I have had season tickets for 29 years and been following Junior hockey in Vernon for over thirty five years. I have missed four Vipers home games since 2009 and five Vipers home games since the 1999-2000 season. For anyone who couldn't attend or watch tonight's Vipers game, here are my thought's and view's from tonight's game. You may agree or disagree but we all have our own opinion on the game. I try to be unbiased and give a fare game recap from both sides. Thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog.
I was at tonight's Game 1 of the Interior Division semi finals Vipers-Smoke Eaters game as Trail defeated Vernon 3-1 in front of 1,771 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Aidan Porter
Trail: Donovan Buskey
1st Period: The visiting Trail Smoke Eaters jumped on the Vipers off the opening puck drop. Trail with a quick shot early, had good pressure and zone time for at least the first minute and a half before the Snakes pushed back with a solid shift of their own. The Smokies would jump on the games first powerplay just 2:42 into the hockey game. Trail had some good pressure, only managed two shots but no real quality chances as Vernon killed off the minor. Two minutes later the Vipers would get their first look with the man advantage but struggled as the Smoke Eaters killed off the minor. Just as the penalty expired Jesse Lansdell took a punch to the head and a crosscheck before giving a crosscheck back would be sent to the sin bin, sending Trail back to the powerplay. Early into the man advantage Trey Taylor tripped up a forward behind the goal, sending the Smokies to a lengthy two man advantage. Hayden Rowan with a quick shot from in close, forced Aidan Porter into making a difficult save with his shoulder, kept this game scoreless as the Vipers with an excellent penalty kill, managed to kill off both penalties and get back to even strength. Trail was outshooting Vernon 7-2 at this point. On the following shift after the two man advantage, Aidan Porter made a quick pad save from well out before stopping former Vernon Vipers forward Chase Stevenson on the second opportunity making a quick left pad save. With about five minutes left in the 1st period, Tyler Ho's shot from the side wall went off Coleton Bilodeau's leg and then the post on a play where it looked like Donovan Buskey was screened with bodies in front. The Snakes coming within inches of opening the scoring towards the end of the period. It was 0-0 after 20 minutes of play. I thought the Smoke Eaters had the extra jump, had a bit more edge in play and a bit more zone time. The Smoke Eaters jumped on Vernon off the opening faceoff, got an early powerplay just minutes into the contest before getting a lengthy two man advantage, couldn't capitalize with the powerplay. Trail racked up a lot of their shots on the PP but I thought played fairly well for most of the 1st. The Smoke Eaters had the better of the scoring chances, as both teams didn't really create/or generate a ton of offensive opportunities. The Smokies defence wasn't letting the Snakes anywhere near the front of the net, took away a lot of the Vipers time and space in the defensive zone. The Vipers didn't get off to a good start, managed to get a few good push back shifts, had troubles creating/& generating chances the first twenty minutes. The Snakes went at least six or seven minutes without a shot on goal, had all kinds of trouble getting pucks to the net and getting any real sustained pressure in the attacking zone. The Vipers weren't connecting on their passes, had pucks bouncing over their sticks, didn't catch any breaks in the opening frame. Trail outshot Vernon 10-4.
2nd Period: The Smokies with a three on one attack about three minutes into the second period, couldn't capitalize after the Viper defenceman made a strong defensive play to break up the odd man rush. About two minutes later Teddy Wooding walked in down the middle, untouched looked to have an open corner fired high and over the net, on a missed opportunity. Just before the halfway mark Teddy Wooding got in behind the Trail defence, come close to losing the puck, regained control before being robbed in close after Smoke Eaters starting goaltender Donovan Buskey made a large pad save down low, keeping this game scoreless. Back come the Smokies on the following rush. On a bit of a goal mouth scramble Chase Stevenson would be denied in close off Vipers starting goaltender Aidan Porter. On the same shift, Porter was forced to stop Kent Johnson from the high slot. Back to back quality chances from Trail, after two big stops from Aidan Porter. With about three and a half minutes remaining, Owen Ozar with a lazer of a shot from well out, beat Aidan Porter before ringing his shot off the crossbar. The Smoke Eaters with good pressure late in the middle frame, had Vernon back on the their heels. It was 0-0 after 40 minutes of play. Both teams looked fairly even at times, but I thought the Vipers had a few more looks/opportunities. Vernon had several good looks, either missed the net or waited that split second too long, having the play broken up or got a little too fancy and should have shot instead of making an extra play and missing out on a scoring chance. The Smokies had the Vipers hemmed in their own end at least twice for a lengthy period of time, didn't have as many looks/chances as the Snakes. Trail was getting pucks to the net but didn't get a lot of quality chances. For a second straight period the Vipers had troubles getting pucks to the net. Trail outshot Vernon 11-4.
3rd Period: The Vipers with a strong forecheck early, forced Luke Gallaher to turn over the puck down low allowing Ben Sanderson to beat Donovan Buskey on the backhand in close, giving Vernon the 1-0 lead at 2:21 Landon Fuller drew the lone assist. The Snakes come right back with another hard working shift, turned over the puck in the offensive zone allowing Trail to break out on the transition. Kieran O'Hearn with a quick pass up ice, spotted Max Kryski who setup Braeden Tuck who went topshelf beating Aidan Porter high tying the game 1-1 at 3:37 Kryski & O'Hearn picked up the helpers. This goal gave the Smokies life and the momentum as Trail kept coming. Just over two minutes later Tyler Ghirandosi setup a wide open Spencer McLean at the side of the net, giving Trail a 2-1 lead at 5:49 their first lead of the night. Ghirandosi with the assist. Just before the halfway mark Jesse Lansdell on a wrap around looked to have all day to shoot, fired high and over the goal, on a missed opportunity. Minutes later Powell Connor on a chance down low, couldn't solve Aidan Porter. With about eight minutes left in the 3rd the Smokies allowed former Chilliwack Chiefs defenceman Craver Watson to walk in from the blueline, lean into his shot and beat Donovan Buskey before ringing off the post/crossbar as several fans in the rink thought the Vipers tied the game. With about three and a half minutes remaining Jack Judson's point shot somehow found it's way through traffic, forcing Donovan Buskey into making a large pad save on a shot I don't think he saw until late. With the Snakes pressing, Teddy Wooding got in behind the Smoke Eaters defence was hauled down, would be rewarded a penalty shot with 1:12 remaining in the hockey game. Wooding would be stoned by Donovan Buskey on a nice pad save down low, keeping this a 2-1 game. Mark Ferner and the Snakes would call a timeout after the penalty shot and then couldn't get Aidan Porter to the bench for the extra attacker. Porter would eventually get to the bench for the extra man, as the Vipers couldn't get set before Carter Jones with a long shot hit the open cage, giving Trail a 3-1 lead at 18:55 Braeden Tuck & Hayden Rowan collected the assists. This goal basically put the game away, as fans started making their way to the exists. The Vipers would get Aidan Porter back to the bench for the extra attacker, have some good pressure inside the final minute but no real chances as the visiting Trail Smoke Eaters come into Vernon and steal Game 1 3-1. I thought the Vipers carried the better of the play, had pressure at times but once again didn't generate/or create a ton of opportunities. Vernon missed on a few quality chances from in close also couldn't connect on some passes. The Snakes would get more then four shots on goal but for a third straight period had troubles getting pucks to the net. The Vipers looked slow/sluggish at times and were leaving guys on the ice for up to a minute per shift at some points. The Smoke Eaters played a very solid defensive game/3rd period, scored on their opportunities, blocked shots, took away time and space from the Vipers, keeping Vernon's shooters well to the outside. Donovan Buskey was seeing almost everything, made two large saves in this period to preserve the victory. Vernon was the better of the two teams. Vernon outshot Trail 9-3.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Ben Sanderson (1 goal) Was one of if not the Snakes best player in the loss. Sanderson was skating hard, saw a ton of ice, was involved in the play, generated/created chances, was hard to defend against.
Jesse Lansdell I thought played a hard nosed, in your face style of the game. May have gotten away with a penalty or two was strong on the forecheck, hard on pucks, made things happen down low, created/generated a few looks/opportunities. Played hard, battled and competed all night.
Tyler Ho I thought played well for most of the contest. Showed a lot of hustle, won races, battles and made things happen at times. Was strong on pucks, hard to to knock off the puck, used his speed and energy through out the game.
Teddy Wooding Has played very well in the playoffs, cant seem to buy a goal. Wooding had some good looks-chances tonight, couldn't capitalize on his opportunities. Was stopped in close on a 2nd period breakaway and then a penalty shot with 1:12 left in the 3rd period.
Brendan Kim I thought played very well on the Vipers blueline. Was forced into making a few plays at both ends of the rink. Played with confidence.
Trey Taylor I thought was one of if not Vernon's best d-man. The rookie defender had a strong night on the backend. Played very well at both ends of the rink, was involved in the play, created some offense, showed hustle getting back into the play. Made at least one or two strong defensive plays.
Aidan Porter 21 saves) Wasn't tested much but was the busier of the two goaltenders. Was forced into making a few big stops through out the game. Played well.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
For the first time in a long time the Vipers were outshot by a wide margin and mustered only seventeen shots on goal, the lowest total in how many years? I didn't think the Snakes looked very sharp this evening. I don't think they played all that bad but I didn't see much intensity, jump or energy. The Vipers looked a little slow/sluggish tonight, almost looked tired for whatever reason. The team hasn't played since last Friday. Vernon didn't have that jump/energy they normally play with. I didn't think the Vipers passing was very crisp, missing on some passes in the offensive zone, couldn't connect on some passes in and around the net, had troubles gaining traction in the first two periods. The Snakes had troubles getting pucks to the net, getting any real amount of sustained pressure/zone time for long periods of time. The Vipers forwards were kept well to the outside, had several shots blocked or redirected into the netting/out of play. Both teams didn't really generate/or create a ton of chances in a more defensive battle. The Vipers had troubles getting out of their own end at times, got caught reeling in their own end, turned over the puck on a few occasions, didn't look sharp/crisp didn't play a full sixty minutes. The Vipers either passed when they should have shot or shot when they should have passed, got a little too fancy with their stick work at times, made life pretty easy for Donovan Buskey who didn't have much traffic/or bodies in and around the blue paint. A very disappointing crowd for the opening game of the second round of the playoffs. Trail snaps Vernon's four game winning streak (longest of the season). With the loss the Vipers fall to 4-2 in the playoffs and 2-2 on home ice. Former Vipers forwards David Robinson (2006-07, 2009-10 & 2010-11) & Chris Crowell (2005-2009) and former Vernon Lakers stickboy/Vernon Vipers trainer Trevor McEachnie were in attendance tonight.
Top Player's: (Trail)
The line of Chase Stevenson, Kent Johnson and Hayden Rowan I thought was the Smoke Eaters best unit going tonight. These three gave the Snakes all kinds of trouble, were hard to contain, defend against and slow down. This line had several good looks, quality chances through out Game 1.
Kyle Budvarson Played very well on the backend.
Powell Connor Was involved in the play, was another Trail defender that played well at both ends of the rink.
Kieran O'Hearn Played a strong night on the Smokies blueline.
Donovan Buskey (16 saves) Wasn't tested often but was forced to making a large save off Teddy Wooding on a 2nd period breakaway, a point shot off Jack Judson late in the 3rd and then stopping Teddy Wooding again on a 3rd period penalty shot. Only faced eight shots after forty minutes of play, had to try and stay focused.
Game Thought's: (Trail)
The 7th place Trail Smoke Eaters come into Vernon and take Game 1 have now won five straight playoff games after losing 4-2 in Game 1 of the opening round of the playoffs in Merritt. Tonight was only Trail's second win in Vernon this season. The last Smoke Eaters victory in Vernon this year was a 3-1 win September 15th. The Smokies may have outshot Vernon 24-17 but I didn't think the shots were the difference and the story of tonight's contest. I thought Trail played fairly well through out tonight's game, played very well defensively, shutting down the Snakes speed/offense. The Smoke Eaters just like the Vipers didn't create/or generate a lot of quality chances, capitalize on their opportunities. At times I thought the Smoke Eaters were the better team, had a bit more edge in play, but at other times, the game looked fairly even. Trail did manage to get pucks to the net, force Vernon into turnovers and forcing the Vipers into making plays a lot quicker. The Smokies defence did a great job at blocking shots, keeping the Vipers to the outside, keeping traffic away from the blue paint and limited Vernon's time and space. I thought the Smoke Eaters were a lot quicker to the pucks, were making crisp passes through out the night and played with a bit more jump/energy.
Energy Player of the Game:
1st Star: Braeden Tuck (1 goal & 1 assist)
2nd Star: Ben Sanderson (1 goal)
3rd Star: Spencer McLean (1 goal)
Trevor Miller's Trail Smoke Eaters Blog,