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Preview: Smoke Eaters look to be streak busters in Coquitlam

The Trail Smoke Eaters kick off their last out of division road trip of the season tonight in Coquitlam against the first placed Express, starting a 3-in-3 on the west coast.

Regular Season vs the Express:

December 6th @ Poirier Sports and Leisure Complex – 7pm

February 15th @ Trail Memorial Centre – 7pm

Last season vs the Express – 1W – 1SOL

The Smoke Eaters head to Coquitlam looking to be streak busters as the 1st placed Express will look to continue their dominance on home ice. The Smoke Eaters come in short handed with four players away at the World Junior A Challenge (WJAC) in Dawson Creek, but get some help with Kyle Pow and Carson Briere, who both are available for Head Coach Jeff Tambellini if he chooses. The Smokies are coming off a 3-2 loss to the Surrey Eagles last week where top end goaltending for the Eagles was the difference. The Smoke Eaters will now look for guys to step up over these next few games to get the job done. The Smokies, who have slowed down a bit, still hold a 6-3 record over their last 10, as they sit second in the interior division. The power play continues to lead the league while the penalty kill sits fourth. Guys like Mike Colella and Tyler Ghirardosi will be relied heaviest on as three of the Smoke Eaters top five scorers are away. But it allows some of the young guys, as well as AP’s to show what they have, with Reid Wilson of the Nelson Leafs the only current confirmed AP for this weekend. Wilson leads the Leafs with 16 goals and 25 assists.

Smoke Eaters Leading scorers:

Johnson (23-36-59)
Colella (15-27-42)
Ozar (13-26-39)
Lapointe (11-18-29)
Ghirardosi (14-13-27)

The Express come into the game first in the BCHL with a 26-5-0 record, a perfect 17-0 at home and a 7 game win streak as well. The Express did lose North Dakota commit Massimo Rizzo off at the WJAC as well. It hasn’t been without its close calls that this streak has stayed alive. Coquitlam has made a habit of scoring late goals or taking games to extra time. Three of the seven games the Express have won have come in either overtime or a shootout. Clay Stevenson has been lights out for the Express, the reigning BCHL Player of the month for November leads the league with 1.47 GAA and a 0.944 SV% through 21 games. The Express power play sits fourth in the league while its penalty kill sits atop the BCHL at 90%.

Coquitlam Express leading scorers:

Lapointe (17-12-29)
Bellini (5-20-25)
Gregga (8-16-24)
Rizzo (9-14-23)
Wildauer (11-10-21)

To say this is a big match is an understatement. The Smoke Eaters won’t see the Express again till the end of the season, a time in with they hope to have their full lineup available to them. Will they be the first team to hand the Express a home ice loss? Or will the Poirier Sports and Leisure complex continue to be a fortress for the Express. Puck drop is 7pm with the pre game show starting at 6:50 with Ben Phillips on HockeyTV or Mixlr.