Vees victorious, Cents win hearts

Although the Merritt Centennials went down 2-3 for the fourth time (24 overall in last five seasons) this season to table-toppers Penticton Vees, the hosts can leave the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena with their heads held high after their brave efforts on Saturday night (December 2).

The pulsating first period set the tone for this high-voltage game. Penticton Vees opened the scoring in the first couple of minutes before the Cents equalized in the eighth minute through Charles-Thomas Larochelle.

The penalty to Cents’ Michael Stenberg came at the wrong time as Penticton took a 2:1 lead in power play through Francesco Dell’Elce. The Cents were not going to get bogged down against the table toppers and fought fire with fire, not letting their rivals dominate them in the opening period. Cents coach Brian Passmore was proud of the efforts. “I think the boys gave their all. We kept the scoring under four goals, which was amazing. We had our chances and we managed to capitalize on a few of them. We kept them on the outside most of the times. The reason they managed to score the winning goal was because of our mistake. We were good otherwise,” said Passmore.

The beginning of the second period saw the Cents remarkably improve their shots on goal. However, luck eluded them to level the scores despite getting into some great scoring positions.

The game witnessed some thrilling hockey as desperate Penticton relentlessly attacked to breach Cents’ defense during the five-minute penalty to Zachery Losier (served by Nathan Taylor). However, Cents goalie Andrew Ballantyne stood like a rock, leaving the visiting team frustrated. The boisterous fans though loved every bit of the nerve-wrecking show on the ice during the goalless second period.

“We did some very good defending tonight. It was commendable,” noted Passmore.

Penticton were expected to come out all guns blazing in the final 20 minutes of the game, but kudos to the Cents’ defense and goalie Andrew Ballantyne for superbly managing the onslaught.
Chants of ‘Go Cents Go’ reverberated the Arena, fueling the players to give their all in the dying minutes to get the equalizer. However, the Vees at last managed to sneak one through Ballantyne in the 16th minute.

The Cents were not going to give up yet as Dylan Lariviere scored the team’s second goal with couple of minutes left for the final whistle. The all-important equalizer still evaded.
Although the Cents could get a result in their favor, the brand of hockey that was on display surely won the hearts of their fans.

Game coverage and story by Sports Writer Harit Joshi