The Merritt Centennials continued the trend in the new year of going to OT and winning, this time against the Coquitlam Express 5-4.
The first period started with the Express jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Danny Pearson and Chase Danol. The Cents would cut the lead to one on their first powerplay of the game. Rylan Van Unen got the puck along the goal line, drove the net, and the puck popped loose in the slot for Payton Matsui to bat it in for his 2nd goal in 3 games and 4th of the season. Austin Roden stopped 9/11 in the first, and Kolby Matthews stopped 8/9.
In the second, the Cents quickly tied it with Rylan Van Unen potting a juicy rebound off a low Talon Zakall shot in the pads. Then the Express started to pull away with goals from Christian Sanda and Alex DiPaolo to make it 4-2. Shots after 2 were 26-19.
The final frame saw the Cents start out slow, but turn it on late. The energy line gave the Cents the jump they needed with all three combining on the action. Vincent Guy set up Brett Roloson for a shot from the high slot, and Daniel Tkac got a double tap on the rebound to make it 4-3 with 3:50 to go. Then the Cents buckled down and put the pressure on. Late in the game Jaydon Fetter unleashed a blast from the left point, and Nick Wicks deflected it in to tie the game at 4’s and send it to OT.
In OT it was all Centennials as they possessed the puck for the majority of the extra frame, and it paid off. The Cents played the puck back to neutral ice to Captain Nick Wicks, he saw an opening on the right side and glided in across the blue line, made some moves to the outside on the defender and then sniped it short-side high over the glove of Matthews to seal the win.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said the energy line is starting to build trust.
“Daniel Tkac and the whole energy line is really starting to gain some trust from Brandon and myself. I feel comfortable putting them out in any situation, and they came through for us tonight.”
The Cents now move into a one-point lead in the Interior Division over the Penticton Vees once again.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cooper Connell 0G 0A
3rd STAR: Rylan Van Unen 1G 1A
2nd STAR: Nick Wicks 2G 0A
1st Star: Christian Sanda 1G 1A