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GAME PREVIEW: Smoke Eaters Clash With Vipers In Game #1 Of Interior Division Semi Final In Vernon

PHOTO: Lisa Mazurek/Lisa Mazurek Photography

The Trail Smoke Eaters have moved into the second round of the BC Hockey League playoffs as they take on the Vernon Vipers in Game #1 of the Interior Division Semi Final on Friday night at Kal Tire Place.



Smoke Eaters vs. Vipers 2018/19 Regular Season Schedule:

Saturday, September 15th @ Kal Tire Place (3-1 Smoke Eaters) (BOXSCORE)

Wednesday, October 17th @ Kal Tire Place (4-0 Vipers) (BOXSCORE)

Wednesday, November 14th @ Trail Memorial Centre (3-2 Smoke Eaters) (BOXSCORE)

Saturday, November 24th @ Kal Tire Place (1-0 Vipers) (BOXSCORE)

Wednesday, December 12th @ Trail Memorial Centre (3-2 Vipers/OT) (BOXSCORE)

Friday, February 1st @ Trail Memorial Centre (6-3 Vipers) (BOXSCORE)

Interior Division Semi Final Schedule:

Game #1: Friday, March 15th @ Kal Tire Place (7:00 PM)

Game #2: Saturday, March 16th @ Kal Tire Place (7:00 PM)

Game #3: Tuesday, March 19th @ Trail Memorial Centre (7:00 PM)

Game #4: Wednesday, March 20th @ Trail Memorial Centre (7:00 PM)

*Game #5: Friday, March 22nd @ Kal Tire Place (7:00 PM)

*Game #6: Saturday, March 23rd @ Trail Memorial Centre (7:00 PM)

*Game #7: Monday, March 25th @ Kal Tire Place (7:00 PM)

* – If Necessary

The Smoke Eaters and Vipers saw their six-game season series be a tight one with Vernon coming out with victories in four of the six matchups, including handing Trail a 6-3 loss at the Trail Memorial Centre in the team’s final meeting. Mack Byers scored a pair of goals in the game while Kent Johnson added a single in the defeat with Donovan Buskey turning aside 25 of the 30 shots he faced in the loss.

Trail comes into the second round after a 4-2 victory over the Merritt Centennials in Game #5 of their best-of-seven Interior Division Quarterfinal to win the series. Bryce Anderson scored the series-clinching goal while Mack Byers, Owen Ozar and Braeden Tuck added markers in the win. Donovan Buskey was outstanding once again as he turned aside 32 of the 34 shots he faced in his 4th victory of the postseason.

Smoke Eaters Regular Season Leading Scorers:

Carter Jones (17-38-55)

Chase Stevenson (19-34-53)

Kent Johnson (20-26-46)

Trevor Zins (12-34-46)

Braeden Tuck (15-28-43)


Smoke Eaters Playoff Scoring Leaders:

Tyler Ghirardosi (2-5-7)

Kent Johnson (4-2-6)

Mack Byers (3-2-5)

Chase Stevenson (1-3-4)

Trevor Zins (1-3-4)

2019 will mark the third straight season that the Smoke Eaters have advanced to the second round of the BCHL playoffs and will come against a familiar foe. This series marks the 8th meeting between the teams in their postseason history with the Vipers coming away victorious in their most recent playoff matchup two years ago in 2017 with Vernon eliminating Trail in five games of the Interior Division Semi Final that season.

The play in between the pipes in the opening round for the Smoke Eaters was outstanding as 18-year-old netminder Donovan Buskey dazzled with a stellar five games against the Merritt Centennials, earning him an honourable mention for the BCHL’s Player of the Week award. The Vancouver, BC native finished the series with a 2.40 goals against average and a .931 save percentage including a 32-save performance in the series-clinching Game #5 to advance Trail into the second round of postseason play.

Playoff hockey has not phased 16-year-old forward Kent Johnson, who has provided a big offensive presence in his first career BCHL postseason run. The University of Michigan commit had points in each of the five games in the Smoke Eaters best-of-seven series against the Centennials with four goals and two assists for six points. The Port Moody, BC native scored a goal in each of the first four games of the series and, dating back to regular season play, has points in eight of his last nine games.

The Smoke Eaters had plenty of success finding the back of the net in their opening round series, scoring 19 goals in 5 games while surrendering just 12 throughout the Interior Division Quarterfinal. Trail ranked 4th in the league in goal scoring after the opening round while they are tied for 2nd in goal differential at +7. The Smoke Eaters got scoring throughout the lineup as 12 different goal scorers lit the red lamp for Trail, which led all BCHL teams in the dispersal of scoring.

The Vernon Vipers are into the second round of the playoffs for the third straight season after defeating the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in five games of their best-of-seven Interior Division Semi Final. Game #5 went to triple overtime as Matt Kowalski scored the goal for Vernon to advance while Logan Cash, Michael Young and Jack Judson also added tallies in the victory. Aidan Porter stopped 48 of the 51 shots thrown his way in his 4th win of the playoffs.

Vipers Regular Season Leading Scorers:

Matt Kowalski (13-30-43)

Teddy Wooding (21-19-40)

Josh Latta (19-21-40)

Connor Marritt (13-27-40)

Jack Judson (7-26-33)


Vipers Playoff Scoring Leaders:

Jesse Lansdell (2-5-7)

Jagger Williamson (2-5-7)

Matt Kowalski (3-1-4)

Josh Latta (1-2-3)

Michael Young (1-2-3)

Kal Tire Place has been a tough place to play for opposition over the course of the last few seasons, especially in postseason play. Vernon has posted an impressive 11-3 record in the last 14 playoff games on home ice, outscoring their opponents 55-29 in that span. The Vipers have lost just once on home ice in each of the last three playoff seasons while holding a 12-11-5-2 record in 30 regular season games on home ice.

The Vipers will look to one of their most experienced players in the postseason when it comes to Game #1, and throughout the whole series, as Jesse Lansdell can play a big part in any series. The University of Notre Dame commit has played the most postseason games of any player in the series with 51 split between his time with Vernon and the Chilliwack Chiefs. The Langley, BC native has 7 goals and 28 assists for 35 points in that span and had points in four of the five games against Salmon Arm, leading the team with 7 points.

When it comes to that playoff experience, there won’t be many series that have more than the impending battle between the Smoke Eaters and Vipers. Lansdell leads the charge with his 51 games of postseason experience for Vernon while Powell Connor checks in at 46 to lead Trail in that regard. The Vipers, as a team, have amassed 295 games of playoff action heading into this series while the Smoke Eaters are right behind them at 292 entering Game #1 at Kal Tire Place on Friday.

The Interior Division Quarterfinal was a long one for the Vipers, who played just under 117 minutes in Game #5 to eliminate the Salmon Arm Silverbacks with that game being the third of the series to go beyond 60 minutes of regulation time. Josh Latta, Ben Sanderson and Matt Kowalski all have overtime winners thus far in a series that featured four of the five games separated by just a single goal.

The Smoke Eaters and Vipers will begin their best-of-seven Interior Division Semi Final on Friday night at Kal Tire Place with Game #1 set for a 7:00 PM puck drop. The game will be broadcasted with a FREE audio stream at mixlr.com/trail-smoke-eaters as well as on pay-per-view at HockeyTV.com beginning with the Teck Trail Operations Pre-Game Report at 6:45 PM with the Voice of the Smoke Eaters, Trevor Miller.