The BCHL Showcase goes on, but the Merritt Centennials participation in it is over. They played two of their best games of the season in front of hundreds of scouts from all levels of hockey, but couldn't manage to get a win as they fell 4-3 to the Prince George Spruce Kings.
The first period started with the all too familiar refrain, an early penalty against the Cents that put the Spruce Kings on the man advantage. However, it was Henry Cleghorn who ended up lighting the lamp shorthanded. After a pinch by the Spruce Kings D to keep the play alive, Cleghorn was able to get a couple steps, and Tyrell Buckley found him with a beautiful outlet pass to spring him for the short handed breakaway. Cleghorn came in with a head of speed, and went forehand, backhand, forehand, to put the puck past Bradley Cooper, the starting net minder for PG. That's how the first period finished. The teams traded a couple of powerplay opportunities towards the end of the period, with neither able to convert. The Cents had their first lead after 20 minutes of play this season.
It didn't last long. Just a minute and a half into the second period the Spruce Kings were able to score with Ethan De Jong and Ben Poisson combining for their first goal on the night.
The Cents didn't hang their heads as less than 40 second later they were able to execute a nice break out. Nick Wicks worked it up the right side to Zach Court, who took the puck in stride and came in with a head of steam, defenseman Joey Berkopec saw an opportunity and jumped up in the play on the left wing, Court then turn on the breaks at the right face off dot and laced a perfect pass to Berkopec who got his first BCHL goal by outstretching his stick and poking it past Cooper to restore the one goal lead.
Later in the frame, at the 5:47 mark, Christian Sabin went to the box for cross-checking, and with Sabin in the box the Spruce Kings converted on the powerplay with some good puck movement. Manz played it to the right point, who went cross ice to the left point, and then Manz floated to the high slot, and got a pass from Shawn Kennedy and sniped a shot past Berger.
After trading powerplays, and neither team converting again, at the 14 minute mark of the second Chase Bell found himself streaking down the left wing. He took a long shot on from outside the left circle, almost on the wall, and his shot was able to fool Cooper as it got through his glove hand. It was Bell's first goal of the year.
The offense wasn't over there as later in the period, Ethan de Jong returned the favour to Ben Poisson. This time the puck came in behind the Cents net, Berger went out to play it, he passed it to the left side corner to Buckley who was stripped of the puck by De Jong, and the puck floated out to the right circle and the only one there was Poisson who wired one past Berger after he couldn't quite get set in his net to tie it 3-3. That would be how the 3rd period would begin.
Once again, it wasn't the start to a period the Centennials were looking for as just under two minutes in Jared Hovde was able to find the puck loose at the side of the net after a shot from the point to put it past Berger. The Spruce Kings got their first lead of the game, and didn't look back as the Cents couldn't manage to tie the game up to force OT.
The Showcase really did show that the Centennials have what it takes to win a hockey game against some of the best teams in the BCHL, they just need to put a full game together.
The Cents will look for that win when the Surrey Eagles visit the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena at 7pm on Wednesday night.