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GAME PREVIEW: Smoke Eaters Welcome Spruce Kings For Lone Visit This Season

PHOTO: Garrett James/BCHL 

The Trail Smoke Eaters return home as they look to try and work their way back into the win column hosting the Mainland Division’s Prince George Spruce Kings in their lone visit to the Trail Memorial Centre on Friday night.

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Smoke Eaters vs. Spruce Kings 2018/19 Schedule:

Friday, October 26th @ Trail Memorial Centre (7:00 PM)

Wednesday, November 21st @ Rolling Mix Concrete Arena (7:00 PM)

Trail and Prince George saw their season series a year ago go in the favour of the Spruce Kings as they won each of the two matchups between the non-divisional opponents. Prince George picked up a 3-1 victory in early November at the Trail Memorial Centre with the Spruce Kings earning a similar 3-1 win at the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena in the middle of February for the season series sweep.

The Smoke Eaters had their losing stretch set back to four games after an overtime defeat to the Wenatchee Wild on Wednesday night by a 5-4 score. Owen Ozar had an outstanding BCHL debut with a pair of goals while Trevor Zins and Hayden Rowan added singles in the defeat. Adam Marcoux turned aside 27 of the 32 shots he faced in the game in his 6th loss of the season.

Smoke Eaters Leading Scorers:

Braeden Tuck (7-11-18)

Trevor Zins (5-11-16)

Carter Jones (4-10-14)

Kent Johnson (8-5-13)

Diarmad DiMurro (0-13-13)

The Smoke Eaters will have a new face in the lineup as part of a three-team trade as defenseman Powell Connor will make his Smoke Eater debut tonight. The 18-year-old defender is coming off of a National Championship with the Chilliwack Chiefs last season where he posted 2 goals and 21 points in 51 games while adding 57 penalty minutes. The Vernon, BC native is a 118 games veteran in the BCHL and has amassed a goal and four points in 18 games this season to go along with 21 penalty minutes and will wear #22.

Adding to the addition of Connor on the back end, the Smoke Eaters are getting 173 games of BCHL experience back in their lineup as Spencer McLean returns after missing the opening 17 games of the season. The Montrose, BC native compiled 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points in 57 games last season while getting into 16 playoff games, scoring 5 goals and adding 4 assists for 9 points.

It was a great debut for Owen Ozar on Wednesday night in Wenatchee as he earned a pair of goals and an assist for three points with captain Braeden Tuck also collecting three points on the night with a trio of helpers. Trevor Zins also had a multi-point game as the Smoke Eaters offence started to pick up some traction in the game on Wednesday night.

The Prince George Spruce Kings come into Friday night after picking up four of a possible six points on their recent Mainland trip, with the most recent game being a 5-3 loss to the Coquitlam Express on Sunday afternoon. Ben Brar scored a pair of goals while Corey Cunningham scored a single in the defeat. Logan Neaton turned aside 25 of the 30 shots he faced in the game in his 7th loss of the season.

Spruce Kings Leading Scorers:

Ben Brar (11-5-16)

Dustin Manz (7-8-15)

Ben Poisson (6-9-15)

Nick Bochen (4-8-12)

Patrick Cozzi (3-9-12)

The Spruce Kings have 13 players returning from last season’s squad that made it all the way to the Fred Page Cup Final against the Wenatchee Wild including captain Ben Poisson along with forwards Spencer Chapman, Dustin Manz, Corey Cunningham, Patrick Cozzi, Nolan Welsh, Ben Brar and Chong Min Lee. Defenders Layton Ahac, Dylan Anhorn, Jay Keranen and Liam Watson-Brawn with Bradley Cooper also returning this season.

20-year-old and leading scorer Ben Brar has plenty of BCHL experience behind him and brings plenty of offence for the Spruce Kings, scoring 16 points in 16 games and sits tied for third in the league in goal scoring with 11 markers on the season. The Abbotsford, BC native is currently on a four-game point streak with four goals and three assists for seven points over that span. Brar has scored in each of his last three games, capped off by the two-goal effort in Coquitlam on Sunday afternoon.

It will be a battle of two of the league’s top three operating power plays tonight as the Smoke Eaters head into the game with the 2nd-best power play at 24.7 % while the Spruce Kings come in with the 3rd-best man advantage at 22.2%. Prince George has seen their man advantage operating at a strong success rate over the last five games, going 6/23 (26.1%) over that five-game span.

The Smoke Eaters and Spruce Kings drop the puck at 7:00 PM from the Trail Memorial Centre with tickets available at the Smoke Eaters Main Office or at the door ahead of the tonight’s opening face-off.