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GAME PREVIEW: Smoke Eaters Look For Series Split In Game #2 vs. Centennials

PHOTO: Cole Wagner/Merritt Herald

The Trail Smoke Eaters look to even the series and earn a split as they take on the Merritt Centennials in Game #2 of their Interior Division Quarterfinal on Saturday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.

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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 (7:00 PM)

Game #3: Tuesday, March 5th @ Trail Memorial Centre (7:00 PM)

Game #4: Wednesday, March 6th @ Trail Memorial Centre (7:00 PM)

*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 will look to even the series after a 4-2 loss to the Centennials on Friday night in the playoff opener at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. Kent Johnson and Tyler Ghirardosi tallied the goals for the Smoke Eaters while Donovan Buskey turned aside 34 of the 38 shots he faced in his 1st loss of the postseason.

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)

Leading Scorers vs. Centennials:

Chase Stevenson (1-8-9)

Carter Jones (2-2-4)

Braeden Tuck (2-2-4)

Trevor Zins (2-2-4)

Owen Ozar (2-1-3)

The playoff success of Tyler Ghirardosi continued on Friday night as the Smoke Eaters forward has had a knack for the postseason, scoring 9 times in 13 games in his BCHL playoff career. The Montrose, BC native led the team with 8 playoff markers a season ago and has points in three of his last four postseason contests, dating back to a season ago.

Some big news came on Thursday as Smoke Eaters defender Trevor Zins announced he will be attending St. Cloud State University for the 2019/20 season. The Saint Michael, Minnesota native paced the team in scoring from the blue line with 12 goals and 34 assists for 43 points, which also ranked him 4th among defenders in scoring in the BC Hockey League. The 6’1”, 188-pound rearguard finished the season with points in six of his last seven games and brings a bit of grit as well, adding 58 penalty minutes while playing in each of the 58-regular season contests for Trail in 2018/19.

Rebounding from a loss is something the Smoke Eaters did very well down the stretch and since the calendar year flipped to 2019 as Trail possesses a 6-2 record in the second game of a two-game weekend set. The Smokies have outscored their opponents by a 43-31 margin in the span of those six games and have been terrific at bouncing back as they look to tie the series heading back to Trail for Games #3 and #4 on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Merritt Centennials came away with the Game #1 victory on Friday night by a 4-2 score to jump ahead in the best-of-seven Interior Division Quarterfinal. Matthew Kopperud scored a pair of goals, including the eventual game winning marker in the 2nd period, while Mike Van Unen and Nick Granowicz added singles in the win. Austin Roden turned aside 29 of the 31 shots he faced in the game in his 1st win of the postseason and his first victory of his playoff career.

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)

Leading Scorers vs. Smoke Eaters:

Nicholas Wicks (3-5-8)

Brendan Schneider (3-2-5)

Bradley Cocca (1-4-5)

Christian Sabin (3-1-4)

Nick Granowicz (2-2-4)

Arizona State University commit Mathew Kopperud finished second behind Nick Granowicz in team goal scoring with 27 markers in the regular season and played a big factor in Game #1 of the series with a pair of goals. The Denver, Colorado native collected four multi-goal games during the regular season before finding the back of the net twice on Friday to help his team to a series opening victory.

The Centennials got another strong outing from Austin Roden, who made 29 saves on 31 shots in his first career playoff win. Roden won his last five starts coming down the stretch for the Centennials and has played well when facing 30 or more shots this season, holding a 20-7-0-1 record through the regular season.

The Smoke Eaters and Centennials play the second of their best-of-seven series from the Nicola Valley with puck drop slated for 7:00 PM from the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena with the pre-game show getting underway at 6:45 PM with a free audio stream available at mixlr.com/trail-smoke-eaters as well as on pay-per-view at HockeyTV.com.