The Merritt Centennials (2-13) are looking to dethrone the pod leading Prince George Spruce Kings (11-4) tonight.
On Thursday night the Cents erased a two goal deficit in the 2nd period to even the game, but Ray Fust scored 3 unanswered goals in the third before the Cents found one late to make it a 5-3 final.
The first frame saw the Chiefs jump out to the early lead as on the first shift after some strong Cents pressure the Chiefs got a lucky bounce, had a whack at the side of the net, and then Kyle Penney picked up the puck and tucked it passed a down and out Dias to make it 1-0 just 30 seconds in. That put a damper on the Cents side of things, but didn’t slow them down from creating offensive chances. However, it was the Chiefs who would tally late in the frame as Cam Johnson would sneak a cheeky shot short side on Dias using a sprawled defender as a screen.
In the second period the Cents came to life as they so often have done in the pod season. It was a long dormant Ben Ward that was finally able to break through as Tristan Allen found him cutting back across the grain with a pass, and he was able to fire blocker side on Mathieu Caron to make it 2-1. Midway through the period it was time for another first as Ward found Mark Thurston breaking through the D, and Thurston fired a shot past the blocker of Caron to tie the game at 2s. Dias was fresh off a 3 day rest, and it showed as he was able to stop chance after chance by the Chilliwack Chiefs and keep his team in it.
The Cents skated into the third period with a chance to emerge victorious, but Ray Fust had different thoughts. On 2 separate goal mouth scrambles Fust was able to pocket goals to push the Chiefs up 4-2. Late in the frame with the Cents pressing, he would add an empty netter to complete the natural hat trick and put the game out of reach. Walker Erickson made things interesting with a highlight reel move barging down the left wing side, protecting the puck on his backhand before pulling to his forehand and tucking it past Caron to make it 5-3. That would hold up as the final. Chiefs went 0/4 on the powerplay while the Cents went 0/1.
The Spruce Kings are coming off a 6-3 victory over the Chilliwack Chiefs. A game in which the Chiefs opened the scoring, PG regained the lead, before the Chiefs tied it in the second and then PG ran away with the game. Andrew Seaman had a two goal night, as did Corey Cunningham and the Spruce Kings continue to roll as they’ve now won 6 straight in the pod. Conversely, Merritt has lost 8 straight games in the pod. For the Cents that haven’t beaten the Spruce yet in the pod, and haven’t scored a goal against PG in over 2 games straight they will prove another tough test.
After a beautiful goal to finish the game on Thursday night, Walker Erickson leads the team in points with 9. Matteo Pecchia is just behind with 8 points while Talon Zakall has 7.
The Spruce Kings are led by ex-Cent Christian Buono up front with 20 points in the pod, while Andrew Seaman has 16 and young Nick Rheaume has 13.
The special teams battle sees the Spruce Kings as the top dogs in the Chilliwack pod.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
MER – 10% (14th) MER – 78.4% (10th)
PG – 22.5% (5th) PG – 90% (3rd)
The battle in net will see Colton Phillips-Watts make another start in the pod. He is 0-3 with an .836 SV% and a 6.13 GAA. Dias will be waiting in the wings if needed.
It doesn’t seem to matter who Prince George has in net against the Cents as every goaltender has picked up a win and a shutout against Merritt. Jordan Fairlie is 4-1 with a .927 SV% and a 1.81 GAA. Aaron Trotter is 5-2 with a .933 SV% and a 1.61 GAA, while Kobe Grant is 2-0 with 2 shutouts against the Cents.
Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says the team will need to bring their best effort to topple the Spruce Kings.
The Cents are hoping they can bring down the boys in blue tonight.
Puck drop 5PM. Pregame 4:45 on Q101.ca and BCHLTV.ca.