The Trail Smoke Eaters will look to get back on track as they enjoy Thanksgiving at home this weekend.
Trail has a four-game homestand starting with Wenatchee Wild on Friday and the West Kelowna Warriors on Saturday.
The Smoke Eaters are looking to rebound from a difficult weekend, dropping both ends of a home-and-home to the Cranbrook Bucks, a 3-1 loss at the Cominco Arena and a 6-0 shutout in Cranbrook.
“That Friday night game could have went either way,” said head coach and GM Tim Fragle. “We had a mental lapse for 17 seconds when they scored two quick goals in the third. But we did a lot of good things Friday we liked and then on Saturday we go into Cranbrook and I don’t know if we ever outshot them 12-6 ever in a period and we are down 1-0.
“As soon as they scored that second goal, that took the wind out of us and we were on our heals for the majority of the game. Saturday we weren’t very pleased with, but we’re trying to take the positives out of Friday, and our first period Saturday to get ourselves going in the right direction here.”
Trail has lost four straight games to the Bucks, including two preseason matches, and was outscored 9-1 on the weekend. While Fragle recognizes the team has struggled defensively, he says the veteran players need to step up offensively and take responsibility for the 1-3 record.
“We need all our older players, especially our 20-year-olds to be at their best,” said Fragle. “There is expectation on those guys, and I would say generally all of them can provide more for us, and need to.”
The Smoke Eaters generated several good scoring chances in the first four periods against the Bucks, but a combination of good saves, missed pucks, and bad bounces kept them off the scoresheet.
“It’s really disappointing. If you saw the game Friday, we had enough chances to win that game. You have to finish off plays at this level.”
Like Trail, both Wenatchee and West Kelowa are coming off inter-conference losses, the Wild falling 6-4 to Salmon Arm and the Warriors suffering their first loss, a 10-3 drubbing at the hands of the Penticton Vees.
The Wild are winless in three games losing in a 5-4 shootout to the Surrey Eagles in their opening match Sept. 23, and then falling to West Kelowna 7-4 on Sept. 30. Trail split a two-game exhibition match with the Wild last month.
Wenatchee also has a strong core of returning players led by Gabe Dombrowski, Cade Littler, Ean Somoza, David Hejduk, Mario Gasparini, and goalie Andy Vlaha.
The Warriors started strong defeating Cowichan Valley 2-1 and Victoria 5-1 on an Island road trip, before facing the Wild.
Currently the 4-0 Vees lead the Interior Conference followed by Cranbrook, Prince George, Salmon Arm and West Kelowna all at 3-1
The upcoming games are key for the Smoke Eaters to reverse the recent trend, and make up ground on their Interior Conference rivals.
“Extremely important stretch here for us after not starting the way we wanted,” said Fragle. “We have four in a row here at home, so we have to make some headway early in the year, and obviously as players and coaches, we know that this is an important part to get our season going in the right direction here.”
Trail will look to improve its record this weekend when they face Wenatchee on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Trail Memorial Centre and on Saturday versus the Warriors at the same time and place.
“In our division you can’t fall too far behind to start the year,” added Fragle. “A few years ago the team had a tough start but then you have to go on a good winning streak and that’s really tough to do especially with all the good teams in our division.”