Photo Credit: Garrett James Photography & Snap Commercial Photography
The Merritt Centennials had difficulty getting the puck past a strong goaltender, and the Warriors made their special teams count to take their first of the season series 6-3.
In the first period, the Centennials and Warriors traded chances, but no one could find the back of the net early. A rare shift in the season series that has seen the first goal scored within the first 3 minutes with regularity. The first goal wouldn’t come until the first powerplay opportunity for the West Kelowna Warriors. With Joey Berkopec in the box, Lucas Cullen would score low blocker on Austin Roden from the slot off a broken play. The Warriors would add to the lead at even strength when Mike Hardman ringed one in from a sharp angle to make it 2-0. Shots after 1 were 16-15 in favour of the Warriors. Rookie Connor Hopkins closed the gate through the first.
In the middle frame the Cents upped the ante, but couldn’t solve Hopkins. They’d fire 14 shots on net to the Warriors 6, but West Kelowna would come away with the extra goal on the PP. Lucas Bahn would fire one low through a screen that found it’s way past Roden to make it 3-0 heading into the third.
The Cents started to simplify their game in the final frame, and it paid dividends early. Brad Cocca scored from below the goal line, by banking it in off Hopkins who was cheating off the post. Mattias Dal Monte brought the Cents within one with a blast from the right point that deflected in, and Matt Kopperud tied the game by poking the puck across the line on a goal mouth scramble. The Cents would push back to tie it at 3, but that would be as close as they’d come. Parm Dhaliwal and Anthony Bishop answered for the Warriors, then Cavin Tilsley filled the empty net to make it a 6-3 final. Final shots were 51-33.
Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw said after the game that the Cents saw results when they didn’t overthink it.
“When we play a simply game is when we have success, and that’s how we’ve had success all year. We need to focus on a very good Powell River team now.”
With the loss the Cents now slide to 3rd in the Interior Division, just one point up on the West Kelowna Warriors.