The Trail Smoke Eaters surrendered a two-goal first period lead as they fell in Game #4 of their Interior Division Semi Final to the Vernon Vipers by a 3-2 score on Wednesday night at the Trail Memorial Centre.
The 1st period was a bit of a feeling out process through the first 15 minutes of play before the Smoke Eaters opened the scoring and the flood gates on chances to close a wild opening frame. Braeden Tuck played a puck off the end boards from the neutral zone and skated down the loose puck as he passed from the right face-off circle across to the left side for Owen Ozar who hit an open net on the blocker side of a diving Vipers goaltender Aidan Porter for his 3rd goal of the postseason and a 1-0 lead at the 14:15 mark.
Just 58 seconds later, the power play struck for Trail for the second straight night and Carter Jones found the back of the net for the fourth consecutive game. Jones moved into the right side of the ice and let a shot go from the hash marks that beat Porter over the glove side shoulder for his 5th goal of the postseason and a 2-0 lead at the 15:13 mark of the opening frame.
The Vipers were able to cut the deficit to a goal on a terrific individual effort from their captain Jagger Williamson. He collected the puck at centre ice and got around a check to get behind the defence and was able to fight off a couple of stick checks before going from his forehand to his backhand and finishing on the blocker side of Smoke Eaters netminder Donovan Buskey to get the Vipers on the board and make it a 2-1 game at the 17:17 mark of the opening period.
Vernon worked quickly to get the game evened up as just 14 seconds into the middle stanza, Trey Taylor got the game knotted at 2-2. Taylor had the puck get to him just inside the blue line and fired a slap shot past the glove side of the Buskey for his first career BCHL playoff goal and tied the score.
There weren’t many chances to report of in the middle stanza with the Smoke Eaters outshooting the Vipers by an 8-4 count with Donovan Buskey turning aside 14 of the 16 shots he faced through 40 minutes while Aidan Porter stopped 18 of the 20 shots thrown at his net through two periods of action setting up a big 3rd period.
Both teams had their chances at pressure with neither side being able to find a way to get the puck in the net before the latter point of the final frame and it was again the Vipers who would be the team to capitalize.
Trail was at the end of a long shift and struggled to get the puck out of their own zone as the Vipers held the puck in and got it to the middle of the slot where Jack Judson was given lots of space before snapping a shot past the glove side of Buskey and gave Vernon their first lead of the game at 3-2 at the 14:07 mark of the final period.
The Smoke Eaters would get a late power play but couldn’t get anything generated for offence as the Vipers took Game #4 by a 3-2 score. Donovan Buskey turned aside 23 of the 26 shots he faced in the game in his 3rd loss of the playoffs while Aidan Porter stopped 24 of the 26 shots thrown his way in his 6th win of the postseason.
FINAL SCORE: 3-2 Vipers
SHOTS ON GOAL: 26-26
SMOKE EATERS PP: 1/6
SMOKE EATERS PK: 2/2
1) Carter Jones (1-1-2)
2) Jagger Williamson (1-1-2)
3) Jack Judson (1-0-1)
Fortis Energy Player of the Game: Owen Ozar (1-0-1)
The Smoke Eaters and Vipers have their series tied up at 2-2 heading back to Vernon for Game #5 on Friday night at Kal Tire Place. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 PM with the game being broadcasted live with a FREE audio stream at mixlr.com/trail-smoke-eaters as well as on pay-per-view at HockeyTV.com beginning at 6:45 PM with the Teck Trail Operations Pre-Game Report with the Voice of the Smoke Eaters, Trevor Miller.