Do you believe?
The Merritt Centennials (7-2-1) staved off elimination once again, winning in dramatic fashion in overtime over the Penticton Vees (3-2-1) 2-1 Friday night. The Centennials forced a game seven in the process, which will be Monday night. The Centennials got goals from Zach Zorn, and the overtime winner from Tyrell Buckley. Both goaltenders were fantastic, combining to make no less than 97 saves. Cents Head Coach/GM Joe Martin says the team's effort once again pulled them through.
"Very proud of the guys tonight. Honestly, the effort was never bad this series, our effort proved key again. I told the guys going into OT I want them to be aggressive. If you fall back against Penticton they'll make you pay. Great play by Regush to Buckley, and we're coming out on top."
The Centennials were coming fresh off the heels of an emotional game five performance, a 5-4 win to get them to a game six. The game started off with the Centennials absolutely pummelling the Vees with shots. The team had twelve shots in the first seven minutes, and were throwing just about everything at Mat Robson. Robson ended up taking a high sticking penalty, the Vees were able to kill it off. Later in the period, Zach Zorn scored the opening goal, a shot that went between the arm and body of Robson. That was Zorn's third of the post season and it came at the 17:23 mark. The shots were a whopping 25-16 after 20 minutes for the Cents.
The middle frame proved to be much more of a tighter defensive affair as opposed to the 41 shot barrage in the first. Mike Regush ended up taking a misconduct penalty just 55 seconds in, becoming unavailable for the majority of the period. The Vees capitalized with no Regush, as they scored to tie things up. Matt Gosiewski wired one off the crossbar and in from the top of the dots for his first of the series. That goal came 11:45 into the period. The teams then traded numerous powerplays, but neither team could break the dreadlock. The period ended with the shots 9-7 for the Vees.
Both teams came out flying to start the third period, but the Vees quickly became the better team. They outplayed the Cents five on five for long stretches of the period, but the team was powered by solid goaltending. Jake Berger turned aside shot after shot, turning aside all 16 shots he faced in the period. The Cents got 10 on Robson, but not many of them were scoring chances. The game went into overtime for the second time this series, and this time the Cents were poised not to let game four's result happen again.
In the extra frame, both teams came out flying once again. The Centennials were extremely aggressive, and kept the Vees to the outside. Henry Cleghorn appeared to have the winner about five minutes in, but Cleghorn hit the post. Then later in the period, Mike Regush brought in a puck down the right side on an odd man rush, and hit Buckley who had jumped up in the play. From the high slot between the dots, the Penticton native unleashed a shot that went over the glove of Robson and in to begin the pandemonium in the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. Buckley's winner came 10:23 into OT, and was the biggest goal of his life.
NOTES: The game was played in front of a sellout crowd of 1080, also the season's highest total. Jake Berger made 47 saves for the win. Both teams combined for 100 shots on the dot. Both teams went combined 0/5 on the powerplay, and are combined 3/41 in the series. The team that has scored first has gone on to win every game so far this series. These teams will meet for the final time, for game number seven. The winner will face the Vernon Vipers in round three. Game seven goes Monday night at the SOEC at 7pm.