and it's going to take an execution of our game plan to the finest detail"

They'll look to do it against a team they have beat on Cominco Ice this season. Trail topped Vernon 4-1 on January 3rd in the old orange building. Arguably one of the best efforts from the Smokies this season. A lot has changed since even then though as Deschenes continued to mold this team into something he saw would grow in 2014/2015. And they are using the six remaining games between now and March 1st in West Kelowna, to work toward what Deschenes calls "a perfectly executed game plan.".

"These are our playoffs because we don't have the opportunity to continue onward, so we're bringing the intensity that I think we need to bring to get that experience. Running a short bench [allows] guys [to] get even more involved and replicates that experience even more."

But as for how his team will replicate the same result from 26 days ago...

"They're a big team. They're not as fast as Penticton so in our rink that's probably to our advantage. [Vernon] plays physical, so if we move our feet and make simple, quick plays, we will have an opportunity [to win]."

Trail is coming off a 6-5 double overtime loss to the Chilliwack Chiefs, an absolute slug-out with the BCHL's second last team (Trail's last) that could have ended either way. In fact, at no point in the game did either side have more than a one goal lead. Trail scored a pair in the 3rd to take a 5-4 lead but Chilliwack would even it out with just under four minutes remaining on the clock. A much different outcome than the December 21st whooping that saw the score clock in Chilliwack's Propera Centre read 13-5 but really just an inch away from snapping an eight losing streak and instead extending it to nine.

"Last game I thought a few of our players had one of their better games, effort wise and compete wise. I know long term that's one of the most important ingredients."

Unfortunately, the Smokies are limping the finish line due to injuries. Captain Adam Wheeldon and fellow forward Dylan Mascarin are out for the remainder of the season due to upper body injuries. Forward Jackson Elynuik and goaltender Adam Todd have missed the past number of games due to injury and one would assume they aren't going to force a return to action. Defenseman-sometimes forward Riley Ostoforoff is likely to be back in the lineup after missing Friday's game.

Puck drop for Wednesday's Game is 7:30PM. Live broadcast starts at 7:20PM. You can watch live at or listen for free at

Friday, 7 February 2014

Somethins' gotta give

Trail and Chilliwack comes into Friday’s contest sitting on the bottom of their own basement.

The Chiefs have lost back-to-back games and haven’t won any of the 10 outings they’ve had so far in 2014.

The Trail Smoke Eater’s have not won since ousting the Surrey Eagles 5-3 on January 17th.

They’ve dropped eight straight since including a 3-2 overtime loss the next night in Langley, but mostly lopsided losses to superior opponents.

Chilliwack comes into Cominco with a road record of 5-16-1-2 and are 20 points back four place Surrey and are therefor “mathematically eliminated” from the postseason.

The playoffs have been but an idea and not a reality for the Trail Smoke Eaters for sometime now.

They have a 4-17-2-1 record in this arena…and they are at risk of suffering their third 10 game losing streak of the season if they don’t put an end to this current eight game slide.

The last time these two teams met it was on December 21st …the last game before the holiday break and the Chiefs gave the Smokies an early Christmas present in the form of a 13-3 spanking in Chilliwack.

Chiefs forward Mathieu Tibbet four goals to lead the way, and at least 10 other players had a multi-point night.

Trail’s last game at Cominco Arena was an offensive outburst as they netted six goals, but it wasn’t enough against Merritt’s nine.

Smokies blueliner Taylor Armbruster earned his first tally of his BCHL career and then went to bury his second and third in the same night.

Friday’s match will be the first of four final appearances for the club at Cominco Arena.

Join us for a 7:30 PM puck drop.

If you cannot make it, watch at or listen for free at

Monday, 27 January 2014

A different team.

Once again, fans of the Trail Smoke Eaters saw a different team than the one that took the ice the weekend prior.

Trail was outscored 8-2 in a pair of weekend outings, moving their losing streak two four.

The Smokies welcomed the defending BCHL champion Surrey Eagles Friday, seven days after beating them in their barn.

It would be a much different story however, as the Smoke Eaters couldn't muster much offense and were shutout 3-0.

The orange and black were out shot 38-31 in another stellar performance by Adam Todd between the pipes.

However, the Smokies couldn't give Todd any support on the score clock.

The club had many opportunities in the first period that they just couldn't bury and if they had the aforementioned great play of their puck-stopper could have stolen them a win had they established a lead at some point.

Trail would try to change their luck on the road Saturday but things went from bad to worse against the powerful Penticton Vees.

It was just two weeks ago that these two sides met in the Silver City, to which at one point the Smokies held a 2-0 lead, but would eventually fall 3-2 to Penticton.

However this time, would never hold an advantage on the scoreboard and allowed their opponents to score four unanswered goals, for a final of 5-2.

The Vees almost doubled the Smoke Eaters in shots, 43-22.

Trail will look to at least find some positives again when they visit the Merritt Centennials Tuesday night before the weekend sees them in Vernon Saturday and returning home to face Merritt again on Saturday.

They last time the orange and black faced off against Vernon, the earned a 4-1 win over the Vipers - a team that will host the RBC Cup this spring.

However, the Centennials have owned the Smokies this season, winning four of five meetings so far and outscoring Trail 22-10.

The next broadcast will be for the second game against Merritt, Saturday February 1st. Puck drop is 7:30.

Friday, 24 January 2014


"You can see the team is really starting to formulate, I'm pretty happy." - Trail Smoke Eaters head coach Nick Deschenes on Monday January 21st 2014.


forr·mu·late [fawr-myuh-leyt] verb (used with object), for·mu·lat·ed, for·mu·lat·ing.

to express in precise form; state definitely or systematically: He finds it extremely difficult to formulate his new theory.

to devise or develop, as a method, system, etc.

to reduce to or express in a formula.

Just like he did for the KIJHL's Grand Forks Border Bruins, Deschenes has implemented a system, a method, for this Smoke Eaters club.

He is developing these players to compete in the British Columbia Hockey Leauge - as a team.

The Smokies are coming off a weekend where they earned three points in three road games against three tough opponents.

Last Friday, they topped the defending BCHL champion Surrey Eagles, that was followed by an impressive OT loss to the Mainland division's first place Langley Riverman.Unfortunately, they ran out of gas Sunday - due to illness and injury - and were steamrolled 7-2 by the Coquitlam Express.

This follow recent impressive outings against top teams like Penticton (they lead the Vees 2-0 earlier this month but fell 3-2), West Kelowna (a club they were about 90 seconds away from beating) and Vernon (who they did beat and is hosting the RBC Cup this year).

Deschenes' first weekend behind the bench saw the club snap a10 losing skid. Even at that time he said the team still had a lot of adversity infront of them.

And with a lot of players being moved out and brought in by Deschenes, creating traction can be even harder. (Only 10 players remain from the roster that started the season.)

Anyway, the Smokies will continue to try to right the ship by earning their second win against Surrey in seven days.

The Eagles comes in with a road record of 7-14-0-1 and fresh off their first win in six games.

Trail has only one four of their 20 appearances at Cominco Arena this season, something they will look to improve with only five home games left after Friday.

Join us for a 7:30PM puck drop at Cominco Arena or watch live at or listen for free at