The Trail Smoke Eaters split the weekend home and home series with the Vernon Vipers winning 3-1 at home on Friday night and losing in Vernon on Saturday, 7-1. Combined with two losses by West Kelowna on the weekend the Smokies finished in third place and will face the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the first round of the playoffs. The best of 7 series starts in Trail on Friday night, with the second game going on Saturday night, also in Trail. Both games will be at the Cominco Arena. Game time on Friday is 7:30 pm with the second game going at 7:00 pm on Saturday.
Penticton Vees – 86
Vernon Vipers – 69
Trail Smoke Eaters – 58
West Kelowna Warriors – 56
Merritt Centennials – 56
Salmon Arm Silverbacks – 54
The last time the Smokies finished this high in the standings was 2006/07 with 76 points, just 2 points behind second place Vernon. This was also the last time the Smokies opened with home ice advantage and faced the Merritt Centennials. The Smokies also finished third in 2002/03 and 1997/98. The previous year, 1996/97, the Smokies finished in second place. **
The last time the Smokies made the playoffs was in 2010/11 when they finished in fifth place and lost a 7 game series to Westside. In 2001/02 the Smokies met Salmon Arm in the first round and won the series 4 games to 1. In 2002/03 they met Salmon Arm in the second round and won the best of five series 3 games to 2. The deciding game was played in Salmon Arm with Trail winning in double ovetime.** Hopefully history will repeat itself in this year’s series with the Silverbacks.
The last time Salmon Arm and Trail met this year was on February 7 when they fought to a 1-1 double overtime tie in Salmon Arm. This season the teams met 7 times, with the Smokies winning 4 games, losing 2 and tying 1. In the interior division Salmon Arm was the hottest team down the stretch, winning 5 straight games to finish the season.
On a positive note for the Smokie’s, injured players have been gradually returning and by the start of the playoffs they should have all players back in the lineup. Consistency is the key for the Orange & Black going into the playoffs. They have proven they can play with the best and to be successful will have to bring that consistency to every game for a full 60 minutes. Also on a positive note, the Smokies are over 500 at home, making home ice advantage a definite plus for the team.
So, “Don’t Forget”, Friday, March 3 is the first playoff game in Trail with the second game on Saturday, also in Trail. Game time on Friday is 7:30 pm. Game time on Saturday is 7:00 pm. Come out and support the team. “Bleed Orange!”
**Smokie playoff history provided by Randy Emery