The Trail Smoke Eaters used a 40-save performance from Donovan Buskey and a four-goal 2nd period to help them to a 5-2 Game #3 victory over the Merritt Centennials in their Interior Division Quarterfinal and took a 2-1 series lead at the Trail Memorial Centre on Tuesday night.
The Centennials started the game with good pressure off the hop but again it would be goaltender Donovan Buskey standing tall in the Trail net, stopping each of the 13 shots he faced in the opening period and keeping his strong play going from Saturday night’s Game #2. Buskey made a big save about midway through the period on Christian Sabin in front of the net, jetting out the right pad to keep the game scoreless.
Austin Roden did his part in the Merritt net, making 10 saves on 10 shots in the opening 20 minutes including a huge stop on his first shot of the game as the Smoke Eaters were able to center the puck from below the goal line to the slot where Mack Byers had a great look on net but Roden got his catching glove on it to keep the game knotted at 0-0.
The scoring came in fast in the 2nd period as Trail’s offence exploded for four goals, beginning at the 2:11 mark of the period with Spencer McLean finding the back of the net. Mack Byers dropped the puck off on the left wing as Trevor Zins rushed the net as McLean found the puck in the slot and beat Roden through the legs for his 1st goal of the series and a 1-0 advantage early in the period.
Just over two minutes later, the Smoke Eaters doubled their lead at the 4:31 mark coming off the stick of Carter Jones. Tyler Ghirardosi left the puck for Jones who had his slap shot blocked in the right face-off circle but he collected again and fired past the glove side of Roden for his 1st goal of the series and gave Trail a 2-0 advantage.
The night came to an end for the Centennials netminder Austin Roden in the 2nd frame as Kent Johnson gave the Smoke Eaters a 3-0 lead. Johnson started from his own zone as he zoomed up the left wing and cut his way to the left face-off circle before wiring a shot past the blocker side of Roden for a 3-0 lead at the 5:59 mark for his 3rd goal of the series.
Trail extended their lead to 4-0 at the 11:25 mark of the middle stanza and their fourth consecutive goal coming courtesy of Chase Stevenson. Johnson started the play down the left side as he cut behind the net and centered a pass to Stevenson in the slot as he beat new netminder Jackson Glassford on the blocker side for his 1st goal of the series and a 4-0 lead.
Bradley Cocca got the Centennials cut the deficit to three goals just over a minute later at the 12:36 mark after a steal at the blue line while shorthanded. Cocca stole the puck off a Smoke Eaters defender and raced in on a shorthanded break as he made a move to his backhand and through the legs of Buskey to cut the lead to 4-1.
The Centennials brought a lot of pressure early in the 3rd period and got the game within a pair of goals at the 1:54 mark of the final period as a pass came from the right side and to the slot where Daniel Tkac as he beat Buskey on the blocker side to get the game down to a 4-2 lead in favour of the Smoke Eaters.
The game went a long stretch without a whistle in the 3rd period as Buskey continued to stay strong in between the pipes and Tyler Ghirardosi put the icing on the cake as he found the empty net for his 2nd goal of the series with 15 seconds remaining to give Trail a 5-2 victory.
Buskey had another terrific game for Trail, turning aside 40 of the 42 shots he faced in the game in his 2nd win of the playoffs while Austin Roden stopped 11 of the 14 shots in his 2nd loss of the postseason before affiliate player Jackson Glassford stopped 11 of the 12 shots thrown his way in his first BCHL appearance.
FINAL SCORE: 5-2 Smoke Eaters
SHOTS ON GOAL: 42-27 Centennials
SMOKE EATERS PP: 0/1
SMOKE EATERS PK: 1/1
1) Tyler Ghirardosi (1-2-3)
2) Kent Johnson (1-1-2)
3) Chase Stevenson (1-1-2)
Fortis Energy Player of the Game: Donovan Buskey (40 saves on 42 shots)
The Smoke Eaters and Centennials face-off in Game #4 of their Interior Division Quarterfinal on Wednesday night from the Trail Memorial Centre. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 PM with tickets available for purchase at the Smoke Eaters Main Office as well as at the door ahead of the opening face-off.