The Merritt Centennials had a strong first road frame, but couldn’t sustain against the Vernon Vipers in an 8-3 loss.
The Cents opened the scoring in the latter half of the first when Payton Matsui broke free down the left wing, didn’t have an option so hit Christian Buono with a no look back pass on a platter that Buono hammered top corner to make it 1-0. The Vipers were able to steal the Cents thunder by scoring in the final minute of the first to tie the game at 1’s. Shots after 1 were 11-6 in favour of Vernon.
The second period saw the Vipers strike early scoring just over a minute into play off a rebound to make it 2-1. Landon Fuller squeaked one through Marshall with a shot from the point to make it 3-1. The Cents answered on a just expiring powerplay with a spin around shot from Hunor Torzsok to make it 3-2, but the Vipers didn’t take long to answer back to restore the 2 goal margin 4-2 when Kowalski peeled off the half wall and sniped one short side past Marshall. Dawson Holt added a late marker with the extra man to make it 5-2 at the end of 2. Shots after 2 were 25-18 in favour of the Vipers.
The final frame saw the Vipers continue to pull away, as once again they tallied early, this time in the first minute to make it 6-2. Braydon Clark dropped the gloves with Brett Fudger after taking exception to the shots he was giving Chase Nameth. The linesmen initially stepped in and then let them go, and by the time they were set loose Clark was tied up in his jersey and couldn’t unleash the lefts. Thomas Manty answered for the Cents just as 4-on-4 play expired to score a PP goal just over halfway through the period cut the lead in half 6-3. A late penalty by Olson Werenka for charging led to the Vipers adding another on the PP, and then Matt Kowalski completed the hat trick with a breakaway pass. Final shots were 43-30 Vipers.
After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter said the Cents need to make the game easier on themselves.
“When we get into the tough situations, when the other team is swirling, we need to fall back to the simple play. We don’t need to try and do too much, it has to be our default to make that easy move.”
The Cents will look to rebound in the rematch on Sunday against the Vipers at 2pm for the Teddy Bear Toss.