The Merritt Centennials went down to the wire in a barn burner from the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks but prevailed 6-5 in regulation.
The first period started off with a bang with a couple bodies in the penalty box and a game misconduct being handed down early. The officials set the tone that they wouldn’t be allowing too much, and the teams split 3 powerplay chances throughout the first with neither team finding the back of the net. Early on Rybarik of the Silverbacks streaked to the net and snuck behind the Cents D to beat Marshall off the centering feed to give the away team the early goal. However, it didn’t take long for the Centennials to battle back, as Wyatt Marlow scored his first of the season after Talon Zakall unleashed a slapper from the line that was deflected in. Tanner Marshall came up with some big stops early when the Cents faltered and he was peppered in the first with shots 23-12 after 1.
The Cents jumped out to their first lead of the game early on in the 2nd period. At the 3:29 mark Brett Roloson was able to batt in a waste high pass from Daniel Tkac past Dylan Kruss to make it 2-1. Thomas Manty added to the lead with a powerplay marker after he held the puck at the point, he danced to the middle, and stared down Kruss 1-on-1 and beat him low glove to make it 3-1 Cents. Nick Unruh got the Silverbacks into the game with a goal shortly after on a scramble in front to make it 3-2 going into the third period. Shots after 2 were 36-23 in favour of Salmon Arm.
If the game started out as a spark, the third was wear it became a roaring fire. After starting the frame off on the penalty kill, the Cents did their duty and then were able to tally on the rush after Joey Berkopec came back onto the ice. Brett Roloson beat his man up the right side wall, and Berkopec was fresh out of the box and streaking to the net with him. Roloson fed the pass over, it hit Berkopec but his shot went wide, but Berkopec was able to pick the puck off the end board bounce and put it past Kruss to make it 4-2. The Silverbacks answered on a shot from Bennett after the Cents backed off a little too much, and one of the ‘Backs top scorers was able to make the team pay to make it 4-3. Brett Roloson restored the lead just over a minute later after finding a rebound in the high slot and putting it past Kruss to restore the two-goal margin. The lead held for about 5 minutes before the ‘Backs again got within one. Late in the game, it was Payton Matsui who battled out of the corner to restore the two-goal lead keeping his stick on the puck and then backhanding it past Kruss to make it 6-4. With the net empty, the Silverbacks were able to make it 6-5, but from there on in the Cents hung on courtesy a huge stop by Marshall against the ‘Backs Captain late. Final shots were 53-32 for Salmon Arm.
After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says the boys are starting to believe.
“We are starting to play with that confidence, we are making mistakes, we are learning, but we are playing with compete and we are believing in each other in the room and on the ice.”
The Cents will look to carry the momentum of picking up 3 of 4 points against Salmon Arm into their Island Road Swing next weekend.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Wyatt Marlow 1G 2PIM
3RD STAR: Talon Zakall 0G 1A
2nd STAR: Joey Berkopec 1G 1A
1st STAR: Brett Roloson 2G 1A