The Merritt Centennials opened their exhibition schedule on Saturday night against the Spruce Kings and were unable to get the offense going, coming up with a 4-1 defeat.
It took a while for the teams to find their footing in the first period as both teams were playing their first competitive games since early March and at times it showed. The Cents were also dealing with some young faces in the line up that were battling nerves along with the opponent and it was a pair of BCHL veterans who opened the scoring on the powerplay for PG. Former Cent Christian Buono found Rowan Miller for a one timer on the powerplay to make it 1-0. Prince George kept the pressure on when another former Cent Hunor Torzsok gained the left wing and centered for a streaking Max Borovinskiy and the young forward was able to pick his way towards the net before putting it past an outstretched Dias to make it 2-0. Penalties would ensue but no more scoring would result as the teams skated to the tunnel at the same score. Shots after 1 were 14-9 Spruce Kings.
The Cents were hoping to come out of the dressing room with a little more fire, but they ended up being under fire from Prince George. After an early scrum in front, Grayson Valente was called for a misconduct for a scrum after the whistle and on the ensuing draw off a set play Corey Cunningham was able to collect a loose puck, pull to the backhand and tuck it five-hole to make it 3-0 PG. The Cents seemed to spiral for a moment after that point, and Derek Sweet-Coulter called a time out to try and settle the team. The gambit seemed to pay dividends, but it didn’t help the bottom line. Nick Rheaume was able to convert another goal for the Spruce Kings before the Cents finally found an answer. On the attack in the offensive zone, Jerzy Orchard picked the puck out of the corner, skated off the wall to the right dot and ripped a low shot five-hole to finally beat the rookie Aaron Trotter. The 2nd period buzzer saved the Spruce Kings as the Cents were starting to turn it on. Shots after 2 were 25-20 PG.
In the final frame the teams traded penalties, skated 4-on-4, 5-on-3 and everything in between. Despite chances a plenty the goaltenders handled all comers the rest of the way to make it a 4-1 final. Josh Dias held the team in it with a handful of sensational saves. Final shots were 32-28 Prince George.
After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter said he’d like to see the team help each other a little more.
“We did okay through parts of the game, but we spent a while not doing the little things right. We needed to support each other more in the offensive zone and avoid those one and done chances.”
The Cents will get nearly 2 weeks of practice in before their next test on October 23rd when the Cents and Spruce Kings do it all again.