The Merritt Centennials pushed the pace and pushed the Smoke Eaters to the brink, but in the end a blip in the second period came back to bite the Cents as they fell 7-6 in Trail.
The first period saw the Cents playing some of their best hockey of the preseason. They were putting the pressure on, putting bodies to the ice, and putting pucks in the net. Despite Coalson Wolford tallying the opening goal after the Smoke Eaters held the line early in the game, the Cents tied the game on the powerplay. Talon Zakall was able to walk down from the left point, faked the shot, then sniped top corner blocker-side over Terness to level the score at 1. Zack Park was able to sneak past his man on the rush, and beat the defense to the net to make it a 2-1 game for Trail. However, again it was Zakall providing the offense this time with a seeing-eye shot through the bodies in front to find the back of the net and tie the game at 2’s. That would be how the first period would end with the Centennials leading on the shot clock 12-9.
The Centennials continued the attack in the second period and were pressing for the go ahead goal in for the first 7 minutes. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find it and the Smoke Eaters got a gift off an own goal that was credited to Noah Wakeford. Chase Dafoe added another goal within a minute, and then the Centennials took a double-minor and Cody Schiavon was able to score on the powerplay. Before the Centennials could get back to their hard working ways Connor Sweeney added a lazy backhander that picked the top corner over Colton Phillips-Watts and unfortunately for the rookie tender his night was over in favour of Josh Dias. With the goaltender change the Centennials were able to recapture momentum and came back at the Smoke Eaters. Walker Erickson cashed in on a goal, Ben Ward crashed the blue paint for a goal, and Erickson added another late in the frame to make it 6-5 heading to the third. Shots after 2 were 30-18 Cents.
The work boots were on for the third period as well and the Cents were rewarded when Erickson found his third of the night by firing a rebound past Terness to make it 6-6 five minutes into the frame. The Centennials sat back for a while before they tried to pull up their socks for the game winning goal. The game was looking fated for overtime when a 50/50 call went the Smoke Eaters way for goaltender interference. On the powerplay Sweeney was able to add his second of the night and the Smoke Eaters were able to hang on for the win.
After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter said there were many positives to draw from, but at the end of the day you can’t gift a team 4 goals and expect to win.
“We did a great job of coming back, there’s a confidence in that room now, there’s a belief, but this is the get it done league not the try hard league, and by giving them some goals in the second period we weren’t able to get it done tonight. If we can carry over this momentum, I like our chances tomorrow.”
The Merritt Centennials will face off against the Bucks for a 6PM puck drop tomorrow. 5:45 pregame show on Q101 and BCHLTV.