Ozar to serve as Smoke Eaters captain next season

Photo Courtesy of Jim Bailey/Trail Times Owen Ozar celebrates after scoring in overtime for the Trail Smoke Eaters in Game 2 of their 2020 BCHL playoff series against the Prince George Spruce Kings.

There will be something new on Owen Ozar’s jersey when he heads back to Trail, B.C.

The Prince Albert product recently found out that he will be the captain for the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters during the 2020-21 campaign, which will be his third year with the club.

“It’s a huge honour,” Ozar said. “When I went to Trail as an 18-year-old, one of my goals was to spend all three seasons there and to eventually become a leader on the team.

“To get that news was very humbling and I’m really excited for the next year there. I want to continue to develop my game as I get ready for college hockey (with the Denver Pioneers) and to help our team win a championship.”

Ozar, who was the captain for the Swift Current Legionnaires during his final Midget AAA season in 2017-18, learned a lot about what it takes to be a leader at the Junior A level from previous Smoke Eaters captains Braeden Tuck and Philippe Lapointe.

“Those are two guys that led in different ways and they really helped me out a lot,” Ozar said.

“I’ll probably use a combination of what they did as captain. I’m not a very vocal guy, but I’ll talk if need be. My main thing though is to lead by example and continue to play the same way that I have played over the last couple of year.”

After a 26-point rookie campaign with the Smoke Eaters, Ozar increased his scoring output this season as he was third on the team with 66 points in 54 games.

He also had four points in their opening round sweep of the Prince George Spruce Kings before the post-season came to an end due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was really disappointing for the season to come to an end before we started that quarter-final series (with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks),” Ozar said. “We had such a good team and we knew that we could go a long way, which I think is something our coaches and fans thought we could do as well.

“We were playing as a team and everyone was stepping up. Some people said our top players (such as CJHL forward of the year Kent Johnson) did all the work for us, but our overall depth was one of the best in the league. I think if we had been fortunate enough to go further and further…the other teams in the league would have seen that first hand.”

Although the Smoke Eaters will have a solid group of newcomers to join their returning talent, such as netminder and BCHL rookie of the year winner Logan Terness, they will have a new face behind the bench as Jeff Tambelini has taken a pro scouting job with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“He gave me a call right away to tell me that he got the job with Tampa,” Ozar said.

“Jeff’s been an awesome coach and it’s a huge opportunity for him. Our league isn’t just about giving players the chance to compete to a higher level as there have been several coaches who have moved up over the last few years.”

The team has yet to announce Tambelini’s replacement.