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Trail Smoke Eaters 2019-20 Regular Season Schedule Review

The Trail Smoke Eaters will open their BCHL season on Friday with high expectations.  The 2018-19 season saw the Smoke Eaters finish at the bottom of the Interior Division with a sub .500 record.  A first-round upset of the 2nd ranked Merrit Centennials and a hard-fought second-round loss in seven games to the Vernon Vipers left the Smokies fans wondering what might have been.  As they watched the Vipers almost sweep the Wenatchee Wild in the Interior final before losing in four straight to the Prince George Spruce Kings in the Fred Page Cup final.

The Smoke Eaters head into the season after an exhibition campaign that saw them go 3-1.  The Smokies split a series with the AJHL Grande Prairie Storm before sweeping a home and home set with division rival West Kelowna Warriors.

Let’s take a look at what the 2019-20 BCHL schedule makers have in store for the Trail Smoke Eaters for the upcoming season.

The Smoke Eaters will kick off the 2019-20 season with five straight and six of nine games in the first month of the season at home at Cominco Arena in Trail.  They will be tested right from opening night, as they will start with back to back games against the eight straight regular-season Interior Division champion, Penticton Vees.  The Vees will be looking for a strong start to the season after a first-round upset loss to the Cowichan Valley Capitals last season.  The Vees are coming off a couple of home exhibition victories over the reigning National Champion Brooks Bandits.

The following weekend the Interior Division rivalry games continue as the Salmon Arm Silverbacks make their way to Trail for a two-game set before the Smokies host the Powell River Kings in a mid-week matchup on the 18th.  Trail will head out on its first road trip of the season when they make their way to Wenatchee to face the Wild and then travel to the Okanagan to battle the West Kelowna Warriors in what should be a tough two-game road swing. And to complete the three games in as many nights the Victoria Grizzles will be waiting for the Smoke Eaters at Comino to round out the weekend.  The Smokies will finish the month on the 28th with another huge test as they will travel to Prince George to faceoff with the defending BCHL Champion Spruce Kings at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena.

The Showcase Festival in Penticton will get things started for the Smokies in October with matchups against the Merritt Centennials and a second game with the Spruce Kings in 8 days.  Following the Showcase, the Smoke Eaters will hit the road for three games in three nights the following weekend.  They will make their first trip to Vancouver Island with matchups with Cowichan Valley and Victoria, before making their way to Surrey to complete tough road schedule.  A home matchup with the Clippers from Naniamo on the 18th. And then the Smokies will travel to Vernon for the first matchup with the Vipers since their seven-game series in last years playoffs.  Then a Wednesday matchup in Penticton with the Vees before a home and home against the West Kelowna Warriors.  The Smoke Eaters will host the Wenatchee Wild on the 30th to close out October.

November will be the busiest month of the season for the Smoke Eaters. A total of twelve games will be played, seven on the road and five in Trail.  The month starts off with seeing the Smokies travel to Salmon Arm for a two-game set versus the Silverbacks.  A mid-week game versus Penticton before Trail will host the Vernon Vipers at Cominco for the first time of the season on the weekend.  The following weekend sees the Smokies once again make a trip to the coast for three games in three nights versus Island Division opponents.  This time Trail will see Powell River, Nanaimo, and Alberni Valley on the three-game swing.  The following weekend the Smoke Eaters will play hosts to the Langley Rivermen and the Chilliwack Chiefs.  Another mid-week road game sees the Smokies travel to Merritt before returning to Cominco to welcome the Surrey Eagles to town to close out a very busy November.

December starts off the same as November did for the Smoke Eaters with three road games.  The trip features three games in as many nights versus Mainland Division teams – the Coquitlam Express, Langley Rivermen and Chilliwack Chiefs.  After the Lower Mainland trip, the Smokies face four Interior Division teams over the next eight days. Wenatchee and West Kelowna make their way to Trail, then the Smoke Eaters will travel to Salmon Arm and Vernon.  They’ll return home to finish December against the Cowichan Valley Capitals before Christmas break on December 20th.

January has the Smoke Eaters playing eleven games, with ten of them against Interior Division teams. The new year starts with three games in five nights – versus the Merritt Centennials to start the month followed with a home and home with Penticton.  Trail hosts Vernon and then Merritt for the fourth time in the month. On Jan. 24th and 25th, the Smokies head to Wenatchee for a two-game series versus the Wild, before returning home to finish the month at Cominco with the Spruce Kings and Wild making the trip to the storied rink.

The Smoke Eaters play seven games in February, with four at Cominco and three on the road.  Two of the seven games in the month are against non-Interior Division teams.  The three road trips are to Vernon, West Kelowna and Merritt to wrap up the regular season on Feb. 22nd.

After all that hockey, the quest for a Fred Page Cup and a trip to the National Junior A Championship begins. It should be an exciting season for the Smoke Eaters faithful and I look forward to coming along on the ride as well.