The Merritt Centennials 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 on Thursday night.
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. Shots after 1 were 18-12 Chiefs.
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. After 2 shots were 32-22 Chiefs.
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. Final shots were 47-37. Chiefs went 0/4 on the powerplay while the Cents went 0/1.
After the game Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter said the team had a lot of positives to go over including the special teams.
“The penalty kill was perfect tonight, and that was huge. We had contributions from guys that have been right there all pod season and now they have some more confidence.”
The Cents will hope some of that confidence carries over to the game on Saturday night against the Spruce Kings at 5PM.