The Trail Smoke Eatersused an outstanding defensive performance to pick up a 3-1 victory in Game #1 of their best-of-seven Interior Division Semi Final against the Vernon Vipers on Friday night at Kal Tire Place.
Trail had some good looks in the opening period and had three power plays to work with, including a 1:12 5-on-3-man advantage, but the Smoke Eaters could not beat Vipers netminder Aidan Porter who made 10 saves on 10 shots in the period. Donovan Buskey turned aside all 4 shots he saw his way in the Smoke Eaters net to keep the game scoreless after one period.
The game still awaited its first goal after 40 minutes as the two teams played to a scoreless tie through two periods. The middle stanza started to open up a bit with chances coming at both ends, including a great look for Chase Stevenson in the slot as he was fed from the left-wing corner on a pass from Kieran O’Hearn but was denied by the glove of Porter, one of his 11 saves in the period and 21 through 40 minutes of action.
Moments after that chance, Vernon had their best opportunity to score of the game up to that point as Teddy Wooding found his way behind the Smoke Eaters defence with a good look on net, pulling to his forehand to try and stuff the puck past the left pad of Buskey but the Smoke Eaters goaltender kept the puck out for one of his 4 saves in the period and 8 overall through two frames.
The scoring started to open up in the 3rd period as the Vipers took advantage of a turnover inside the Trail zone. Ben Sanderson gathered a loose puck on the left wing and walked the goal line before sliding it through the legs of Buskey to give Vernon a 1-0 lead at the 2:21 mark of the final period.
Trail was quick to answer back as just 1:16 later, the captain got the game evened up. The play started with a rush from Chase Stevenson as he set the puck down low for a rim around the goal and Max Kryski collected in the left corner before spotting Braeden Tuck off the bench as he took a pass and wired a shot over the glove side for his 3rd goal of the playoffs and a 1-1 game at the 3:37 mark of the 3rd period.
Just over two minutes later, the Smoke Eaters collected their first lead of the game at the 5:49 mark as Spencer McLean got Trail ahead. Mack Byers chased down a loose puck and stopped at the goal line on the glove side of Porter before sending a pass to the blocker side for McLean as he tapped in his 2nd goal of the postseason to give Trail a 2-1 advantage.
The biggest point of the game came later in the 3rd period as Donovan Buskey continued his strong stretch of play and came up with a huge stop on a penalty shot. Teddy Wooding was hauled down and came in all alone as he tried to beat Buskey to the glove side but the Smoke Eaters netminder came across with a strong left pad save to preserve a 2-1 lead late in the game for Trail.
Off the ensuing face-off, the Smoke Eaters were able to win the draw and push the puck ahead for Carter Jones to find the empty net, scoring his 2nd goal of the playoffs at the 18:55 mark and capping off a 3-1 victory for the Smoke Eaters.
Donovan Buskey turned aside 16 of the 17 shots he faced in his 5th win of the postseason while Aidan Porter stopped 21 of the 23 shots thrown his way in his 2nd loss of the playoffs.
FINAL SCORE: 3-1 Smoke Eaters
SHOTS ON GOAL: 23-17 Smoke Eaters
SMOKE EATERS PP: 0/3
SMOKE EATERS PK: 1/1
1) Braeden Tuck (1-1-2)
2) Ben Sanderson (1-0-1)
3) Spencer McLean (1-0-1)
Fortis Energy Player of the Game: Jesse Lansdell (0-0-0)
The Smoke Eaters and Vipers will play Game #2 of their best-of-seven Interior Division Semi Final on Saturday night at 7:00 PM as Trail has a chance to take a 2-0 lead back home with them on Tuesday. The game will be broadcasted live with a FREE audio stream at mixlr.com/trail-smoke-eaters as well as on pay-per-view at HockeyTV.com with the Voice of the Smoke Eaters, Trevor Miller.