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GAME PREVIEW: Smoke Eaters Look For Series Clincher In Game #5 In Merritt

PHOTO: Mike Hockley

The Trail Smoke Eaters head back to the Nicola Valley with a chance to advance to the second round as they face-off against the Merritt Centennials in Game #5 of their best-of-seven Interior Division Quarterfinal on Friday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.



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

Saturday, November 17th @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (4-2 Centennials) (BOXSCORE)

Friday, November 23rd @ Trail Memorial Centre (2-1 Smoke Eaters/OT) (BOXSCORE)

Friday, December 21st @ Trail Memorial Centre (5-2 Centennials) (BOXSCORE)

Saturday, December 22nd @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (5-3 Centennials) (BOXSCORE)

Saturday, February 2nd @ Trail Memorial Centre (3-2 Smoke Eaters/SO) (BOXSCORE)

Saturday, February 16th @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (6-4 Centennials) (BOXSCORE)

Interior Division Quarterfinal Schedule:

Game #1: Friday, March 1st @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (4-2 Centennials) (BOXSCORE)

Game #2: Saturday, March 2nd @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (5-2 Smoke Eaters) (BOXSCORE)

Game #3: Tuesday, March 5th @ Trail Memorial Centre (5-2 Smoke Eaters) (BOXSCORE)

Game #4: Wednesday, March 6th @ Trail Memorial Centre (3-2 Smoke Eaters) (BOXSCORE)

Game #5: Friday, March 8th @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (7:00 PM)

*Game #6: Saturday, March 9th @ Trail Memorial Centre (7:00 PM)

*Game #7: Monday, March 11th @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (7:00 PM)

* – If Necessary

The Smoke Eaters come into Friday night’s matchup with a chance to eliminate the Centennials from postseason play after a 3-2 victory in Game #4 on Wednesday night at the Trail Memorial Centre to take a 3-1 series lead. Max Kryski and Braeden Tuck scored with a tie game going late into the 3rd period before Kent Johnson tallied his fourth goal of the series to propel Trail to the win. Donovan Buskey stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced in the game in his 3rd win of the series.

Smoke Eaters 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 (4-1-5)

Mack Byers (2-2-4)

Chase Stevenson (1-3-4)

Trevor Zins (1-3-4)

The impressive postseason numbers from Tyler Ghirardosi continued with his assist in Game #4 and now has points in all four games of the series. The Quinnipiac University sits tied for 3rd in the BCHL in playoff points with 2 goals and 5 assists for 7 points and, dating back to a season ago, has points in six of his last seven playoff games. The Montrose, BC native has collected 10 goals and 7 assists for 17 points in 16 career postseason contests.

Rookie forward Kent Johnson has had a knack for the clutch and he showed poise well above his 16-year-old age with the game winning goal coming with just 2:30 remaining in the game on Wednesday night. The University of Michigan commit has scored a goal in each of the four games of this series and is tied for the league lead in game winning goals in the playoffs with a pair.

After finishing 9th in goal scoring in the regular season, the Smoke Eaters have seen their scoring rise through the postseason as they sit 4th in the BCHL with 15 goals in four games. The scoring has been well balanced for Trail as they have 10 different goal scorers in the series while being tied for 4th in goals against with 10.

The Merritt Centennials come into the game after a tough 3-2 loss to the Smoke Eaters on Wednesday night at the Trail Memorial Centre and now face an elimination game in Game #5. Payton Matsui and Matthew Kopperud scored the goals in the game for the Centennials while Austin Roden stopped 31 of the 34 shots thrown his way in his 3rd loss of the series.

Centennials Leading Scorers:

Bradley Cocca (23-45-68)

Mathieu Gosselin (22-38-60)

Nick Granowicz (32-27-59)

Nicholas Wicks (18-41-59)

Matthew Kopperud (27-24-51)


Centennials Playoff Scoring Leaders:

Matthew Kopperud (4-1-5)

Payton Matsui (1-3-4)

Brendan Schneider (0-3-3)

Nick Granowicz (1-1-2)

Michael Van Unen (1-1-2)

A constant offensive presence in the series for the Centennials has been second-year forward Matthew Kopperud, who leads the team with four goals and five points in the series. The Arizona State University commit has scored in three of the four games in this Interior Division Quarterfinal matchup and has points in each game thus far.

Being acquired by the Centennials midway through the season, forward Payton Matsui has fit in quite well with Merritt’s game. The Lakeville, Minnesota native sits second in scoring on the team with a goal and three assists for four points and had a big game on Wednesday night in Game #4 with a goal and an assist. Matsui closed the regular season with 8 goals and 9 assists for 17 points in 35 games played and has a point in each of his last three contests.

Although they sit 10th in the league in playoff action when it comes to penalty killing percentage, Merritt has found a way to find the back of the net while shorthanded. The Cents have scored a shorty in each of the last two games of the series and lead the league in shorthanded tallies after finishing with 6 in the regular season.

The Smoke Eaters and Centennials play in Game #5 of their Interior Division Quarterfinal and is an elimination game for the Cents as Trail leads 3-1 in the best-of-seven series. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 PM with the pre-game show getting underway at 6:45 PM with a free audio broadcast available at mixlr.com/trail-smoke-eaters as well as pay-per-view at HockeyTV.com with the Voice of the Smoke Eaters, Trevor Miller.