The Merritt Centennials search for their first win of the pod season against the Prince George Spruce Kings tonight.
The Centennials are coming off the heels of a 3-2 defeat to PG on Sunday night, and hope they can bury on more of their chances heading into action this evening. The Cents hit the ice on time on Sunday evening and left the bus troubles of Friday night behind them. They came out of the gate strong but soon found themselves in penalty trouble. At the 4:13 mark Walker Erickson went off for a blow to the head minor and misconduct and at the 8 minute Devin Benson went off for tripping. It meant the Cents had trouble getting the offense going as they were spending time killing penalties. It wasn’t long after the 2nd penalty that Kolton Cousins converted on a goal mouth scramble that was initiated by former Cent Hunor Torzsok. After the media timeout, the Cents came out stronger and were pressing until they eventually broke through on the rush. Mark Thurston drove the zone on the left wing side, dropped back for Jake McLean who found Jerzy Orchard in the slot, and Orchard ripped a wrister top corner, blocker-side on Fairlie to level the score at 1-1. The assist was the first in Thurston’s BCHL career.
An early penalty in the 2nd period put the Spruce Kings on the powerplay and ex-Cent Christian Buono was able to convert on a screened point shot. Then it was the Cents turn to have a string of powerplay tries including two 2 man advantages. One was roughly 50 seconds, while the other was about 15. The Cents couldn’t make good and that’s what boiled down to the difference as after the powerplays expired Ben LeFranc would score on a broken play and give PG the 3-1 lead. Josh Dias did his part in net denying multiple Spruce King chances, and when defenders were beaten he was there to make the save.
In the third period the Spruce Kings and Cents traded chances, but every time the Cents got a quality opportunity they were denied by goaltender Jordan Fairlee. As the period progressed, Prince George slowly started to lock down defensively. Not to be denied, Merritt continued to press and eventually were rewarded with their own net empty on a goal mouth scramble. Jake McLean made a power move to the net and shot wide, off the end boards it came to Jerzy Orchard for a couple whacks, and then Captain Zack Dallazanna was able to chip it past Fairlee to get the Cents within one. The Cents ran out of time to get the equalizer and fell in game 2 by a score of 3-2.
Prince George will be looking to pick up where they left off after game 2. Their powerplay looked dangerous despite only converting the once, and they have some skilled players on the rush that the Cents will have to be wary of. Dias definitely helped cover up some of the Centennials sins defensively with timely stops throughout the game, but the same can be said of Jordan Fairlee who helped keep the Spruce Kings in the lead with timely saves of his own. The teams are so evenly matched it may come down to special teams tonight.
The Centennials are led by Assistant Captain Jerzy Orchard on the offensive front after his 2 point effort against PG the last time out. 10 other Centennials have at least 1 point.
Similarly, Prince George is led by former Cent Christian Buono with 2 points, and 7 other skaters have popped in with at least 1 helper.
Special teams sees the teams split the difference once again. The Cents have the edge with the man advantage and Prince George has been the better team shorthanded.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
MER – 25% (8th) MER – 77.8% (11th)
PG – 15.4% (13th) PG – 83.3% (6th)
In net, Josh Dias is the only Centennials netminder who’s seen the crease so far, but with a couple back to back situations on the horizon we may see one of the young prospects take the pipes for a game or 2. Colton Phillips-Watts and Brayden Melnyk are ready and waiting.
Prince George has split the time in net evenly with Fairlee and Aaron Trotter both getting a start. Fairlee is 1-0 with a 2.00 GAA and a .931 SV% while Trotter is 0-1 with a 3.01 GAA and a .889 SV%.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter is hoping the Centennials can convert on more of their chances.
The Centennials are hoping to convert tonight’s game into their first win.
Puck drop 5PM from Chiliwack on BCHLTV.ca and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.