The Merritt Centennials traded chances with the Prince George Spruce Kings all night, but in the end were a little unlucky, and got a taste of their own medicine as Prince George came back to win it in overtime 4-3.
The first period echoed the first exhibition game against the Vernon Vipers, exceptional goaltending, exceptional chances but no goals as both netminders,Austin Roden for the Cents and Bradley Cooper for the Spruce Kings, stood tall in the first stopping 11 shots a piece. Penalties were a plenty in this contest and the first set the tone: three minors for the Cents and four for the Spruce Kings.
The middle frame followed suit and got a little unruly with both teams trading 5 penalties a side over the course of 20 minutes. Despite the multitude of penalties, not many goals goals were scored on the powerplay in the frame, however, there were goals scored. The first of the game came off the stick of Craig Cunningham who found a rebound off a Keranen point shot and put it past Roden. The Spruce Kings widened their lead on the powerplay, with Nic Granowicz in the box for roughing it didn't take long for the Spruce Kings to find the back of the net after Liam Watson-Brawn unleashed a point shot that was deflected by Patrick Cozzi and in. The Centennials answered on a beautiful play off the rush with Brad Cocca streaking down the left wing, and dropping a pass for a wide open Colten Gerlib who had time to pick his spot and snipe it blocker-side over Cooper. Gosselin drew the secondary assist on that goal. The Cents were pressing and appeared to have a powerplay set to carry over to the 3rd, but more undisciplined play resulted in a Matt Kopperud double-minor for roughing, and the third would start 4-on-4.
The 3rd saw the Cents come out with jump, and they jumped out to a tie, courtesy Nick Wicks who got a free pass towards the net after defender Layton Ahac lost his stick. Wicks was able to beat Cooper short-side, glove-side to tie the game at 2. The Cents finally converted on the powerplay when Mathieu Gosselin, who looked untouchable with the man-advantage, finally converted a wrister top corner to give the Centennials their first lead of the game at 3-2. The Cents were set to take the lead into the homestretch when a stroke of bad luck struck, an Ahac shot bounced off the end boards, and off the backside of Roden and into the net to tie the game at 3.
In overtime, the Spruce Kings had a brief powerplay, but were unable to convert. As a result, the Cents and Spruce Kings skated 4 on 4 for a part of OT, but when the game reverted to the new 3-on-3 rules Chong Min Lee of the Spruce Kings was able to break free, and collect his own rebound for the winning goal to make it a 4-3 final.
During the course of the game, Mattias Dal Monte went off with an injury and didn't return. His prognosis is uncertain for next weeks season opener against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
Despite the loss in overtime, Head Coach and GM Joe Martin cited discipline and the lack thereof as the biggest culprit in the game.
"I think the biggest we have to work on is staying away from the undisciplined calls. It's one thing when calls are being made for plays on the ice, but the extra shots, and the slashes, the stuff within our control has to be addressed for us to succeed as a team."
The Cents will have a week off to enjoy to get out into the community and come together as a team. They will be volunteering at the Rodeo over the weekend, and following that up with a rafting trip to Adams River to bond as a group.
The next game opens the regular season, Friday Sept. 7 against Salmon Arm in Salmon Arm before the Cents have their home opener against the Vernon Vipers.