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 2 Interior division semi finals game between the Vipers & Smoke Eaters as Trail defeated Vernon 5-4 in overtime in front of 2,063 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Aidan Porter
Trail: Donovan Buskey
For some reason tonight's game started at 7pm. All Vipers home games start at 6pm.
1st Period: A bit of a minor delay before the opening faceoff as the lights needed an extra few seconds to fully turn back on after the National anthem. It was a little grey in some area's on the ice due to the lights taking a little extra time coming back on. Like in Game 1 the Vipers would take an early penalty, sending the Smokies to an early powerplay just 2:34 into the hockey game. On the man advantage Jesse Lansdell takes an undisciplined penalty, giving Trail a fairly lengthy two man advantage. Early into the two man advantage, Tyler Ghirandosi with a quick release from the slot forced Aidan porter into making a big stop. The Vipers penalty kill was sharp and did a good job, killed off both penalties, getting a large ovation from the Viper faithful inside Kal Tire Place. Just as the penalties expired, Kent Johnson with a quality chance in front couldn't beat Aidan Porter. About a minute and a half later the Vipers would get their first PP of the evening, but struggled with the man advantage as Trail killed off the minor. Just before the midway mark the Smoke Eaters tried sending Hayden Rowan in for the breakaway, but two Viper defenders quick to get back into the play, forced Rowan into shooting from well out and missing the net. Shortly after Jesse Lansdell turned over the puck inside his own zone. Vernon had two chances to get the puck out and couldn't, before losing the puck battle along the wall before Carter Jones setup Braeden Tuck giving Trail a 1-0 lead at 10:09 Carter Jones & Luke Gallagher collected the helpers. Gallagher did all the hard work to win the puck battle, before dishing it off to Jones who then setup Tuck for the games first goal. About a minute later, just past the halfway mark, a Trail defender with a long dump in shot from inside the neutral zone took a few bounces come very close to handcuffing Aidan Porter who kind of had to juggle the puck, to make a bit of a tough save on a long shot from well before centre ice. The Snakes would get their first quality chance of the game with about seven and a half minutes remaining. Coleton Bilodeau driving to the net would be stopped in close before getting another crack on a second opportunity, couldn't solve Donovan Buskey in close. On the following play Vernon would get back to back powerplay's. With only three shots and not looking very good with the man advantage, Carver Watson setup Teddy Wooding tying the game 1-1 at 16:01 Donovan Buskey lost his stick on the play, went directly after the official wanting goaltender interference or a penalty on the play. With no call or discussion, the goal stood. Carver Watson drew the lone assist. Towards the end of the period Teddy Wooding with a great opportunity would be denied in close by Donovan Buskey before Elan Bar-Lev-Wise on the rebound fired wide. Two good looks/chances for Vernon. Tempers heated up a bit inside the final minutes as a few scrums occurred. With the Smokies going to the powerplay, Viper captain Jagger Williamson said something to the referee, would be tossed from the game, picked up a ten minute misconduct. While Williamson tried talking with the referee, the referee skated away, sending Trail to the powerplay. It didn't take long before the Smoke Eaters took a penalty of their own, sending both teams to four on four. The Snakes would get a late powerplay, moved the puck around before Michael Young's point shot would be redirected in front by Matt Kowalski, giving Vernon a late 2-1 lead at 19:41 Young and Jack Judson picked up the helpers. It was 2-1 Vernon after 20 minutes of play. This was a fairly even played period with both hockey clubs getting some looks/opportunities. I thought the Vipers played fairly well, needed some time but were getting more pucks to the net, compared to last night's 1st period. A pretty chippy period with both teams using their sticks. A little intensity shown between the two teams, something we didn't see much of in Game 1. I thought Trail played fairly well didn't create/or generate many chances, had a few looks/opportunities. Vernon outshot Trail 12-8.
2nd Period: About three minutes into the middle frame, Carter Jones leaned into a shot that beat Vernon Vipers starting goaltender Aidan Porter but not the crossbar, as the Smoke Eaters come within inches of tying the game. Minutes later Ben Sanderson ripped a heavy shot from the slot that beat Trail Smoke Eaters starting goaltender Donovan Buskey but not the post/crossbar as the Snakes were very close to taking a two goal lead. The Smoke Eaters had the Vipers back on their heels on several occasions but couldn't create/or generate much for offense. Just before the midway mark, Michael Young with a dangerous play, skated through the crease, just about coughed up the puck at the top of the blue paint with two attackers within reach as Young and Vernon dodge a bullet. With about five and a half minutes remaining, the Vipers had two chances to clear the zone and couldn't allowing Trail to keep possession inside the attacking zone. Owen Ozar setup Trevor Zins who tied the game 2-2 at 14:38 Ozar and Braeden Tuck drew the helpers. On the following shift/play Viper captain Jagger Williamson with a heavy hit along the end wall, levelled Vernon product Powell Connor to the ice. Connor didn't move while the play continued before Trevor Isaksson went after the Vernon captain. The two wrestled to the ice before a minor scrum took place. While officials were busy breaking up the scrum, Powell Connor lied motionless on the ice before Trail's trainer rushed onto the ice. After a lengthy delay Connor was helped off the ice and looked to very dazed, went to the Smokies dressing room and didn't return. No penalty for the hit on the play, while Williamson and Isaksson picked up roughing minors. On the following play/shift the Smoke Eaters would get a late powerplay. The Vipers would kill off the minor. It was 2-2 after 40 minutes of play. I thought the Smoke Eaters were the better team. Trail playing with a lot more jump/energy, had the extra step on Vernon. The Smokies had the Snakes back on their heels at times in the defensive zone, forcing the Vipers into coughing up the puck/turnovers inside their own blueline. The Vipers having all kinds of troubles clearing the zone, had trouble dealing with Trail's aggressive forecheck. Both teams didn't register many shots or get a lot of chances. Both teams hit the post/crossbar once each. Trail outshot Vernon 7-5.
3rd Period: The visiting Trail Smoke Eaters jumped on the Vipers early and often, forcing all kinds of turnovers before grabbing an early lead. The Snakes lost the puck battle, before having trouble clearing the zone, allowed Braeden Tuck to setup a wide open Carter Jones at the side of the net, giving Trail a 3-2 lead at 6:24 Tuck with the lone assist. It looked like Tuck almost whiffed on his shot as the puck ever so slowly crossed the goal line. Minutes later, just before the halfway mark Coleton Bilodeau on a wrap around couldn't solve Donovan Buskey down low, before the Smokies bring the puck back up ice and capitalize. Kyle Budvarson's seeing eye shot from the blueline somehow found the back of the net, giving Trail a 4-2 lead at 9:29 No chance for Aidan Porter, who I don't think even moved on the play/even saw the shot. Luke Gallagher with the assist. With Trail in full control at this point and all over the Snakes, Budvarson's goal looked to put the game away, as some fans slowly started making their way to the exits. About a minute and a half later the Smoke Eaters would go on the PP. Trail looked like they wanted to kill the two minutes off the clock instead of taking advantage of the powerplay. The Smokies looked skate around and wind the clock down, instead of going to work on the man advantage. Vernon would kill off the minor, thanks in part to the Smoke Eaters lack luster powerplay. With the game looking out of reach, the Vipers flicked a switch and all of a sudden come out hitting, finishing their checks, playing with a little jump/energy in their game with about five minutes to go. With about four and a half minutes left Matt Kowalski couldn't finish on an odd man rush down low, missed the net on a missed opportunity. Where was this Vipers team at the start of the period? With just over two minutes remaining, Trail would take a late penalty, sending the Vipers to the PP. Mark Ferner and the Snakes would call a timeout and get Aidan Porter to the bench for the extra attacker. But twenty two seconds into the man advantage, Jesse Lansdell with his second undisciplined penalty of the night, sends both teams to four on four. The Vipers would keep Aidan Porter on the bench. With pressure in the attacking zone, the Vipers moved the puck around before Jack Judson's shot would be redirected in front by Connor Marritt cutting Trail's lead to 4-3 at 18:54 Judson and Michael Young collected the assists. The Snakes would send Aidan Porter back to the bench for the extra attacker and with puck possession and pressure the Vipers worked the puck around, Michael Young's shot would be stopped by Donovan Buskey who couldn't control the rebound. Vernon kept the play alive and going before Michael Young got a second look/opportunity ripped home a laser of a shot from the backend, tying the game 4-4 at 19:25 sending Kal Tire Place into a frenzy. Jack Judson with the only helper on a shot/goal I don't think Donovan Buskey saw. Trail's bench looked dejected. The Smokies with a strong push back shift off the following faceoff, pressed hard for the winner inside the final minute, lost control of the puck before getting a look at the net. The buzzer sounded, as it was 4-4 after 60 minutes of play. Trail was the better of the two teams until the last five minutes or so. The Smokies jumped on Vernon early and often, were beating the Snakes to the puck, winning the puck battles, forcing the Vipers into turnovers, coughing up the puck as Vernon had troubles with Trail's aggressive forecheck. The Vipers having all kinds of troubles defensively and in their own end. Not just in the 3rd but in the 2nd period as well. The Snakes looked very sluggish/tired as the Smoke Eaters had a ton of jump/energy, were much quicker, looked to have lots of gas left in the tank. I thought for sure as did I'm sure so did many other Viper fans, think the game was basically over after Trail's fourth goal. The Vipers just didn't show much desperation, even after the Smokies fourth goal. Vernon with no push back, even when they did manage to get into the offensive zone, couldn't gain any kind of traction. It wasn't until with about five minutes remaining, when the Vipers flipped the switch and started hitting, played physical, showed that jump/energy, slowly started coming on, played with a little desperation. At this point in the game, I was thinking, its a little too late for this now, where was this play at the start of the period? I was shocked Vernon tied the hockey game, forcing overtime as I'm sure was the Trail Smoke Eaters. At this point I have to look back at the Smokies powerplay just past the halfway mark, when up by two goals, it looked like Trail was killing time off the clock, instead of taking advantage of the PP. Would this come back to bite them? It sure did. I'm usually not one to make comments about the officiating but Trail got away with at least two high sticks this period and lots of stick work through out the contest. By no means are the Vipers angels and play any better, it just seemed like Trail was using their sticks a lot through out tonight's game. Vernon outshot Trail 13-5.
Overtime: The Smokies started the extra frame on the man advantage that was carried over from the end of the 3rd period. The Vipers killed off the minor (seven seconds) before Braeden Tuck setup Owen Ozar who was able to walk in untouched and rip a quick shot that beat Aidan Porter giving Trail the 5-4 overtime victory at 0:12 Giving Trail a 2-0 series lead. Tuck with the lone helper. Overtime only lasted twelve seconds on the first shot on goal. Mark Ferner said on the radio post game show, Ozar's shot went off a stick. This was a game the Vipers needed to win, especially after the late heroic comeback to force overtime. Trail outshot Vernon 1-0.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Ben Sanderson For a second straight game, played hard, had some looks, hit the post in the 2nd period. Had a good game.
Jack Judson (3 assists) Had a very strong night on the Vipers backend. With his mom in attendance this weekend, Judson was very solid at both ends of the rink.
Coleton Bilodeau I thought played/looked good in the limited ice time he saw tonight. A bigger body, that played with a lot of jump/energy, showed more then a few of the other Vipers on the top lines.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
I thought the Vipers played fairly well in the opening period. Finally found ways of getting pucks to the net, didn't have a lot of opportunities, but found ways to get a few looks/chances. I didn't like giving Trail an early powerplay to start the game, let alone a two man advantage. But give Vernon credit, they got some big saves on the penalty kill and built off that, killing off the two man advantage. The Snakes may have given up the games first goal, but hung in there, battled back late with two late powerplay goals, taking a one goal lead into the 2nd period. I don't know what happened between periods, but Vernon wasn't the same team in the 2nd and 3rd periods. The Snakes were outplayed most of the second and third periods. Having troubles clearing the zone, getting through the neutral zone, coughed up the puck, turned over the puck, resulting in three goals, didn't play/or look that good in the last two frames. I thought Vernon took way too many penalties tonight, Jesse Lansdell who played well last night, took a few undisciplined penalties tonight. It looked like the Smokies were after him all game, trying to get under his skin and get him off his game and it worked. I thought the Snakes defence struggled in their own end, were beat to the puck and off the puck along the wall. The Vipers lost a lot of races, puck battles and one on one battles, which resulted in turnovers and the puck in the back of their net. Vernon looked sluggish/tired in both games this weekend. Playing in three overtimes and a hard fought-intense series with Salmon Arm, have something to do with it? Or are the Vipers unconditioned? Trail seems much quicker, shows a lot more jump/energy. I thought the game was over after Trail's fourth goal, the way Vernon was playing I didn't think the Vipers had any chance of tying the game. Boy was I wrong. A huge late heroic comeback inside the final minute and a half to force overtime. Just twelve seconds and one shot and the game was over. The Snakes needed to win tonight, Vernon didn't want to go to Trail down 2-0. The Vipers have a huge hill to climb if they want to get back in this series. The Vipers in a must win situation Tuesday for Game 3. There were a few players who struggled tonight, didn't look or play good. I would sit at least one and play Nick Cherkowski. A big body, whos young, maybe will bring some jump/energy to the game-lineup. Former Vernon Vipers forward/captain David Robinson was at tonight's game. A pretty good size crowd on hand for tonight. Was this the Vipers last home game?
Top Player's: (Trail)
Trevor Isaksson I thought played a fairly well rounded game on the Smokies backend. I really liked him jumping in and going after Viper captain Jagger Williamson in the middle frame after Williamson's hit on Powell Connor.
Braeden Tuck (1 goal & 3 assists) With a goal and one assist being named 1st star in Game 1 Had a heck of a game tonight. Opened the scoring for Trail, was very dangerous with and without the puck, was hard to contain and defend against, gave the Snakes all kinds of trouble. Quick on his feet, really reads the play and sees the ice well.
Carter Jones (1 goal & 1 assist) Hit the crossbar/post twice tonight, played with a lot of jump, quick on his feet, another Smoke Eaters forward who was hard to contain, defend against. Seemed to find the open holes, used that quick release to create a scoring chance.
Luke Gallagher (2 assists) Caught my attention. A work horse through out the first three periods. Was hard on pucks, aggressive on the forecheck, was winning races, battles, puck battles and one on one battles, forced turnovers, played hard, battled hard along the wall.
Tyler Ghirandosi I thought had a fairly good game, a bigger body who played well through out the night.
Owen Ozar (Scored the OT winner) Also collected one assist, was all over Kal Tire Place. Created/generated several good looks/chances, played very well in the win.
Game Thought's: (Trail)
The 7th place Trail Smoke Eaters upset the 2nd place Merritt Centennials in the opening round of the playoffs, come into Vernon and steal the first two games of the series. Who saw this coming? The Smokies with only one win in Vernon during the regular season and only two wins over the Vipers during regular season play, take the first two playoff games on the road. Trail is now 6-1 in the playoffs and looking very difficult to beat. For a second straight night, the Smoke Eaters limited the Vipers attack. Trail played another stingy defensive road game. The Smokies don't give up a lot of scoring chances. The Vipers who had a ton of odd man rushes a game in the Salmon Arm series, are having all kinds of troubles getting through the neutral zone. Vernon managed a few more shots tonight, compared to Game 1 but still the Vipers were limited to their shots and chances. The Smoke Eaters with a very aggressive forecheck, won a ton of races, puck battles, one on one battles and forced the Snakes into turning over pucks, which resulted in at least three goals tonight. Trail looked much quicker, stronger and fresh. The Smokies don't get a lot of pucks to the net, or create/generate a ton of chances but capitalize on their opportunities at key times in the hockey game. Were the Vipers that bad tonight or does Trail's hard work/forecheck make Vernon look bad? For a second straight night, Donovan Buskey wasn't tested often, saw a lot of rubber from well outside, was snagging pucks with his mit through out the night. A much more chippy game from both sides, as the intensity ramped up in Game 2 compared to Game 1. Several Trail fans at Game 1 with even more Smokies fans in attendance tonight. The old Cominco Arena will be jammed packed and rocking for Game 3 Tuesday in Trail. What an atmosphere that will be.
Energy Player of the Game:
Connor Marritt (1 goal)
1st Star: Owen Ozar (1 goal & 1 assist)
2nd Star: Braeden Tuck (1 goal & 3 assists)
3rd Star: Michael Young (1 goal & 2 assists)
Trevor Miller's Trail Smoke Eater's Blog,