Smoke Eaters Clash with Cranbrook in Saturday's Preseason Opener

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It will be a full game-night experience when the Smoke Eaters host Cranbrook in Saturday night's preseason opener with one exception, fans.

Coach and GM Tim Fragle said playing in front of empty seats is going to be a very different type of experience for the veterans.

“They were mentioning it, kind of off the cuff that it’s going to be weird because we have such good fans here,” said Fragle who amusingly added it probably won’t be a big deal for the rookies.

“As for the new kids coming in, they won’t really know any different, if you’re coming from Midget Hockey there aren’t a lot of fans in the stands.”

The 30 players in training camp over the last three weeks have progressed from skills development to learning systems and tried to apply both during scrimmages.

Fragle feels veterans and rookies alike are ready to take the process to the next level in their first exhibition game.

“You see the emotions on the kids (faces), they are ready to go, they are excited to play and I think that’s going to go to another level here when we finally play another team,” said Fragle who will be making his debut behind the Smokies bench on Saturday after being hired to replace Jeff Tambellini in the off-season.

He said the coaching staff will be assessing their player pool over the first four pre-season games.

“We’re going to try to get everybody into a couple games each, really see what we have on both sides, whether they can play, or are at this level yet and also it will allow up to play with some (line) combinations.”

Fragle expects all players will get ample opportunities to prove themselves as there is no rush to pick the team for the planned Dec.1 regular season start.

“We want to be smart how we construct the team because we have a little bit of extra time,” said Fragle who is very comfortable with the timeline.

“Typically, usually you’ve got to make quick decisions, but now we know that we’ve got a little extra time on our side so we are going to get a chance to watch these guys play.”    

Fragle also indicated there is no timeline to start making cuts noting they are awaiting details from provincial officials about the specific numbers that will be allowed in each four-team cluster,

The players will wear full face masks in pre-season games.

Meanwhile the Smoke Eaters acquired 20-year-old forward Drew Elser from the Penticton Vees for future consideration.