The Merritt Centennials dug themselves a hole that was too deep to escape from on Wednesday against the Spruce Kings as they fell behind by three after the opening frame and lost 3-1.
All the Spruce Kings offense came in the first period. It started with a goal line stuff play just 2 minutes into the game, Chong Min Lee took the puck from the side of the net out front, and Tyler Schleppe was able to crash it home past Vincent Duplessis for the first goal of the game. Ben Brar would add one on the powerplay, and Sean Donaldson would be sprung on a partial breakaway with 5 minutes left in the 1st and beat Duplessis with an off-speed backhander. That would spell the end of the night for Duplessis as Austin Roden came in from then on. Duplessis stopped 12/15 during his time in the net. Shots after 1 were 17-6.
The second saw the Cents stop the bleeding, but they weren’t able to inflict any damage on the scoreboard. The teams traded chances on the powerplay, and the Cents struggles with the extra man continue as they’d finish the game 0/3, and have now gone 1/29 in their last 6 games. Shots after 2 were 29-13 in favour of Prince George.
The Cents came out with some jump to start the third, and were rewarded when Mathieu Gosselin made two defenders miss before sliding the puck five-hole on Logan Neaton to spoil his shutout bid. The goal game just 3 minutes into the 3rd, but the Cents couldn’t muster any more offense in the game. They had trouble breaking through the neutral zone, and more trouble having extended zone time when they got to the offensive zone. With the Cents pushing for the comeback, Austin Roden had to stand on his head in the third making numerous highlight reel saves. The final shot total was 44-20 in favour of PG, and Austin Roden stopped all 29 shots he faced in relief. Vincent Duplessis will shoulder the loss.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said the Cents were caught off guard.
“Give credit to the Spruce Kings, they came out fighting in the first period, and we dug ourselves too deep a hole. They, much like us at home, can win a game in the first period, and that’s what happened tonight.”
The Cents will look to regroup on the road when they face the Vernon Vipers on Friday night before returning home to face the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Saturday.