The Vernon Vipers tied up the best-of-seven Interior Division semifinal series with a 3-2 victory over the Trail Smoke Eaters on Wednesday.
The Vipers Jack Judson scored his third of the post-season and what proved to be the game winner with just under six minutes to play to give the Vipers a 3-2 lead. Vernon hemmed the Smoke Eaters in their own end, and Jagger Williamson found Judson in the slot, and the Arizona State commit wired a snapshot past the glove of Trail goalie Donovan Buskey with 5:53 remaining in regulation.
After losing two at Kal Tire Place, the Vipers went into the Trail Memorial Centre and won two on the road to regain home-ice advantage.
Trail jumped out to a 2-0 lead with Owen Ozar converting a cross ice pass from Braeden Tuck to beat a sprawling Aiden Porter at 5:45 of the first. Carter Jones made it 2-0 just 62 seconds later on a power play, firing a shot from the right hash mark over the shoulder of Porter.
But Jagger Williamson tallied his third of the series on an unassisted effort, breaking past the defenceman and going forehand, backhand on Buskey to cut the lead in half with 2:43 left in the opening frame.
Vipers’ defenceman Trey Taylor didn’t waste any time in the second period, scoring just 13 seconds into the middle frame to tie it at two. Taylor fired a slap-shot glove side on Buskey for his first career BCHL playoff goal.
Trail outshot the Vipers 20-16 through two periods but couldn’t find any momentum in the final frame. The Vipers held off the Smokies attack which included a 6-on-4 man-advantage in the final 35 seconds. With Trail goalie Buskey on the bench for the extra attacker, Judson took a tripping penalty to give Trail the two-man advantage, but to no avail.
Trail and Vernon each had 26 shots on goal, with the Smokies going 1-for-6 on the power play and Vernon 0-for-2.
Jones was named the game’s first star for Trail, with Vernon’s Williamson earning second star, and Judson third star.
In the other Interior match up, Wenatchee Wild bounced back from a Game 3 loss to beat the Cowichan Valley Capitals 4-1.
Game 5 goes in Vernon on Friday night and the Interior semifinal will return to Trail for Game 6 on Saturday with the puck drop at 7 p.m.