The Merritt Centennials (2-11) continue to look for their 1st win of the pod against the Prince George Spruce Kings (9-4) tonight.
On Monday, the Cents had another game come down to the final minutes, but unfortunately they ran out of time to make the comeback against the Chilliwack Chiefs and fell by a score of 5-3.
The opening frame continues to be a sore spot for the Cents as the Cents again held the opponent off the scoresheet for the opening 8 minutes, but a turnover led to Chiefs forward Kyle Penney barging down the left wing side cutting to the net and tucking a backhand past Melnyk to open the scoring. Melnyk made more than a few key saves throughout the contest as he showed poise in net on partial breakaways and Grade A opportunities in his first game or practice action in nearly 3 weeks. Unfortunately, it was another turnover in neutral ice that led to another Chiefs goal as Connor Millburn feathered a pass to the slot for a streaking Sasha Teleguine who made it 2-0. The Cents would hold the Chiefs there, but couldn’t capitalize on a late powerplay.
The second period saw the Chiefs add another one early off another turnover, as Ethan Bowen was able to pick a pocket behind the net, come out front, spin and fire a shot past Melnyk to make it 3-0. The Cents got an opportunity for another powerplay moments later and didn’t let it go by the wayside as Talon Zakall was able to blast a shot from the point that deflected of a Chiefs defender and found the top corner to make it 3-1. On the ensuing shift Jerzy Orchard won a battle behind the net and then shoveled a pass out front for Carson Preston who roofed it for his first goal in the BCHL to make it 3-2. Unfortunately for the Cents and Brayden Melnyk the Chiefs would restore the 2 goal lead when Lucas Bourdon banked one off the end boards, off the back of Melnyk’s skate and in to make it 4-2.
The final frame saw the Cents pushing for the equalizer once more and they were rewarded for their efforts as again it was Talon Zakall through a crowd to make it 4-3. However, this time on the ensuing shift it was the Chiefs who answered as Abram Wiebe found the back of the net beating an outstretched glove of Melnyk to make it 5-3. Try as the Cents might, that would hold up as the final.
Prince George is riding high on a 4 game win streak, and have yet to drop a game to the Cents this pod season. They’ve shut out the Cents in 3 of the 6 meetings so far and have held Merritt to just 7 goals over 6 games. Aside from a 4-3 game thrown in the mix, 3 of the last 4 against PG have resulted in shutouts. Prince George has managed to stay the healthiest in the pod so far and are coming off a rare two day break in the season, so will be full of energy tonight. The Cents need to find a way to break down the defensive walls of PG and find some offense against their stingy team D.
The Cents will look to Walker Erickson and Matteo Pecchia who are now tied for the team lead in points with 8, and Talon Zakall who is fresh off a two goal game with 7 points to provide some offense.
Equally the Cents will have to shut down Christian Buono and Andrew Seaman who lead the Spruce Kings with 16 and 14 points respectively.
Merritt has had a tough time keeping their cool against Prince George as they went to the box for a combined 17 minutes last Sunday. Discipline will go a long way in tonight’s contest as PG has the superior special teams numbers.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
MER – 10.9% (13th) MER – 76.9% (10th)
PG – 22.2% (6th) PG – 90% (3rd)
The goaltending duel sees Josh Dias get another night off. He is 2-8 with an .885 SV% and a 4.10 GAA. Colton Phillips-Watts will get the start against the Spruce Kings and the Quesnel native is looking to shut down his northern rivals. He’s 0-2 with a 6.31 GAA and an .830 SV%. Brayden Melnyk will serve as back up tonight.
The Spruce Kings have 3 quality tenders to choose from. Kobe Grant is 2-0 with 2 shutouts. Aaron Trotter is 4-2 with a .938 SV%, a 1.42 GAA and 2 shutouts, and Jordan Fairlie is 3-1 with a .916 SV% and a 2.27 GAA.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says the team will have to mirror Prince George’s togetherness.
The Cents are hoping they can look in the mirror at a win tonight.
Puck drop 5PM. Pregame 4:45 on Q101.ca and BCHLTV.ca with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.