Black Press Sports
TRAIL – Looking to shake off a couple of recent meltdowns, the Smoke Eaters have shaken things up as they begin a home-and-home BCHL series with the Vernon Vipers tonight at Cominco Arena.
Head coach Jim Ingram dealt all-star defenceman Graeme Strukoff to the Victoria Grizzlies in exchange for defenceman Jake Baker, forward Wesley Myron and future considerations on Wednesday.
Ingram also released 19-year-old forward Steve Oursov.
Although he refused to go into detail, Ingram said the moves were more with “off-ice issues,” rather than the players’ performance on the ice.
“A big word for us is accountability,” said Ingram. “There’s some guys that have to be held accountable for stuff and we may win this weekend or we may lose but at the end of the day this is about making this team better.”
Ingram thinks he has achieved that goal in the deal that brings the six-foot-six Baker to Trail.
The 19-year-old Port Moody native, who is expected to be in the lineup tonight, already has a scholarship to Northern Michigan University in hand for next year.
Baker began his BCHL career in Merritt in the 2008-09 season and moved from Merritt to Nanaimo to Victoria last season. He was named captain of the Grizzlies this season and had three assists and eight penalty minutes in 11 games.
“He’s a great defenceman,” said Ingram. “We feel we more than covered, for this year, the absence of Strukoff. They’re very comparable players. The unfortunate part is Baker is gone next year to Northern Michigan.”
Myron, an 18-year-old Victoria native, has refused to report to the Smokies and Ingram said another deal is in the works to move his rights.
The Smokies are also trying to regain their footing after their losing streak stretched to three games following Saturday’s debacle against the Penticton Vees on home ice. Trail blew a 3-1 lead in the final minutes and lost 4-3 in overtime.
“That was the worst loss I’ve ever been a part of,” admitted Trail’s Scott Jacklin. “Now we’ve got to get our fans back.”
The Smokies won the only contest between the two teams this season, a thrilling 3-2 overtime win at Cominco to open October.
The Snakes (7-4-1-2) host the Smokies (8-5-0-1) Saturday night at Wesbild Centre.
Meanwhile, Victoria continued its own shake up by sending defencemen Brett Kolins and Scott Milnthorp to Merritt for 20-year-old forward Dustin Johnson.