The crowd of 3,205 was buzzing as the Vernon Vipers slid their fifth and final goal into the empty net, successfully ending the Trail Smoke Eaters’ season.
After a tight series, Vernon won Game 7 with a score of 5-2 at Kal Tire Place Monday, March 25. It was the first Game 7 Kal Tire Place had seen in almost a decade, and the Snakes and Smokies didn’t disappoint.
Josh Latta scored twice and Aidan Porter stopped 17 shots in the high action play. Latta started the night off strong with a hard wrister from the left circle to kick off the Vipers’ consistent lead. Nick Cherkowski kept up the pace and added a second shot for the Vipers a few minutes later.
The Smoke Eaters were able to answer back during a powerplay where Hayden Rowan snuck one past Porter. But, before the buzzer signaled the end of the first, Jagger Williamson restored the Vipers’ two-goal lead.
Vipers dominance carried over into the second period, with the lone goal coming from Carver Watson.
In an anticipated move, the Smoke Eaters came out swinging in the final period, but a pair of Vipers powerplays impeded their attack. Braeden Tuck was able to set up from behind the goal to challenge the Vipers, but it was the second and final goal Trail would see.
Trail pulled its goalie in a last ditch effort, but Latta hit the empty net and solidified the Vipers’ victory.
The Vipers will play the defending BCHL champion Wenatchee Wild in the Interior Conference final, which will begin in Wenatchee on the weekend. Wenatchee beat Vernon in last year’s conference semifinals.
With files from the Vernon Vipers.
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