The Trail Smoke Eaters dropped Game #7 of their best-of-seven Interior Division Semi Final against the Vernon Vipers by a 5-2 score on Monday night at Kal Tire Place and saw their 2018/19 season come to a close.
The Vipers started the game as good as any team could in a Game #7 as they applied lots of pressure early on and got a 1-0 lead at the 7:36 mark of the opening period. Josh Latta collected a puck in the neutral zone and raced in on the right-wing side as he put a shot though the blocker side of Smoke Eaters netminder Adam Marcoux for one-goal lead.
Vernon continued to press in the opening frame and jumped ahead by a 2-0 score just under two minutes later as Nicholas Cherkowski potted his first career playoff marker at the 9:22 mark. Ben Helgeson fed the puck into the left face-off circle from below the goal line as Cherkowski took the pass and sent a shot off the blocker side of Marcoux and past him for a two-goal lead in favour of the home side in front of a packed building.
The Smoke Eaters cut the deficit in half later in the period courtesy of a power play as Hayden Rowan was able to get Trail within a goal. Kent Johnson started the play in the left face-off circle as he passed across to the right side where Carter Jones brought the puck into the right circle before his pass found Rowan in the slot as he deflected the pass by the glove side of Vipers netminder Aidan Porter for his 4th goal of the playoffs and a 2-1 game at the 16:08 mark.
Just 34 seconds later, however, the Vipers would regain their two-goal cushion with captain Jagger Williamson giving Vernon their third goal of the period. After a turnover in the left corner, Elan Bar-Lev-Wise walked to the front of the net, being denied on the blocker side of Marcoux before Williamson followed up on the rebound and gave Vernon a 3-1 lead at the 16:42 mark of the period.
Carver Watson scored the lone second period goal as it came earlier in the frame at the 5:25 mark and extended the Vipers lead to 4-1. Ben Sanderson was able to spot Watson from the right half boards as he threw the puck to the slot where Watson received the pass with speed and snapped a shot over the blocker side shoulder of Marcoux, bringing on Donovan Buskey in relief and pushing the Vipers advantage to three goals.
Braeden Tuck got the Smoke Eaters within a pair of goals at the 3:15 mark of the 3rd period and Trail hope in the final frame. Owen Ozar made a nice play as he went around the goal with the puck before sending a pass on the blocker side to the front of the net where Tuck lifted it over the blocker shoulder of Porter for his 5th goal of the postseason and cut the Vipers lead to 4-2.
The Smoke Eaters pressed to try and get the game within one but couldn’t beat the Vipers defence or Porter and with 44 seconds remaining, Josh Latta was able to find the empty goal from the left-wing side for his second goal of the night and cap off a 5-2 Game #7 victory for Vernon.
Adam Marcoux turned aside 9 of the 13 shots he faced in his final game of Junior hockey, coming on in the last 43 seconds to man the crease on final time after the empty net goal while Donovan Buskey stopped all 15 shots he faced in relief. Aidan Porter picked up his 8th win in goal in stopping 17 of the 19 shots he faced through 60 minutes.
FINAL SCORE: 5-2 Vipers
SHOTS ON GOAL: 29-19 Vipers
SMOKE EATERS PP: 1/2
SMOKE EATERS PK: 2/2
1) Jagger Williamson (1-1-2)
2) Josh Latta (2-0-2)
3) Carver Watson (1-0-1)
Fortis Energy Player of the Game: Matt Kowalski (0-1-1)
The Smoke Eaters would like to thank everyone for making the 2018/19 season so special along with all the support from fans, sponsors as well as the community throughout the course of the year! Keep an eye on the Smoke Eaters social media channels for all upcoming events before hockey kicks off again in early September.