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Trail Smoke Eaters Come Off Busy Week With Split Against Grande Prairie

The Trail Smoke Eaters dropped the back half of a two-game set versus the Grande Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League on Sunday afternoon at Cominco Arena in Trail.  The Smoke Eaters closed the door on a very busy week. Trail players hit the ice for 16 practice sessions, one intra-squad game, and two exhibition games over the seven days. The Storm played their third game in three days versus BCHL opponents.

After five days of fast-paced ice sessions by the Smoke Eaters coaching staff, the players were ready for some game action. The Grande Prairie Storm rolled into town on Saturday after a victory over the Vernon Vipers.  Backed by a very strong performance by 17-year-old netminder Logan Terness and led by captain Philippe Lapointe, the Smokies defeated the Storm 6-3 in a game that seemed more like a heated rivalry game, not an inter-league exhibition match up.

The night would not be all positive for the Smoke Eaters as the Trail trainer would help Lapointe off the ice with a lower-body injury after awkwardly falling following contact with a Storm player.  No official word yet from the Smoke Eaters on the extent of the injury and Lapointe was at the arena on crutches during the game on Sunday. Lapointe, son of former NHLer Martin Lapointe, is a pivotal figure on the makeup of this Smoke Eaters roster.

“Phillipe is a dynamic power forward who possesses elite skill  and an outstanding hockey IQ. His competitiveness, professionalism and leadership history makes me extremely confident that he will be one of the best captains Trail has ever had,” said Smokies GM and Head Coach Jeff Tambellini when the team announced Lapointe’s commitment back in May.

The Sunday game saw a few lineup changes for both teams. The Storm dressed a number of their younger prospects and the Smoke Eaters would dress a few of their returning players.  Roster changes for the Smoke Eaters included the inclusion of University of Michigan commit Kent Johnson. Johnson would impress with a three point game, notching two goals and an assist in a 4-3 loss to a very determined Storm team.

The Smoke Eaters look to have a well-balanced roster this year as they’ve added skill and size both on the blue line and up front. There will be competition nightly as players try and secure ice time. The Smokies should also be able to roll all four lines consistently with any combination of players drawing into the lineup, as well as be confident with all eight of their defense rotating in.

Competition is also heating up in goal. Returning 19-year-old Donovan Buskey, Gabriel Waked, and Logan Terness are all making a case for that number one spot. Terness was very solid in his game on Saturday in the victory over the Storm. On Sunday, Waked looked to struggle at times during the game, but settled in during the later stages.  Buskey didn’t dress this past weekend and should be expected to see action in one of the two exhibition games for the Smokies versus the West Kelowna Warriors on Aug. 30 and 31.

The Smoke Eaters will open the 2019-20 BCHL season with a five-game homestand, including back-to-back games versus the Penticton Vees on Sept. 6 and 7.