I was at tonight's Interior Division Semifinals Game 5 with the Vipers & Smoke Eaters as Vernon defeated Trail 6-2 winning the best of seven series 4-1 in front of 1,823 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Darion Hanson
Trail: Zach Dyment
1st Period: Fifteen seconds into the opening frame Ross Armour is left all alone in the slot, beat Darion Hanson but fired wide of the goal, missing on a great opportunity to open the scoring off the opening faceoff. The Vipers looked a little tentative and sluggish to start with the Smokies skating hard, playing with a ton of jump/energy. The Snakes with a couple of point shots got through traffic inside the opening minute just missed the net. Vernon was up 4-0 in shots early before Trail would get an early powerplay just minutes into the period. The Smoke Eaters with no real threat on the man advantage, didn't record a single shot as Vernon was able to kill off the minor. Just over two minutes later the Snakes would get their first powerplay of the evening, but Vernon was unable to get a shot with the man advantage as the Smokies killed off the minor. Five seconds after killing off the penalty, the Vipers would head back to their second of back to back powerplays. The Vipers with just one shot again couldn't capitalize with the powerplay as the Smoke Eaters killed off another minor. The Snakes with a few good looks didn't really generate much for offence on either of the back to back powerplay's. Just past the halfway mark, Mitchell Barker lead a two on one attack, kept and fired but missed the goal on a quality chance on the odd man rush. Trail needed just over eleven minutes to record their first shot of the 1st period. The Snakes were outshooting the Smoke Eaters 8-1 at this point. On the following shift-play Darion Hanson was forced to make a quick save off the wrap around before the puck was thrown to the front of the net, hit a player in front, come close to bouncing in past Hanson on a weird play-bounce. The Smokies with two good chances in close, were close to opening the scoring. Late in the period a long shot from the neutral zone took a weird bounce off the end boards-glass just missing the back of Zach Dyment before coming out into the slot, luckily for Trail a Vernon player wasn't near the puck. The puck taking some weird bounces in the opening frame. It was 0-0 after 20 minutes of play. With their season on the line, the Smokies come out skating hard, played with a ton of jump/energy, had troubles getting any kind of zone time-pucks to the net in the first half, while the Vipers saw a lot of zone time at the other end of the rink, but had troubles generating-creating any real quality chances through out most of the 1st. Trail had the better of the scoring chances where both teams didn't generate/create much for offence in that opening period. Both teams also struggled with the man advantage. I thought both teams went back and fourth, in the second half with no real team taking over the edge in play. Not a lot of excitement in the opening twenty minutes. Vernon outshot Trail 10-5.
2nd Period: The Snakes come out strong, took it too Trail early and often. The Vipers really turned up their play, were skating and playing with a ton more energy-jump to start the middle frame. Connor Clouston and Shane Kelly both with shots from the point were redirected on it's way to the net, had some good looks early before Cameron Trott's point shot was redirected on it's way to the goal by Austin Adamson giving Vernon the early 1-0 lead at 2:06 Trott & Michael Ufberg picked up the assists. The Vipers with a ton of pressure to open the period, didn't let up, kept coming in waves before Connor Brown-Maloski sprung Mitchell Barker in for the breakaway, Barker caught the Vernon defence napping, before making a drop pass setup Luke Santerno who was stopped by Vipers starting goaltender Darion Hanson before Barker put home the rebound on the Smoke Eaters first two shots of the period, tying the game 1-1 at 5:46 Santerno and Brown-Maloski collected the helpers. Thirty seconds later the Smokies would jump on an early powerplay and capitalize. Luke Santerno's shot was redirected on it's way to the goal by Ross Armour giving Trail their first lead of the night at 7:11 Santerno & Jeremy Lucchini with the assists. Fourty five seconds later former Chilliwack Chief forward Jesse Lansdell spotted Michael Ufberg who stepped over the blueline, riffled a lazer of a shot past former Vernon Vipers goaltender Zach Dyment tying the game 2-2 at 7:56 Lansdell and Cameron Trott with the helpers. Both teams picked up their play, going back and fourth before the Smokies would jump on another powerplay. But shorthanded Trail had troubles with the dump in play before Jagger Williamson beat Zach Dyment fivehole giving Vernon a 3-2 lead at 13:40 Cameron Trott with the lone assist. This is Williamson's second shorthanded marker of the series as Kal Tire Place went into a frenzy. The Snakes were able to kill off the remainder of the penalty. With three and a half minutes to go Mitchell Stapley's point shot hit someone or something on it's way to the goal before Darion Hanson was forced into making his biggest save of the night, off a weird bounce, keeping this a one goal game. The Smoke Eaters would get a late powerplay, wich they would run out of time before the period ended. It was 3-2 Vernon after 40 minutes of play. After a sluggish-tentative opening period, Vernon come out hard and took it too the Smokies off the opening faceoff. The Snakes with a strong opening few minutes, had some good looks, before opening the scoring just minutes in. Trail responded with back to back goals to grab their first lead of the night, before giving up a crucial shorthanded marker to fall back behind heading into the 3rd. I thought the Vipers looked very strong in the opening few minutes before the Smoke Eaters responded. Both teams played hard and were fairly even. Vernon outshot Trail 13-12.
3rd Period: The Snakes were one period away from moving onto the Interior Division Finals were very aggressive playing a dump and chase style of play to start the 3rd. Vernon was able to kill off the remainder of the minor that was carried over from the end of the 2nd period before really dominating the play early and often. The Vipers would dump the play in, before sending in the forecheck, killed off valuable minutes off the clock. The Smokies having all kinds of trouble getting any kind of offence going, struggled to gain the attacking zone. Cooper Watson would give the Vipers some insurance beat Zach Dyment with a seeing eye shot from the blueline, gave Vernon a 4-2 lead at 7:03 Brett Stapley and Jimmy Lambert collected the assists. Trail needed almost nine minutes to record their first shot of the period. The Snakes carried most of the play, were wearing down the Smoke Eaters who looked to be out of gas, didn't have much energy-life left. Cameron Trott come within inches of giving Vernon a three goal lead, beat Zach Dyment with about eight minutes remaining but hit the post. Kale Howarth looked to be in discomfort was slow making his way to the Smoke Eaters dressing room with the help from the trainer, didn't return before Carter Cochrane left the ice with wich looked to be a shoulder injury, made his way to the dressing room before returning later. Trail playing with a short bench, didn't show much life on the bench had some late rushes but no real scoring threats before getting Zach Dyment to the bench for the extra attacker with over three minutes remaining. Jagger Williamson spotted former Trail Smoke Eater Riley Brandt for the empty netter giving Vernon a 5-2 lead at 16:56 Williamson with the lone helper. The Smokies would once again get Zach Dyment to the bench for the extra attacker, this time Brett Stapley setup Jimmy Lambert who hit the open cage giving Vernon a commanding 6-2 lead at 18:45 Stapley with the assist. The Snakes would get a late powerplay to finish the game, would eventually wind down the clock taking Game 5 6-2 taking the best of seven series 4-1 moving on to the Interior Division Finals. The Vipers will face the winner of the Penticton-Merritt series. Both teams would congratulate their team mates before making their way to centre ice for the handshake. Viper captain Riley Brandt was hugged by close to every member of the Smoke Eaters during the handshake. The Snakes with a one goal lead, took full control of the final twenty minutes, played a very smart executed 3rd period, dumping and chasing, killing lots of valuable time off the clock, before Cooper Watson basically put the game away giving Vernon a two goal lead. The Vipers carried most of the play, were by far the better team come the 3rd period. The Smoke Eaters just hanging on in the final frame, didn't have much left in the tank, had all kinds of troubles getting control of the puck, getting through the neutral zone, and getting any kind of sustained pressure in the offensive zone. Trail looked to run out of gas-looked deflated after seeing the Snakes take a 4-2 lead with about twelve minutes remaining. The Smokies didn't put up much of a fight in the 3rd, were outworked for most of the final period. Vernon outshot Trail 11-2.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Michael Ufberg (1 goal & 1 assist) I thought looked/played a very strong game on the Viper backend. A very smooth skating d-man, really settles down the blueline. Scored a huge 2nd period goal to tie the game.
Cameron Trott (3 assists) The former Salmon Arm Silverbacks defenceman was another d-man who played very well on the blueline. Trott collecting three helpers, come close to scoring hitting the post in the 3rd, played very well.
Ryan Brushett Has really stepped up his game and come along ways since joining the Vipers through the season. Brushett has really gained a ton of confidence, really used his wheels, puck handling skills and strong skating, to dangle in and around several Trail defenders. I thought Brushett really showed his strong skating skills and soft hands tonight, made some very impressive moves moving the puck up ice or through the attacking zone, to create-generate some chances,. Really opens up the ice-creates a lot of room. Gave the Smokies all kinds of troubles, was hard to defend against.
Jagger Williamson (1 goal & 1 assist) The Vernon product scored a huge 2nd period goal, shorthanded to give the Snakes a 3-2 lead, wich was the eventual game winner. Williamson with his second shorthanded goal of the playoffs, was very strong at both ends of the rink.
Jimmy Lambert (1 goal & 1 assist) Picked up his game in the 2nd and 3rd periods, got his legs going and really used his speed and skill, to try and open up the ice. I thought gave Trail all kinds of trouble in the final two periods.
Steven Jandric lead the team in points coming into tonight, was very good with the puck, was hard to defend against. Was driving to the net, creating/generating offensive chances, was skating strong, giving the Smokies defenders havoc.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
After a tough 5-2 loss in Game 4 Tuesday in Trail, Game 5 didn't get off the start Vernon wanted. I thought the Vipers looked very sluggish, tentative and didn't seem to show much jump-energy through out the opening period. The Snakes looked flat-maybe nervous in that 1st period, were getting pucks to the net, but no real quality chances. Vernon was outskated most of the 1st were lucky to be scoreless heading into the 2nd period. Give the Snakes credit for turning things around-picking up their game. I thought the Vipers come out strong-hard, took it too Trail early and often before playing much better through out the 2nd and 3rd periods. The Vipers would open the scoring before falling behind 2-1 but two big goals from Michael Ufberg & Jagger Williamson to re-take the lead heading into the 3rd. Talk about a statement period, the Vipers really stepped up their game in the final twenty minutes, never looked back, got a huge fourth goal from Cooper Watson of all people before adding two empty netters to seal the victory-series. Vernon played very reluctant in the 3rd on the forecheck, wore down the Smoke Eaters defensively, didn't give Trail much time or space, shutting down the Smokies offence limiting Trail to just two shots come the 3rd period. Other then the 1st I thought Vernon played well, worked-battled hard to open the scoring-come from behind before putting the game away with three 3rd period goals. The Snakes didn't want to lose on home ice, before travelling back to Trail tomorrow night for Game 6. The Vipers wanted too-needed to put Trail away on home ice tonight, will now get a full week off before starting the Interior Division Finals March 31st either vs Penticton or Merritt. The Vees lead the series 3-2. Former Vernon Vipers David Robinson, Trevor Keenan & Bryce Kakoske were in attendance tonight.
Top Player's: (Trail)
Jeremy Lucchini (1 assist) I thought had a strong game on the Smokies backend. Was really moving the puck, getting involved in the play, played well defensively.
Luke Santerno (2 assists) Played well vs the Snakes in the series, collected two helpers in the loss tonight, was skating hard, battled-competed, tried to create/generate chances through out the game.
Connor Brown-Maloski (1 assist) Had control of the puck often, played hard in the loss.
Andre Ghantous Was under the skin of several Vipers through out the series and even during the regular season, played hard tonight, didn't back down, was trying to get under the skin of a few Vipers tonight, competed-battled.
Braeden Tuck I thought showed a lot of jump in his game, was skating hard, played hard.
Brady Berger "AP" Played hard-competed for sixty minutes. If it wasn't for no name bar, you wouldn't guess this kid was an "AP" Had a strong game.
Mitchell Barker (1 goal) Was dangerous at times, gave Vernon defenders trouble at times, has some size, has some skill, made some nice plays in the loss.
Game Thought's: (Trail)
With their season on the line, the Smoke Eaters come out strong, were skating-playing hard. Ross Armour just fifteen seconds into the game, missed the net from in close after being left all alone in the slot had a great opportunity to open the scoring. If Armour scores here, this could be a totally different hockey game-outcome. The Vipers get lucky and may have excaped the 1st still scoreless. I thought Trail played well in that opening frame, had troubles getting any real sustained pressure, had a few good chances, only managed five shots. The Smoke Eaters give up an early goal to start the 2nd before scoring two quick back to back goals to take their first lead of the evening, were looking-playing well. Jagger Williamson's shorthanded goal to give Vernon a 3-2 lead was a tough goal to give up. This goal was or close to the heart breaker as the Smokies were now down a goal heading into the final period on the road in a rink they haven't had much success in over the years. Trail only down a goal entered the 3rd with not a lot of jump-energy, as the Smoke Eaters were having all kinds of trouble with the Viper forecheck. Trail couldn't seem to get out of their own end, had troubles defending Vernon's dump and chase style, now had the clock against them before giving up the fourth goal, really took the wind out of their sails. The Smoke Eaters couldn't get through the neutral zone-get any offensive zone time, managed just two shots in the final twenty minutes, gave up three goals in a tough 3rd period. Give Trail full credit, they battled hard, gave Vernon a good run for the first two periods, just didn't have much gas left in the tank come the final frame. The Smokies didn't have the same jump-energy they played with in the first two periods, were playing with a short bench and I'm guessing several injured players playing hurt. Joshua Laframboise didn't see much ice time, was limited to ice time. You have to give Cam Keith and the Trail Smoke Eaters full credit for a great season overall. The Smokies have been near the bottom of the standings for many years, make the playoffs for the first time in six years, advanced to the 2nd round ran into a pretty strong Viper team. Lets hope the future looks bright for the City of Trail and their diehard fans back home. I would like to take this time to thank the Smoke Eaters and their organization on a great series and wish them and their team all the best next season. To the graduating players, nothing but success in the future in whatever your future holds. Thanks for a great season! Hold your heads up high, you made the city of Trail proud.
Energy Player of the Game:
1st Star: Michael Ufberg (1 goal & 1 assist)
2nd Star: Cameron Trott (3 assists)
3rd Star: Cooper Watson (1 goal)