The Merritt Centennials offensive wheels continue to turn as they scored seven goals for the second game in a row, and used it to propel them to their second win in a row – this time over the defending BCHL Champion Wenatchee Wild.
The first period was a tale of two different teams. The Wild took full advantage of a 5-on-3 just over 6 minutes into the game. With Brendan Schneider and Joey Berkopec in the box the Wild punished the Cents early with two goals on the powerplay. The Cents managed to even things up 5-on-5 after goals from Rylan Van Unen and Mathieu Gosselin. Van Unen was the beneficiary of a Nic Granowicz fly by down the right wing that caught goaltender Austin Park committing to a post, and Granowicz was able to pull the quick wrap around and find Van Unen in the slot to get the Cents on the board. Gosselin continues to provide offense any way he can, and did so on a second opportunity in front. The Wild then answered with another goal, on their 3rd powerplay opportunity of the period, but were answered before the period expired by rookie Brett Roloson who got his first goal in the BCHL by way of a quick release from the slot. After 1, the Cents had 3 at even strength, and the Wild had 3 with the extra-man.
During the middle frame the Cents were the first ones to light the lamp, this time they took advantage of the powerplay and it was Schneider who found the rebound off the post from Brad Cocca, who found the rebound off the pad from Matt Kopperud to give the Cents their first lead 4-3. The Wild would tie things up at 7 minutes in with a goal from Avery Winslow, but under a minute later the Cents would regain the lead when Frazer Dodd protected the puck on a rush down the right side, went all the way around the net and the zone back to the top of the right circle before unloading a back hander that Kopperud was able to collect off a pad to bat in on a backhand of his own and make it 5-4. That would end starter Austin Park’s night after making 10 saves on 15 shots, and give way to Cal Sandquist. However, Sandquist would be beaten by Kopperud as well, this time with him streaking down the right wing and ripping a wrister top corner, bar down to give the Cents a 6-4 lead into the third.
In the final stanza the Centennials weathered the early storm from the Wild and were rewarded when Granowicz was able to pot one off the back of Sanquist and in. On the goal, Talon Zakall, the Merritt native, got his first point in the BCHL. Christophe Tellier continued his fine play with a goal to pull the Wild within 2 at 7-5, but that would be the closest they’d get. Despite a late 5-on-3 advantage, Captain Nick Wicks and his penalty killing crew managed to stave off the final minutes spurred on by the home crowd chants of ‘Go Cents Go’ and the Cents hung on to win it 7-5.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin boiled the win down to one word.
“I really liked our compete out there, and if we can play every game like we played the final minutes tonight I like our chances.”
The Cents will look to extend that compete, and their win streak, to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks when they clash tomorrow night at the Shaw Centre.
Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV, on Q101.1FM and online audio only at Q101.ca.