I was at tonight's Interior Division Semifinals Game 2 between the Vipers & Smoke Eaters as Vernon defeated Trail 2-0 in front of 2.136 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Darion Hanson
Trail: Linden Marshall
1st Period: The Vipers got off to a quick start and jumped on Trail early. Just a minute into the opening period Cooper Watson's point shot was stopped by Linden Marshall who had troubles with the puck, before making a difficult looking save. Off the following faceoff Brett Stapley with a quick low shot from in close was denied by Marshall. Three and a half minutes into the game the Smoke Eaters would get the games first powerplay, on the play Riley Brandt charged over towards a Trail player, getting in his face, while Ty Taylor was getting involved with Luke Santerno. The Smokies struggled with the man advantage, didn't even go a minute into the powerplay before being caught with too many men on the ice, sending the play to four on four. Four on Four Cameron Trott's shot from the blueline was stopped by Linden Marshall coming up with a big save before Trott gathered the rebound beat Marshall but not the post as Vernon come within inches of opening the scoring. The Snakes with all kinds of pressure-zone time were all over Trail early and often. Just before the midway mark Austin Adamson with a quality chance in close was denied by Linden Marshall. The Smoke Eaters needed almost ten minutes to record just their second shot of the 1st period. It was all Vipers in the first half, before Trail seemed to slowly come on in the second half. Ex Vipers forward Blaine Caton with a great opportunity couldn't get off a good shot was stopped in close by Darion Hanson with seven minutes remaining. Two minutes later the Smokies sprung Kale Howarth in for the breakaway couldn't solve Darion Hanson, making a big save keeping this game scoreless. Two minutes later former Salmon Arm Silverback Joshua Laframboise was stopped by Darion Hanson. On the following play Niko Karamanis with a good look in close was robbed by the quick glove of Linden Marshall late in the period. It was 0-0 after 20 minutes of play. The Vipers jumped on the Smokies early and often, dominated the play in the first half. Vernon with some good chances couldn't beat Linden Marshall who made some big stops. The Vipers could have easily been up two or three goals if it wasnt for Marshall. Did Trail have the bus legs? In the second half Trail come on, getting some quality chances of their own, but it was Darion Hanson who made some good saves keeping this game scoreless. Trail scores on one of these opportunities and they come out of the 1st with the lead, in a period they maybe don't deserve a lead, this could easily change momentum and the outcome of the game. The Smoke Eaters were outplayed in the first half, played better and come on in the second half, were lucky to be in the game. Vernon outshot Trail 13-8.
2nd Period: Inside the opening minutes Darion Hanson either lost an edge or was going down to make a save, caught a break as the shot from the point looked to hit someone on it's way to the goal, went up and over Hanson just over the net as Trail with a good chance early to try and open the scoring. The Snakes would get an early powerplay as the Smokies would get caught with too many men (second of the night). Former Salmon Arm Silverbacks defenceman Cameron Trott with a quick shot from the circle forced Smoke Eaters starting goaltender Linden Marhsall into coming across the blue paint to make a quick reaction save with his right pad. This was the Vipers only real quality chance as Trail would kill off the minor. For a second straight period Vernon jumped on the Some Eaters, carried most of the play, as the Vipers with a ton of pressure in the offensive zone had several good looks from in close. Trail's defence was doing a good job early at keeping the Vipers to the outside, limiting their chances. Vernon had a lot of pressure but had troubles getting pucks to the net early, before getting some good chances in and around the net. A quick high shot caught Linden Marshall in the mask, knocking his mask off and into the corner boards stopping play. Marshall would be ok and stay in the hockey game. Kale Howarth was seen leaving the Trail bench, looked to be in some discomfort making his way to the dressing room, was attended by the team trainer, did not return. Jesse Lansdell come very close to opening the scoring after beating Linden Marshall ripping a shot off the far post-crossbar. On the following play, Connor Brown-Malowski beat Darion Hanson also rang his shot off the post. Two close calls at both ends of the rink. The Smokies would get their second powerplay of the evening late. Trail with a few good looks, forced Vipers starting goaltender Darion Hanson into making some good saves as Vernon was able to kill off the minor. Just as the penalty expired Shane Kelly would be sent back to the penalty box, sending Trail to a second straight powerplay. The Smoke Eaters would run out of time as the period ended, before some fireworks. After a late hit at the buzzer, several players on both sides, got mixed up before some punches were thrown. Connor Clouston looked to try and spear a Trail player as he skated by, before tempers heated up in a hurry. Clouston was in the mix of the scrum as now everyone seemed to jump in, getting involved. Carter Cochrane made his way to the Trail bench-dressing room, looked to have injured his shoulder. As the scrum continued it looked like Clouston tried to spear another Smoke Eater in front of the Trail bench, getting some reaction from the Smokies bench. The scrum was broken up before both teams were sent to the dressing rooms. It was 0-0 after 40 minutes of play. The Smoke Eaters had a quality chance to open the scoring a few minutes into the 2nd period before the Snakes took over and dominated the play for most of the period. I thought Vernon was by far the better of the two teams for most of that second frame. The Vipers with a ton of pressure-had several good looks, getting some quality chances either were denied by Linden Marshall or couldn't catch a break in and around the net. The Smokies had a few good chances late on the man advantage, played most of the period in their own end. Vernon outshot Trail 15-7.
3rd Period: The Smokies started the final frame on the man advantage that was carried over after the 2nd period. Carter Cochrane who looked to have injured his shoulder at the end of the 2nd period, joined the Smoke Eaters on the bench and finished the contest. A minute into the 3rd Riley Brandt & Carter Cochrane got involved with each other as the two were sent to the penalty box. In the dying seconds of the powerplay, Darion Hanson couldn't cover the loose puck in the crease before a goal mouth scramble, several players poking and falling in and around the Viper goal before the Vipers were able to cover the puck and stop play, killing off the minor. Off the following draw Hanson made a huge glove save off a turn over inside the Viper blueline, keeping this game scoreless. On the following play Jimmy Lambert broke down the left wing, before snapping a quick shot from the circle that beat Linden Marshall short side giving Vernon the 1-0 lead at 2:11 Steven Jandric with the lone assist. At first I thought Marshall stopped Lambert before I saw the goal light come on. Lambert with a nice shot, gives the Vipers the lead. Either the Snakes were sitting back on a one goal lead or the Smoke Eaters finally got their game going and were coming on. Either way Trail seemed to have a bit more jump after Jimmy Lambert's goal, as the Smokies were pressing hard. The Vipers sitting back a bit in their own end, got caught turning over the puck on a few occasions. Vernon didn't seem to have that same jump-energy saw a lot more action in their own end, were having troubles getting out of their own end-through the neutral zone at times. Trail with several good looks in close couldn't solve Darion Hanson. Mitchell Barker with a quick shot from the circle forced Darion Hanson into making a big stop with about eight minutes to go. With just under five minutes remaining Niko Karamanis with a great effort was going hard to the goal, was hauled down on the way to the net, put Vernon on the powerplay. Troy Ring who was upset with the call, kept pointing to the scoreboard as he made his way to the box. The Vipers struggled with the man advantage, held onto the puck for most of the powerplay, as Trail killed off the minor. Late in the game Niko Karamanis was once again going hard to the net, was hauled down looked to give the Snakes a powerplay to finish the game but both players went to the box, as Karamanis was called for diving. This was a blown call by the referee, Vernon should have had a powerplay to finish the game. Trail would call a late timeout before getting Linden Marshall to the bench for the extra attacker. The Smokies pressed for the tying goal, had some good pressure in the final minute, just missed the net on at least two shots from the slot, were denied by Darion Hanson twice couldn't catch a break-bounce before Steven Jandric put the game away with the empty netter giving Vernon a 2-0 lead at 19:57 as the Viper bench went nuts. Jimmy Lambert & Brett Stapley collected the helpers. Vernon would take Game 1 2-0 to grab a 1-0 series lead. The Smoke Eaters with at least two quality opportunities early couldn't beat Darion Hanson before Jimmy Lambert opened the scoring shortly after but not before Trail fought hard, battled for most of the 3rd pressing for the game tying goal. It was the Smoke Eaters who carried a slight edge in the play, had the better of the chances, couldn't catch a break-buy a goal. The Vipers either sat back or were being forced by the Smoke Eaters. Trail outshot Vernon 11-8.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Cameron Trott I thought played very well on the blueline, made some heads up play's through out the night, was also getting involved in the play-getting pucks to the net. Had a strong game at both ends of the rink.
The line of Hunter Zandee, Austin Adamson & Ryan Brushett I thought was the Snakes best unit in the victory. These three played with a lot of chemistry, were dangerous almost every shift, created-generated lots of good opportunities, were hard to defend against, gave the Smokies defence trouble. Zandee returned to the Vipers lineup after being out with a leg injury since January 26th. Zandee played with a ton of jump-energy, was really skating hard, going to the net, laying the body, getting involved in the after the whistle activities, played strong. Adamson had some good looks-created several good chances, while Brushett was moving the puck, very hard to defend against, created-generated chances.
Riley Brandt I thought played with a ton of energy-jump, was physical, played aggressive, was in the face of several Trail players, getting involved in the after the whistle activities, lead the way by example.
Darion Hanson (26 saves-shutout) Wasn't tested often but when tested was forced into making some big stops. Hanson was called apon to make three-four key saves in the second half of the opening frame, made some big stops late in the 2nd on the penalty kill and then a few more key saves in the 3rd. This kid is always focused, watches the play develop, is always ready for the shot-save. Goaltending is key come playoffs and Hanson is that goaltender that will make the big save when needed.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
For a team that has been off for the past three weeks (20 days to be exact) I didn't think Vernon showed any signs of rust from the layoff. In case you didn't know, the Vipers haven't played since the regular season (7-1 victory over Trail February 25th) were rewarded a first round bye. Tonight was the Vipers first playoff game. I remember in previous years when the Vipers were off for the bye but only had two weeks off, were real rusty in that first game, some years even rusty come Game 2. This year is a different story. I thought the Vipers come ready to play and jumped on Trail off the opening faceoff. I thought the Snakes carried most of the play-dominated the play at times for most of the first two periods. I thought Vernon was the better team tonight, had lots of pressure, lots of quality chances, were playing with all kinds of jump/energy, didn't get much puck luck in and around the net-couldn't solve Linden Marshall until early into the 3rd. I said before, I'm not sure if the Vipers were sitting back with a one goal lead, come the 3rd or did the Smoke Eaters finally wake up-get their game going and were now the better team, pressing for the tying goal? Either way I thought the Snakes played very well for most of the evening, got a huge goal from Jimmy Lambert started the series off right, with a huge 2-0 victory. Great to see Hunter Zandee return to the lineup, I think Zandee adds a ton of speed, skill, leadership and depth to the Vipers roster. Has really stepped up his game-role in his final year of Junior hockey and lead by example on several night's this season. Can someone tell me why the Vipers were wearing their away jersey's tonight? Both teams were wearing their away jersey's wich made it confusing at times. All teams start the season wearing home jerseys at home, switch to wearing their road jerseys after the Christmas break, then switch back to wearing their home uniforms to start the playoffs. Both teams wearing dark jerseys was a first for me. A great crowd on hand tonight.
Top Player's: (Trail)
Connor Brown-Malowski I thought played a strong game up front for the Smokies. Come close to opening the scoring late in the 2nd period, rang his shot off the post, had some good looks-chances through out the game.
Spencer McLean Was involved in the play, in and around the net, played well for most of the night.
Joshua Laframboise I thought was another Trail forward who played very well for the Smoke Eaters. Carried the puck often, was involved in the play, had a real good chance in the 1st couldn't solve Darion Hanson.
Linden Marshall (34 saves) Was fighting the puck early but seemed to settle down as the game went on. Marshall did everything his team could have ask of him, wich was made some big saves through out the night, giving his hockey club a chance to win. Marshall who went 2-0 vs Vernon during the regular season, was called apon through out the night, to make some quality saves to keep the game scoreless. If it wasn't for Marshall the Vipers could have easily been up at least three or four goals after either the 1st or 2nd periods.
Game Thought's: (Trail)
The Smokies looked like the team that was off for three weeks, were outplayed-dominated for the first half of the opening period, were lucky to be scoreless before coming back and playing much better in the second half. Trail had some good quality chances in that second half, they score even just once, taking a 1-0 lead into the 2nd period and this could be a totally different hockey game-outcome. The Smoke Eaters struggled in the middle frame, played most of that second period in their own end. In the 3rd I thought the Smoke Eaters finally showed some life, forced the Vipers into turning over the puck a few times in their own end, pressed hard for the game tying goal, couldn't catch a break-solve Darion Hanson. Give Trail credit, they may have not played their best heading into the final frame, battled hard to the end put up a good fight in the 3rd. The Smoke Eaters didn't see a lot of time in the offensive zone, were in and then out very quickly. Trail had troubles generating any kind of zone time for lengthy periods of time. I thought the Smoke Eaters defence played well at times, especially in the 2nd period, were doing a good job at keeping Vernon to the outside-limiting their chances. You also have to give Trail credit for keeping the Snakes off the scoreboard until early into the 3rd. The Smokies may have been outplayed for most of the night, but all it takes is one shot the other way and it's a different game. The Smokies need to be better in Game 2 and play a more consistent game, get more traffic in front of Darion Hanson. Even though the Smokies were outplayed for most of the game, this game could have easily gone either way. Trail now falls to 2-6 vs the Vipers this season, are 1-4 in Vernon this year. This is the seventh time these two teams have met in the playoffs with Vernon winning four of the previous six playoff series. The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, The Vipers swept the Smoke Eaters 3-0 in the best of five series in 2007-08.
Energy Player of the Game:
1st Star: Jimmy Lambert (1 goal & 1 assist)
2nd Star: Darion Hanson (26 saves-shutout)
3rd Star: Linden Marshall (34 saves)