The Merritt Centennials finally found the win column in the preseason thanks to some shootout heroics from Daniel Tkac to vault them over the defending Champion Spruce Kings 4-3.
Early on it was a feeling out process, but the Cents rode their red hot powerplay to a lead. Payton Matsui found a rebound in front after some impressive sustained pressure to make it 1-0. Prince George would even things up late in the period on a 3-on-1 with a simple drop pass to McGregor-Bennett to make tie the game at 1-1. Ryan Winter got the call for the full 60 minutes for the first time in exhibition play. Shots after 1 were 15-9 in favour of the Centennials.
The second period started on the powerplay for the Cents, but after some early pressure it was the Spruce Kings who found the back of the net. On the powerplay, Brett Pfoh found a soft spot in coverage in the middle of the Cents box to take the 2-1 lead. The Cents would tie it, again on the powerplay, and again from Matsui, but this time he was set up by a lovely centering feed from Thomas Manty. Manty found Matsui cutting across the crease with a pass from the left point, and Matsui was able to flip it over Jack McGovern’s pad from a sharp angle to make it 2-2. The second period ended with the shots 28-25 in favour of the Spruce Kings.
Things stayed knotted up early through the third period, but a late penalty to Ben Ward gave Prince George another chance to take the lead. They didn’t need long as a shot from the point fooled Winter just 7 seconds into the man advantage. The Cents looked to be up against the ropes, but they didn’t give in. Late in the third they got their chance on the powerplay, and once again they made good. Just as time was expiring with the extra man, Joey Berkopec unleashed a sharp angle shot, top-corner glove side to tie the game at 3’s. Overtime would solve nothing so the game went to a shootout.
The first two skaters, scored for PG and Merritt respectively and then the goaltenders were locked in a stalemate stopping the next three shooters. Daniel Tkac finished the game with a lulling move over the blue line. He skated over, and then simply let the puck like on his stick, once he got below the hash marks he put a late move on, backhand forehand to make it a 4-3 final.
The Cents will get the season going for real next Friday at the NVMA versus the Wenatchee Wild.