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 5 of the Interior division semi finals Vipers-Smoke Eaters game as Vernon defeated Trail 5-2 in front of 2,567 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Aidan Porter
Trail: Donovan Buskey
Before tonight's game the Vernon Vipers honoured longtime forward/captain and Vernon product Jagger Williamson with a tribute video and framed picture for playing in career game #233 tying former Vernon Lakers/Vernon Vipers forward Garth Gartner (1994-1998) for all-time games played in Vernon junior hockey history. Williamson tied Gartner's franchise record of all-time games played with 233 February 23rd 2019 in Merritt in the Vipers final regular season game.
Williamson is listed 12th on Vernon junior hockey's all-time points list with 173
Williamson is listed 34th on Vernon junior hockey's all-time goals list with 54
Williamson is listed 6th on Vernon junior hockey's all-time assists list with 119
Williamson is listed 69th on Vernon junior hockey's all-time penalty minutes list with 152
1st Period: The visiting Trail Smoke Eaters got the quick step on the hometown Vernon Vipers. Trail with the early jump on the Vipers as Vernon looked a little flat footed off the opening puck drop. About 1:10 into the 1st period the Smokies tried sending a pass through the slot to a Trail player going hard to the goal, it looked like the puck was going in before Teddy Wooding with a strong defensive play, somehow managed to stop the puck from going in behind Aidan Porter, quickly clearing the puck from the crease and out. I could be wrong, but It sure looked like Teddy Wooding who made that defensive play as the Smokies come very close to opening the scoring just over a minute into Game 5. About two minutes later Elan Bar-Lev-Wise tried setting up Nick Cherkowski on a two on one rush, but Luke Gallagher the lone man back, made a diving defensive play, breaking up the pass and opportunity. Trail would get the games first power play 3:39 into the contest. On the man advantage Aidan Porter had to be sharp, made a quick right pad save off Layne Sniher in close on a quality chance. Trevor Zins setup Carter Jones who was allowed to walk in untouched before roofing his shot high and over Aidan Porter, giving Trail an early 1-0 lead at 4:32 Zins & Tyler Ghirandosi collected the assists. This giving the small amount of Smoke Eaters fans something to get excited about just minutes into the hockey game. The Smokies outshooting Vernon 7-1 at this point. Just before the halfway mark Vipers forward/captain Jagger Williamson spotted and setup Logan Cash on an odd man rush, who would be stoned in front on a large save off former Prince Albert Raiders goaltender Donovan Buskey. Back come the Smoke Eaters on the following shift/play, Mack Byers forced Aidan Porter into flashing the leather, making a quick glove save. Logan Cash & Jagger Williamson collided near centre ice with Williamson taking the brunt of the hit. Both players made their way to the Vipers bench, with Williamson heading to the dressing room. On the following play, Josh Latta made his way to the Vipers dressing room, holding his throat/neck. Both Williamson and Latta didn't return. Just past the midway mark Ben Sanderson with a burst of speed tried setting up Teddy Wooding coming up the middle on an odd man rush, but the pass was just out of reach as Wooding couldn't coral the puck on a missed opportunity. In the second half, the Snakes would get a few looks but had troubles connecting on their passing. With just under six minutes remaining, Layne Sniher with his second opportunity of the period, couldn't solve Aidan Porter. With about three minutes left, Diarmad Dimurro somehow missed which looked like an open cage, fired wide on a missed opportunity to take a 2-0 lead. It was 1-0 Trail after 20 minutes of play. The Smokies got off to a good start, catching the Vipers a little flat footed off the opening faceoff. Trail was the better team for most of the 1st period, especially in the first half. The Smoke Eaters were outshooting Vernon 7-1 and 11-1 at different times. The Snakes went at least five or six minutes without a shot on goal. Vernon was having troubles getting pucks to the net. I thought the Vipers played better in the second half, had the puck on their stick a little more, didn't create/or generate many chances but had a few looks-opportunities. Overall I thought the Smokies were the better team. Trail outshot Vernon 12-7.
2nd Period: Josh Latta and Jagger Williamson returned to the Vipers bench to start the 2nd period. Williamson now wearing a full face shield after his hit with team mate Logan Cash in the opening frame. Just thirty three seconds into the middle frame, the Smoke Eaters get an early power play, their second of the evening. The Snakes with a large penalty kill, didn't surrender a single shot, killing off the minor. Two minutes after killing off the penalty the Vipers would get their first PP of the game. Vernon with some looks early but towards the end of the power play, Powell Connor and Luke Gallagher in on the odd man rush shorthanded, couldn't beat Vipers starting goaltender Aidan Porter. Porter stayed with the shooter, making a big stop on the PK as Trail kills off the minor. Just as the penalty expired, Vernon gets called for too many men, sending the Smokies to the man advantage. Early into the PP Aidan Porter had to be sharp making a quick pad save off Hayden Rowan in the slot. Somehow the puck got by the Trail d-men before Connor Marritt used his speed to break in for the breakaway, beat Smoke Eaters starting goaltender Donovan Buskey, tying the game 1-1 at 7:50 sending Kal Tire Place into a frenzy. Marritt's goal was unassisted. The Vipers with a strong penalty kill, would kill off the remainder of the Smoke Eaters PP. Jagger Williamson was making his way to the Vipers dressing room after every shift, may have been hurt or had some kind of equipment problems. Less then two minutes later former Chilliwack Chiefs defenceman Carver Watson with a smart heads up play, makes a nice pass to Ben Sanderson who setup Teddy Wooding in front, giving Vernon a 2-1 lead at 9:41 their first lead of the game. Sanderson and Watson drew the helpers. Sanderson's speed really opened up the ice, to allow this goal to happen. The Vipers lead didn't last too long. Just over a minute later the Snakes cant clear the zone, get hemmed in their own end as Trail has the Vipers back on their heels before Hayden Rowan's shot from the circle goes up and over Aidan Porter, in and off the crossbar on a wicked shot, tying the game 2-2 at 10:44 Chase Stevenson & Trevor Zins picked up the assists. Trail's bench was fired up after this goal. A very disappointing shift from Vernon after their second goal. A quick/good push back shift from the visiting Smokies. Minutes later the Vipers go back to the powerplay and capitalize. Carver Watson's shot looked to be redirected or go in and off Matt Kowalski in front, giving Vernon a 3-2 lead at 15:04 Watson & Connor Marritt collected the helpers. This goal seemed to give the Snakes momentum as Vernon continued to press and push with several quality chances. Teddy Wooding tried setting up a Viper going to the net on an odd man rush, couldn't connect on the pass. The Vipers with a few good looks from in close just missed the net. On a goal mouth scramble the Vipers couldn't bang home the loose puck before Logan Cash with a quality chance at the side of the net, couldn't beat Donovan Buskey down low. Vernon pressing towards the end of the period. With about 1:21 remaining the Snakes get called for too many men for a second time this period. Trail getting a late power play to finish the middle frame. The Smokies would run out of time as the buzzer sounded. It was 3-2 Vernon after 40 minutes of play. This was the Vipers best period of the series as Vernon scored three times to cap off an amazing period. I thought the Snakes were the better of the two teams, Vernon had a lot of puck possession, more zone time and had a ton of looks/opportunities. Jagger Williamson would leave the Vipers bench after every shift, making his way to the dressing room before returning. This went on for quite some time before the Vipers captain didn't return to the bench to finish the period. Williamson went hard into the end boards after hustling for the puck, was a little slow getting up. Could this have been why all the trips to the dressing room? Giving up the game tying shorthanded goal, really seemed to take the wind out of the sails of the Trail Smoke Eaters. From then on in until the end of the period, Trail didn't look to be the same team. The Smoke Eaters looked a little tired at times, had troubles containing the Vipers speed. The Smokies had a few looks/chances but not many. Vernon outshot Trail 11-6.
3rd Period: The Vipers start the final frame on the penalty kill. Vernon with a big kill, kill off the remainder of the penalty. The Vipers back to five on five come at the Smokies hard with a strong forecheck. Donovan Buskey comes out to play the puck, wasn't quick enough getting back into the blue paint, before Vernon product Coleton Bilodeau beats Donovan Buskey on the wrap around, giving Vernon a 4-2 lead at 1:12 Matt Kowalski drew the only assist. This was a huge goal for the Snakes. This was the end of the night for Smoke Eaters starting goaltender Donovan Buskey. Buskey was pulled after Vernon's fourth goal, giving up four goals on nineteen Vernon shots. Adam Marcoux who has yet to see any action in this series, would replace Donovan Buskey. Trail with a strong push back shift, have a flurry of chances in and around the goal couldn't capitalize before jumping on an early PP. Braeden Tuck with a good look/chance was denied by Aidan Porter as Vernon with a solid PK kills off the penalty. About a minute later Connor Powell with at least two shots towards Ben Sanderson, before Sanderson gives Powell a shot to the face. A minor scrum breaks out as both players would be sent to the sin bin. The Snakes then get the play in deep with a strong forecheck, rag the puck along the wall, killing time off the clock. The Smokies running out of time, had troubles getting anywhere near the front of the net as the Vipers blocked several shots, keeping Trail's offensive forwards well to the outside. The Smoke Eaters had a few looks/flurries but couldn't solve Aidan Porter. Trail would get Adam Marcoux to the bench with about 2:32 remaining before the Smokies take a penalty. Marcoux would be forced back into the net, before making his way back to the bench for the extra attacker. With no real push from Trail, Teddy Wooding with a lengthy shot hit the open cage, giving Vernon a 5-2 lead at 19:16 Wooding with his second goal of the evening. Wooding's goal was unassisted. Adam Marcoux would be sent back into goal to finish the remainder of the game. The Smoke Eaters with several jabs, the odd punch or slash towards a Vernon player late tried sending a message for Game 6. Both teams exchanging words inside the final minute before one last scrum at the buzzer. The officials were forced to jump in to break up the altercations as Vernon takes Game 5 5-2 to take a 3-2 series lead. Coleton Bilodeau with a huge goal early into the final frame, gives Vernon a two goal lead. With that two goal lead the Vipers shutdown the Smoke Eaters for most of the 3rd period, limiting their time and space, blocking shots, keeping Trail's forwards away from the front of the net. The Snakes with a strong forecheck, worked the puck along the wall, killed off valuable time off the clock in a total defensive period. The Smokies had a few looks/opportunities, had troubles getting pucks to the net, creating/generating chances. The Vipers with a solid 3rd period were the better team. Vernon outshot Trail 7-6.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
The line of Matt Kowalski (1 goal & 1 assist), Josh Latta & Connor Marritt (1 goal & 1 assist) Didn't look very good in the 1st period, really stepped up their play in the 2nd and 3rd periods, played very well. This line hasn't played all that well this series until tonight. Josh Latta didn't record any points but I really liked his hustle, determination and backcheck. Latta did a lot of the little things that get unnoticed on the score sheet. How big was Connor Marritt's shorthanded goal? Was this the TSN turning point?
Ben Sanderson (1 assist) Has been one of the Vipers more dominate players in these playoffs. I really like this kid and have liked his game in these playoffs. Once again played with a ton of jump/energy, really uses his wheels to his advantage, creates and opens up ice, makes things happen in a hurry.
Jagger Williamson What can you say about the Vipers captain. Collides with team mate Logan Cash during the opening frame, misses the remainder of the period. Returns for the middle frame with a full face shield, leaves the bench after every shift, making his way to the dressing room, before not returning to the bench for the remainder of the 2nd period, but only to return for the 3rd period. Was very very strong on the draw, won a ton of faceoffs tonight. Played/battled hard. Will the Vipers retire Williamson's jersey #11 in the future?
The line of Nick Cherkowski, Elan Bar-Lev-Wise and Coleton Bilodeau (1 goal) I thought were very good in Game 5. Cherkowski was physical, Bar-Lev-Wise was strong on the forecheck, hard on pucks, while Bilodeau was also physical, going to the goal, making things happen. I was very impressed with the Snakes 4th line.
Teddy Wooding (2 goals) Played a strong game at both ends of the rink. Im pretty sure it was Wooding who made a solid defensive play to stop the puck from crossing the goal line, just a minute off the opening faceoff. Battled/competed all night.
Logan Cash I thought had one of his better games in a while. Had some looks/opportunities, played very well in the victory. Was skating hard, was going to the net, earned his chances, didn't back down, played hard.
Carver Watson (2 assists) Had a strong night on the Vipers backend. Was involved in the play, moved the puck up ice in a hurry, was making plays happen, was good at both ends of the rink.
Aidan Porter (22 saves) I didn't think was tested often but was forced into making some big stops at key points in the contest. I remember one big save off Layne Sniher with about six minutes left in the 1st period. Made another big stop on the penalty kill off Hayden Rowan, just before Connor Marritt's shorthanded game tying goal and then made another large save off a shorthanded odd man rush also in the middle frame. Porter looked dialed in and confident tonight.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
Tonight was by far the Vipers best played game of the series. The Snakes didn't play a full sixty minutes but I thought slowly started coming on and played much better in the second half of the 1st period. It was the middle frame when Vernon took over and was the better team in the final two periods. I thought the Snakes created/generated several good looks/opportunities through out the night, chased Smoke Eaters starting goaltender Donovan Buskey early into the 3rd period. I thought the Vipers were a little more engaged tonight, really used their speed, forecheck and hard work down low to win the battles, the races and come out of those battles with the puck. Vernon took some heavy hits through out the game, but didn't lose their composure. I thought all four lines played very well and contributed. The Snakes had several odd man rushes, finally found ways to the front of the goal, were getting pucks to the net in the 2nd period and finding ways around Trail's defence. After looking flat footed to start the game, I thought Vernon showed lots of energy/jump, were skating hard, using their speed, giving Trail's defenders all kinds of trouble. After losing the first two games of this series, Vernon has now won three straight and a chance to close the series out tomorrow night in Trail. One of the biggest crowds of the season, saw a very entertaining and exciting hockey game. I thought the crowd was into the game and made for a great atmosphere. The Vipers are 3-3 on home ice in the playoffs, have lost seven of their last twelve home games, going back to the regular season. After losing the first two games, I would have never guessed Vernon would win the next three straight. I never saw this coming. I would like to take this time to send my thought's and prayers out to the Beugeling's, who haven't been at any of the Vipers playoff games, are struggling with a difficult situation right now. It's times like this, when hockey is just a game and life is much more important. The Beugeling's are longtime Vernon Lakers/Vernon Vipers former billets and current longtime season ticket holders. I'm thinking of you guys right now in these hard times.
Top Player's: (Trail)
Trevor Zins (2 assists) Played a hard fought game on the Smokies blueline. Picking up two assists, was solid on the backend.
Trevor Isaksson Was another d-man who was physical, was hard to beat one on one, had a good game for Trail in the loss.
Hayden Rowan (1 goal) Had some looks/quality chances, played hard all night, was involved in the play, involved in the after the whistle activities, didn't back down, battled hard until the final buzzer.
Layne Sniher Was another forward who had some looks/opportunities, played well in the loss.
Game Thought's: (Trail)
The Smoke Eaters looked good early, right from the opening faceoff. Trail with early zone time and an early power play goal, were the better of the two teams in the 1st period. The Smokies couldn't capitalize on an early second period man advantage, could have grabbed a two goal lead. Instead Trail gives up a shorthanded marker, allowing Vernon to tie the game and gain life and momentum. It was in the 2nd period where I thought Trail didn't look as quick, looked a little tired/sluggish at times, had troubles with Vernon's speed and forecheck. After twelve shots towards Vipers goaltender Aidan Porter in the opening frame, the Smoke Eaters only muster twelve shots the rest of the hockey game. Coleton Bilodeau's goal just 1:12 into the final frame seemed to be the back breaker, as the Smoke Eaters had a little push back but not much, struggled once again with Vernon's forecheck and speed. Trail had some looks/flurries in the 3rd period but were held to the outside, had limited time in the offensive zone, had troubles getting near the front of the net. One thing I really noticed tonight was Trail gave up a lot of odd man rushes, where as in Games 1 & 2 the Snakes may have had two odd man rushes in both games. Trail's defense wasn't as tight as in Games 1 & 2 and didn't help out their goaltender. The Vipers were getting bodies to the net, where as in Games 1 & 2 Donovan Buskey was getting a lot of help from his defence, keeping Vernon to the outside and away from the goal. After winning the first two games of this series in Vernon, it looked like Trail was fully in the drivers seat heading home. The Smokies have now lost three straight and are on the brinks of elimination with their season on the line tomorrow. Nice to see a decent size turnout of Trail fans in attendance.
Energy Player of the Game:
Ben Sanderson (1 assist)
1st Star: Connor Marritt (1 goal & 1 assist)
2nd Star: Matt Kowalski (1 goal & 1 assist)
3rd Star: Teddy Wooding (2 goals)
Trevor Miller's Trail Smoke Eaters Blog,