The Merritt Centennials began their new era in front of a solid crowd of nearly 900 at the NVMA, but they couldn’t keep up the pace they set in the opening frame and Wenatchee iced the game late to make it a 3-1 final.
Despite the pressures of the Home Opener upon them it was the Cents who came out flying in the first frame. For the 5th game dating back to preseason the Cents scored first, and unfortunately 1-4 when they do. On the powerplay, the Cents capitalized on some quick puck movement up high. Daniel Tkac played it across the blue line to Joey Berkopec, who quickly fed Vincent Guy, who made the quick move from his skate to stick to a shot off the post and in at the 8:37 mark. The Cents were in the drivers seat for much of the period, but late in the frame off a scramble in front Brian Adams was able to find the puck to the side of the net and put it past a sprawled out Ryan Winter to tie the game at 1. Shots after 1 period were 16-14 in favour of the Wild.
In the second period the Cents had trouble finding the same jump they were able to start the game with. The Wild slowly were able to put more pressure on and drew a couple penalties consecutively. The Cents were able to kill off the first two, but not the third as Wild forward Nick Caferelli was able to streak into the zone, break through the box, and pick the corner on Winter to make it 2-1 at the 14:33 mark. The Wild kept up the torrid pace, but some solid stops from Winter kept the Cents in the game. After 2 periods, shots were 28-22 in favour of the Wild.
The final period started with some fireworks. Olson Werenka lowered a big hit to negate an odd man rush at his own blue line, and the Wild took exception and learnt that you don’t want to get on the wrong side of Werenka. After tackling Emerson to the ground, Werenka fed a flurry of fists to fire up the crowd and his team. The Cents tried to harness that energy, but despite chances couldn’t muster the equalizer. With an extra man on and a play drawn up the Cents go their shot from the slot, but couldn’t hit the net and Brett Chorske scored on the empty net to make it a 3-1 game. That would be the final, with the Wild holding a 38-30 edge on the shot clock.
After the game, Assistant Coach Derek Sweet Coulter said there were still a number of positives to come out of the contest.
“I really liked our start. I thought we really overcame some of the pressures that are involved in a home opener well. I think we also started to develop some chemistry with our line, but ultimately we need to sustain that pressure for longer periods, make some better shot choices, and capitalize on our chances.”
The Cents will get their next chance to pick up their first win of the season against the Penticton Vees on Friday September 13th.