The Merritt Centennials scored three second-period goals on their way to a 4-2 victory over Trail Smoke Eaters in Game 1 of the Interior Division quarterfinal Friday in Merritt.
Matthew Kopperud scored the winning goal with 52 seconds remaining in the second period to give the Centennials a 3-1 lead. The Centennials forward intercepted a clearing pass at the left circle and wired a shot over the glove of Trail goalie Donovan Buskey.
The goal was the third straight for the Cents, who trailed 1-0 after the first period on a Kent Johnson tally for the Smoke Eaters. Johnson popped in a centering pass from Hayden Rowan beating Austin Roden blocker-side at 4:58 of the opening frame.
Kopperud tied the game at 1-1, scoring his first of the match 22 seconds into the middle frame on a setup from Nichols Wicks and Brendan Schneider and Michael Van Unen put the Centennials up 2-1 at 11:53 on a power-play goal.
After Kopperud’s second of the night gave Merritt a 3-1 lead, the Smokies replied with 26 seconds left in the second period on a Tyler Ghirardosi goal.
Nick Granowicz put the game away scoring on a breakaway with 1:40 left on the clock for the 4-2 final.
Buskey was one of Trail’s best players on the night, facing 39 shots and earning the Game’s third star, while Roden faced 31 shots and was named second star. Kopperud, with two goals, took first star honours.
The teams return to action at the Nicola Arena tonight in Merritt for Game 2 with the puck drop at 7 p.m.
Smoke Eaters fans can follow the game by free audio stream at mixlr.com/trail-smoke-eaters as well as on pay-per-view at HockeyTV.com with the Voice of the Smoke Eaters, Trevor Miller.