Playoff recap – March 5

Donovan Buskey stopped 40 of 42 shots and Tyler Ghirardosi led the way offensively with three points as the Trail Smoke Eaters topped the Merritt Centennials 5-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

After a scoreless first period, Trail exploded for four straight goals in the second with Spencer McLean, Carter Jones, Kent Johnson and Chase Stevenson all lighting the lamp in a span of under 10 minutes to give their team a convincing 4-0 lead. Bradley Cocca got the Cents on the board with a shorthanded goal before the end of the frame to make it a 4-1 game and Payton Matsui scored his first of the playoffs to get Merritt to within two, but that’s as close as they would come as Ghirardosi iced the game with an empty-netter with 16 seconds to play.

After dropping the series opener, the Smokies have won back-to-back games, both by a score of 5-2, to take the series lead, thanks in large part to Buskey’s stellar goaltending as the 19-year-old has stopped 72 of 76 shots over his last two games. Game 4 goes tomorrow night in Trail.

The Cowichan Valley Capitals continued their quest for a monumental upset by beating the Penticton Vees 3-2 in overtime in Game 3. David Melaragni’s wrist shot from the point beat a screened Jack LaFontaine under four minutes into the extra frame to give the Caps the win and a 2-1 series edge. BCHL Top Defenceman award winner James Miller opened the scoring for the Vees with a second-period goal, but Luc Wilson replied for Cowichan to make it 1-1 after two. Niko Esposito-Selivanov scored his third of the series early in the third, but Massimo Rizzo potted the tying goal on the power play to send this game to overtime and set up Melaragni’s heroics. As the crossover team and the lowest seed in the BCHL Playoffs, the Caps will look to put even more pressure on the Interior Division-champion Vees in Game 4 tomorrow night.

Marty Westhaver had two goals and one assist and Kyle McGrath chipped in with three helpers as the Victoria Grizzlies outlasted the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in a 6-5 overtime victory on Tuesday to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. Westhaver scored both his goals in the first period, but Marcus Walter and Josh Zary responded for the Bulldogs and the game was tied 2-2 after the first. Ryan Miotto briefly put Alberni ahead in the second, but Alex Newhook, Ryan Nolan and Nico Somerville scored three straight for Victoria to give them a 5-3 lead heading into the third. Mitch Deelstra started the Bulldogs’ comeback with a goal midway through the period and then tied the game with under a minute to play and the goalie pulled to force OT. Despite Alberni’s comeback efforts, it was Victoria’s Cameron Thompson who scored the winner by picking up a loose puck, wheeling to the front of the goal and sniping one top corner to give his team the win.

It was an up-and-down game for the Powell River Kings, but, on the strength of a Levi Glasman hat trick, they managed to come out on top in Game 4 of their series after a wild 5-4 overtime win over the Nanaimo Clippers, which gives them a 3-1 series lead heading back home for Game 5 Thursday. Gunnar Wegleitner, MacKenzie Merriman and Joshua Bourne each scored first-period goals for Nanaimo who led 3-0 after one. The Kings responded in a big way in the second frame with two goals from Glasman and one each from Josh Coblenz and Ben Berard to storm back and take a 4-3 lead heading into the third. Wegleitner scored his second of the game to tie things up, but it was Glasman who knocked in a centring pass from Ryan Pouliot from in close at 13:56 of overtime to give Powell River the win and push the Clippers to the brink of elimination.

Daniel Chenard stopped 38 of 39 shots and was named the game’s first star as the regular-season champion Chilliwack Chiefs stayed alive with a 2-1 win over the Langley Rivermen in Game 4 of their first-round series. All the scoring was done in the second period in this one with Brett Willits and Nathan Kelly tallying for the Chiefs before Matteo Pecchia potted the Rivermen’s lone goal. The Chiefs went 1-for-3 on their power-play attempts, while Langley went 0-for-5. Despite the win, Chilliwack are still in tough down 3-1 heading back home for Game 5 on Thursday night.

Chase Danol had a hat trick and Clay Stevenson made 31 saves for the shutout as the Coquitlam Express live to play another day after a 3-0 home win over the Prince George Spruce Kings. After a scoreless first, Danol buried the first goal of the game midway through the second to give his team a 1-0 lead. Danol then scored a power-play goal 4:37 into the third and sealed things with an empty-netter in the final minute. Both teams will now travel back to PG for Game 5 on Thursday.

Brandon Koch notched a pair of goals, while Lucas Sowder had a three-point night as the Wenatchee Wild beat the West Kelowna Warriors 6-2 to take a 2-1 series lead. Warriors captain Cavin Tilsley scored the only goal of the first period, but PJ Fletcher, Sowder, Murphy Stratton and Koch each scored for the Wild in the second to make it 4-1 after two. Koch scored his second of the game and his team’s fifth-straight in the third, before West Kelowna’s Lucas Cullen and Wenatchee’s Josh Arnold exchanged goals to make it a 6-2 final. Wenatchee, the defending league champs, head into tomorrow night’s Game 4 hoping to bring a 3-1 lead back home with them and a chance to end the series on home ice.