The Merritt Centennials were down, but not out thanks to the stellar play of Austin Roden in net. The Cents came back in the dying minutes of the third, and were able to get the winner in OT in one of the most thrilling games of the season in front of the hometown faithful.
The first period didn't begin well for the Cents, as Andre Ghantous scored after coming off the near side wall, and as a right handed shot was able to get into the slot and fire a shot low glove side on Roden to get the first goal of the game, and the only goal of the first. Roden stopped 13/14 shots sent his way in the first, while Brandon Wells stopped all 8 he faced.
The Smoke Eaters started the second period off strong, and scored on their first powerplay of the game, and it was one of the top goal scorers in the league getting it done. Ross Armour cutting through the slot from left to right, took the puck off a feed from Jeremy Lucchini, and wripped a wrister mid-blocker side on Roden.
The Cents had an opportunity to get back into the game on a lengthy penalty to Kyle Chernenkoff after Rylan Van Unen delivered a booming clean hit. Chernenkoff instigated a fight, and Van Unen just covered up. Chernenkoff got a 5 minute major for fighting, a 2 minute minor for instigating, and a game misconduct. However, the Cents squandered the lengthy powerplay opportunity by taking two penalties to skate four on four. The Cents would eventually get on the scoreboard courtesy a timely turnover. Ethan Martini attempted a clear and it went off a forwards body (possibly an unfortunate area) and the puck came to Nick Wicks in the corner, and he fed Brad Cocca in the slot and he rifled a wrister glove-side high with just over a minute to go in the third to make it 2-1. The Smoke Eaters outshot the Cents 10-2 in the second period.
That set the stage for the third period with the Cents trying to mount the comeback. They were pressing hard for the equalizer, but against the grain Kale Howarth streaked in on the outside cut to the middle uninhibited, made a move to the backhand, and Roden came up with an unbelievable stop with the glove on the line to keep the Cents within one.
The Cents rewarded their netminder with 2:22 to go in the third with a little help from their home rink. Zach Zorn cleared the puck into the zone, and Wells went out of the net to play the puck. But the puck took a friendly bounce off the glass and came out front to Brendan Schneider and he was able to pocket the gift into the empty net. At the 2:22 mark of the 3rd, number 22 made it 2-2.
That's how the game would end, and head to sudden death OT. The Cents continued pressing for the victory, and it came when Henry Cleghorn skated the puck to the right side wall, he got pinned to the wall, but got help from his linemate Zach Zorn, Zorn was able to dig the puck free and take it off the wall, he was quickly checked but worked the puck down low where Cleghorn was able to get to it, and throw it past a sprawling wells for the game winner.
After the game Head Coach Joe Martin said it came down to accountability.
"That's what we're trying to get through to our guys. Accountability, and knowing when you've hurt us in a way [out there], and the honus is on you to find a way to be better, and be accountable and take ownership of your actions."
Roden finished the game with 37 saves on 39 shots and a second star nod. The Cents will next be in action against the West Kelowna Warriors once again, this time in the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, before the Cents go on the road to take on these Smoke Eaters on Saturday in Trail.