Tonight – Trail Smoke Eaters (10-11-4-2) vs. Prince George Spruce Kings (17-7-1-1)
7 p.m. at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena in Prince George
Presented by the BCIHL
Prince George beat Trail 5-2 in their only previous meeting this year on Oct. 26. The Spruce Kings jumped out to a 3-0 lead after first-period goals from Ben Brar, Sean Donaldson and Max Coyle and the Smoke Eaters replied with goals by Kent Johnson and Bryce Anderson to make it 3-2 heading into the third. Brar potted his second of the game and Chong Min Lee added another, while Logan Neaton had to make 15 saves in the win.
Trail’s Owen Ozar heads into tonight’s game with an assist in four straight games. After registering one assist in his first game with the Smoke Eaters, newly-acquired Chase Stevenson is tied for the team lead in points with 23 (10-13-23) after coming over from the Surrey Eagles last weekend. The co-leader in points is team captain Braeden Tuck (10-13-23). On defence, the offence is led by Trevor Zins and Diarmad DiMurro who have 18 points each, tied for eight-best among BCHL blueliners. DiMurro’s 18 assists are tied for third-most among all dmen.
Spruce Kings forward Ben Brar is tied for third in the BCHL with 18 goals and leads the team in points with 29 in 26 games. PG’s second-leading scorer is Dustin Manz with 27 points (10-17-27). Nick Bochen is also tied with Zins and DiMurro for eighth in the BCHL in points from the backend with 18 (5-13-18). In net, Logan Neaton leads the league with a goals-against average of 1.98 and is tied for the fifth-best save percentage at .912. He has a record of 14-3-0 with one shutout.
What’s at Stake
The Spruce Kings can move into a tie with the Chilliwack Chiefs for first place in the Mainland Division and the overall standings with a win tonight and a Chiefs loss. The teams will meet in a back-to-back in Chilliwack on the weekend. Prince George is currently two points back of the leaders with 36 points and a game in hand. They also lead the third-place Coquitlam Express by five points.
The Smoke Eaters are in seventh place in the Interior Division with 26 points, but can leapfrog the Vernon Vipers and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks for fifth place with a win tonight.
From the Broadcast Booth
Prince George Spruce Kings play-by-play broadcaster Brendan Pawliw on goaltender Logan Neaton:
“I think he’s gotten comfortable with his new surroundings and is coming into his own since being acquired from the North American Hockey League (NAHL) last season. Sometimes it takes time to adjust and that seems to be the case here following the departure of last year’s goalie Evan DeBrouwer.”
Pawliw on Spruce Kings leading scorer Ben Brar:
“He’s got very good hockey sense and has improved his skating immensely since being acquired from the Penticton Vees a couple of years ago. He’s got a good shot and has lots of chemistry with Dustin Manz and Patrick Cozzi, which helps a lot.”
Pawliw on tonight’s matchup with Trail:
“You can’t overlook any team in this league and Trail is no exception. Even though they are lower in the standings, they play in the best division in the BCHL. The Smokies have enough skill to beat you so Prince George has to be on their toes.”
Trail Smoke Eaters play-by-play broadcaster Trevor Miller on the team recently snapping a long losing streak:
“The Smoke Eaters found a way to get points in five straight games following a tough stretch and did a lot of good things during those two wins last week, so there are plenty of positives to build off of. Something the stats don’t show is how this team competes every night and has been in virtually every game this season, so seeing results show in the standings is big.”
Miller on newly acquired Smoke Eaters forward Chase Stevenson:
“Immediately he brings a top-line left winger to the Smoke Eaters. He provides a lot top qualities, but I think the biggest asset he has is his work ethic. It’s hard to knock him off pucks down low and he’s constantly giving it his all every shift on every night. He’s a strong skater and has a high hockey IQ, with his playmaking ability at the forefront of that. He fits in extremely well on this roster and is the kind of impact player that makes the Smoke Eaters tough to play against on a nightly basis.”
Miller on Smoke Eaters goalie Adam Marcoux:
“His play has really taken off over the last two weeks, similar to what we saw from him a year ago. Goaltending is important on any team, but to have a 20-year-old goalie stabilizing the crease with a younger team in front of him is paramount to success. As has been, and likely will be, the case this season in the Interior Division, the standings remain tight and having the strong play of Marcoux to help bolster the Smoke Eaters position in the division race has been huge.”
ABOUT THE BCIHL
The British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League was created with the purpose of offering a venue for competitive, high-calibre hockey that’s close to home for players beyond their junior careers. The league was launched in 2006 and now includes five member teams: Selkirk College, Simon Fraser University, Trinity Western University, the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University. This season, 25 graduates with over 2750 games of BCHL experience are pursuing their academic and athletic goals in the BCIHL. To learn more about the BCIHL and playing opportunities for BCHL grads, visit BCIHL.ca.