Winning on the road in the 2019 B.C. Hockey League playoffs hasn’t been a problem for the Trail Smoke Eaters.
Trail, seeded seventh, won its fifth straight post-season game – and third away from Cominco Arena in four tries – Friday, downing the fourth-ranked Vernon Vipers 3-1 in the opening game of the best-of-seven Interior Conference semifinal in front of 1, 771 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Game 2 goes Saturday, 7 p.m., in Vernon. The series shifts to Trail for Games 3 and 4 Tuesday and Wednesday.
The loss snapped Vernon’s four-game post-season winning streak.
All the scoring in the opener came in the third period, but it will be a missed penalty shot by the Vipers’ Teddy Wooding with 72 seconds left in regulation that will be talked about.
With the Vipers trailing 2-1, Wooding took a gorgeous pass from defenceman Michael Young, split the Trail defence and was hauled down in front of Smokies goalie Donovan Buskey to draw the penalty shot.
On the attempt, Wooding tried to deke to the forehand but was stopped by Buskey’s pad.
Carter Jones salted the game away seven seconds later, scoring into an empty net.
Ben Sanderson opened the scoring for Vernon at 2:21 of the third period, his second of the post-season, set up by defenceman Landon Fuller.
Trail tied the game 1:16 later when Braden Tuck scored his third of the playoffs, assisted by Max Kryski and Kieran O’Hearn. Spencer McLean got the game-winner 2:12 later, assisted by Tyler Ghirardosi.
Vernon had several chances to tie the game before Wooding’s penalty shot from Sanderson, Elan Bar lev wise and Matt Kowalski, with Buskey making a couple of huge saves to keep his team ahead.
Buskey finished with 16 saves – Trail held Vernon to just eight shots through the first two periods – while Aidan Porter made 21 saves in goal for Vernon.
The Smoke Eaters are hoping to return to the Interior Conference final, where they fell in five games to the eventual 2018 champion Wenatchee Wild, who eliminated the Vipers in the conference semis a year ago.
The Wild fell 3-2 at home Friday in their semifinal opener to the upstart Cowichan Valley Capitals, as the eighth-seeded crossover team from the Island Division continues to work their way through the Interior division. The Caps upset the division champion Penticton Vees in the first round in six games.
The Island and Mainland Division finals got underway Friday.
On the Island, the hometown Victoria Grizzlies dispatched the Powell River Kings 4-1.
In the Mainland Division, the Prince George Spruce Kings went into Chilliwack and hammered the regular-season champion, and defending Canadian champion, Chiefs 7-0.