The Merritt Centennials pulled off a Teddy Bear Toss miracle by storming back in a third period which they came into trailing 6-1 to tie the game, but eventually they fell in the shootout to the Vernon Vipers 8-7.
It wasn’t all rosy off the hop, as the Merritt Centennials quickly found themselves down by 1 as Matt Kowalski picked up where he left off by scoring on a 2-on-1 to make it 1-0. Dawson Holt made it 2-0 after a nifty no-look backhand feed from Kowalski. A dust up ensued as Braydon Clark hit Kowalski in the corner after the goal was scored, but the Vipers didn’t make the Cents pay on the scoreboard. However, later on in the the Vipers would add another pair and the Cents found themselves in a 4-0 hole after the first. Ryan Winter made the start, and faced 12 shots in net to the Vipers’ Reilly Herbst who faced 11.
The 2nd period started much like the first with Connor Marritt getting the goal to make it 5-0. Tanner Marshall would come in to relieve Winter and that would wake the team up a little. Marritt would complete his hat trick in the latter goings of the 2nd, but the Cents would finally send the teddy’s flying on the PP late too. Talon Zakall threw a shot on from the right point and like he’s been there so many times this season Hunor Tozsok deflected it in to send the teddy’s flying, and get the Cents on the board before the 2nd period came to a close to make it 6-1. Despite being outscored, shots after 2 were 22-20 in favour of the Cents.
The Cents started with a penalty early on in the third and things didn’t look great, but out of the box Hunor Torzsok was spotted by Ben Ward and finished a backhand forehand move in front to make it 6-2. At the ten minute mark, Hunter Donohoe scored on the powerplay to make things 7-2. Shortly after the Cents decided to start playing Centennials hockey. Brophy Dunne spurred the comeback trail with a huge reverse hit on Elan Bar Lev Wise, that was the spark the Cents needed. Jerzy Orchard crashed the net and cashed in to make it 7-3 and that got the Cents believing. Chase Nameth received a pass from Christian Buono and rang it off every bar around the net and in to make it 7-4 with just over 5 minutes to play. From then on the Cents were unstoppable scoring within the 5 foot margin around the net with goals from Torzsok, Nameth, and the Captain Rylan Van Unen clinched the come back to make it 7-7.
In overtime, the Cents were pushing, but ended up taking a penalty to put themselves short with too many men on the ice. The Cents were able to kill off the penalty to get it to the shootout. Rylan Van Unen had the goalie beat, but couldn’t find the open cage. Thomas Manty came in with speed and fired glove side, but high. Tanner Marshall stopped both shots he faced. Payton Matsui was able to slide one 5-hole to give the Cents the edge. Matt Kowalski was able to answer by beating Marshall, Nameth couldn’t score and the Vipers would break the deadlock to make it 8-7 in the shootout.
After the game, Derek Sweet-Coulter said the Cents proved they can play against anyone when they’re playing the right way.
“We started to see what can happen when we can roll our lines, everyone is engaged, and we are going to the right areas.”
The Cents will look to take the momentum into a short week of practice before heading to the Island.