PHOTO: Cole Wagner/Merritt Herald
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 2nd, 2019
MERRITT, B.C. – The Trail Smoke Eaters used a two-goal effort from Mack Byers and a 32-save performance from Donovan Buskey to earn a 5-2 victory in Game #2 of their Interior Division Quarterfinal against the Merritt Centennials and even the series at 1-1 on Saturday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.
For the second time in as many nights, the Smoke Eaters were first to hit the scoresheet as Mack Byers gave the visitors a 1-0 advantage at the 5:53 mark of the period. Byers flew through the neutral zone and caught a fallen Merritt defender as he worked to the slot and let a shot go off the post and in on the blocker side of Centennials goaltender Austin Roden that gave Trail the first goal of the game and a one-goal advantage.
Byers was at it again at the tail end of a power play with just two seconds remaining in the man advantage to give the Smoke Eaters a two-goal lead. The puck was lost off the stick of Chase Stevenson on the blocker side goal line and came free in the right face-off circle with Byers turning and firing a shot that got past Roden on the blocker side to give the Smoke Eaters a 2-0 lead at the 10:48 mark of the opening period.
The Centennials chipped away, however, and got the game on even terms at the 12:31 mark as Matthew Kopperud continued his hot start to the series. Nick Granowicz spotted Kopperud in the slot with a pass as the Merritt forward got a shot underneath the glove hand of Smoke Eaters netminder Donovan Buskey to cut the deficit to a goal and make it a 2-1 game.
The Smoke Eaters played about as good of a road period as anyone could in the middle stanza, forcing Merritt off the puck and extending their lead to 3-1 off the stick of newly-committed defender Trevor Zins as the 20-year-old blue liner gave Trail their second two-goal advantage of the game.
Zins collected a loose puck at centre ice as he made his way into the offensive zone and kept the puck down the right wing before letting a shot go from the face-off circle that snuck underneath the glove hand of Roden for his 1st goal of the series and gave Trail a 3-1 lead at the 12:06 mark of the 2nd period.
Donovan Buskey helped the Smoke Eaters carry that two-goal cushion into the final regulation period of play. The Vancouver, BC native turned aside all 11 shots he faced in the middle stanza and stopped 24 of 25 through 40 minutes as Trail took a 3-1 lead into the 3rd period of action.
The Smoke Eaters began the 3rd period with a big penalty kill that they were able to kill off before Rylan Van Unen cut the Centennials deficit to one goal again at the 1:56 mark of the final period. Van Unen found the puck behind the goal and wrapped it around on the glove side of Buskey to make it a 3-2 Smoke Eaters lead.
Trail responded in a big way just moments later at the 3:06 mark as Kent Johnson showed off his impressive skill set. Johnson stripped the Merritt defence in the neutral zone and worked in on a breakaway, going from his forehand to his backhand and back again to his forehand and slid the puck past the blocker side of Roden for his 2nd goal of the series and a 4-2 lead.
Trail capped off the scoring at the 8:56 mark of the final frame as Hayden Rowan snapped a power play goal by the blocker side of Roden. Rowan took a pass in front of the goal and chipped it past Roden for his first goal of the series and extended the Smoke Eater advantage to 5-2, the eventual final score.
Donovan Buskey was terrific in goal once again for the Smoke Eaters, turning aside 32 of the 34 shots he faced in his 1st playoff victory while Austin Roden stopped 26 of the 31 shots thrown his way in his 1st loss of the series.
FINAL SCORE: 5-2 Smoke Eaters
SHOTS ON GOAL: 34-31 Centennials
SMOKE EATERS PP: 2/3
SMOKE EATERS PK: 2/3
1) Mack Byers (2-0-2)
2) Trevor Zins (1-1-2)
3) Donovan Buskey (32 saves on 34 shots)
Fortis Energy Player of the Game: Nicholas Wicks (0-0-0)
The Smoke Eaters head back home as the series shifts back to Trail with Game #3 of their Interior Division Quarterfinal against the Merritt Centennials scheduled for Tuesday night. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 PM with tickets available for purchase at the Smoke Eaters Main Office as well as at the door ahead of the opening face-off.