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GAME PREVIEW: Smoke Eaters Return Home For Game #3 With Series Tied

The Trail Smoke Eaters head back to the West Kootenays as they look to take a series lead in Game #3 of their best-of-seven Interior Division Quarterfinal against the Merritt Centennials on Tuesday night at the Trail Memorial Centre.

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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 (5-2 Smoke Eaters) (BOXSCORE)

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 earned a big victory in Game #2 of their best-of-seven Interior Division Quarterfinal matchup against the Merritt Centennials on Saturday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena to even the series at one game apiece. Mack Byers scored a pair of 1st period goals while Trevor Zins, Kent Johnson and Hayden Rowan each tallied singles in the win. Donovan Buskey was outstanding in between the pipes for Trail, turning aside 32 of the 34 shots he faced in his 1st career playoff victory.

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:

Mack Byers (2-1-3)

Tyler Ghirardosi (1-2-3)

Kent Johnson (2-0-2)

Hayden Rowan (1-1-2)

Trevor Zins (1-1-2)

Donovan Buskey was one of the biggest keys to victory in Game #2 to even the best-of-series in Merritt on Saturday night, turning aside 32 of the 34 shots he faced for his first career playoff win. The Vancouver, BC product has played well since coming to Trail on the January 10th Trade Deadline, winning four of his last six starts to close the regular season and will look to make it back-to-back wins between the pipes in Game #3.

After a pair of 1st period goals in Game #2, second year Smoke Eaters forward Mack Byers leads the team in scoring after the team’s two games in Merritt. The Long Lake, Minnesota native had an assist in the opening game of the series before his two-goal performance on Saturday night. Byers tallied a career-high 16 goals in the regular season and now has 4 career playoff goals under his belt after he scored 2 in 16 playoff games a season ago.

The Smoke Eaters head back home for the first time in the series and the Trail Memorial Centre was a place where they liked to play in the regular season. Trail finished the season with a 15-10-3-1 record when playing on home ice with the end of the season being especially good to the Smoke Eaters, winning five of their last six games at home including four straight games to end the regular season, outscoring their opponents 22-11 in that four-game span.

The Merritt Centennials look to rebound after their Game #2 loss to the Smoke Eaters on Saturday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. Matthew Kopperud and Rylan Van Unen each scored in the game for the Cents while Austin Roden turned aside 26 of the 31 shots he faced in his 1st 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 (3-0-3)

Nick Granowicz (1-1-2)

Brendan Schneider (0-2-2)

Rylan Van Unen (1-0-1)

Mike Van Unen (1-0-1)

Playing on the road did not faze the Centennials through regular season play as Merritt boasted a record of 16-9-2-2 in 29 games away from home, which ranked them 3rd in that regard in the BCHL. Merritt’s 94 goals scored on the road was tied for 7th in the league but did hold only a +1-goal differential, which ranked them 8th in the league in that department on the road.

Arizona State University commit Matthew Kopperud finished second behind Nick Granowicz in team goal scoring with 27 markers in the regular season and has been the most consistent presence for offence in the series for the Centennials. The Denver, Colorado native added his third goal of the series on Saturday night and leads all goal scorers with three markers through the series’ first two games. Kopperud is tied for second amongst BCHLer’s in goals scored with his 3 this postseason.

Through two games of the series, the Centennials have been one of the more disciplined teams in the playoffs. Merritt has the least amount of penalty minutes of all 16 teams with 18 through the first two games of the Interior Division Quarterfinal and will look to keep that in tact heading to Trail with the Smoke Eaters power play operating at a 2-for-3 clip on Saturday night.

The Smoke Eaters and Centennials play in Game #3 of their best-of-seven Interior Division Quarterfinal matchup tonight with puck drop slated for 7:00 PM from the Trail Memorial Centre. Tickets are available at the Smoke Eaters Main Office as well as at the door ahead of the opening face-off.