If you judged the game by the first 10 seconds, you’d think a Chiliwack Chiefs blowout was on the way after an early goal, but the Merritt Centennials and netminder Austin Roden showed their resilience to bounce back in net and on the scoreboard and take the game by a 5-2 final.
The Chilliwack Chiefs scored on their first foray into the zone, a Harrison Blaisdell drive from wide, and his one handed back hander fooled Roden for a goal just9 seconds into the game. Roden recovered to stop the remaining 14 shots of the period, and keep the Cents in the game early.
The second saw the Cents return the favour with a goal in the first minute of play, when Nick Wicks converted on the powerplay. Getting a feed on the backdoor side and letting a wrister rip that rippled the top corner glove side on Mathieu Caron to tie the game 1-1.
The Cents expanded their lead just 5 minutes later with the Wicks back on the ice he found Colten Gerlib at the point, and he walked in and let a shot go that was deflected by Rylan Van Unen in front to give the Cents the 2-1 lead that lasted into the third.
Chilliwack drew level 3 minutes into the third with a backhand in front from Tommy Lee that beat a sprawling Roden just over the glove.
The game remained tied into the final 7 minutes, when Zach Risteau shot down the far side of the ice from his own blue line with speed, he made a defender stutter and blow his coverage at the offensive blue line betore firing a shot on Caron and collecting his own rebound to break the game open and make it 3-2.
The Chiefs pulled their goalie in the final minute to draw level, but off the draw in their own end won by Chase Bell, Tyrell Buckley said his prayers and converted on a hail mary that went the full 200 feet and into the Chiefs empty cage to give the Cents breathing room 4-2. Zach Zorn added another empty netter to make it 5-2.
Roden rebounded to stop 38/40 shots and the Cents won their 3rd game in a row to bring them within 1 point of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and 6th place in the Interior.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin praised Risteau for his play.
“He brings a confidence, and that spreads to the team. The boys feel good knowing that he can go out there, and could score on any shift. He’s a good presence in the room, and has made a difference since we brought him back at the trade deadline.”
The win sets up a monster matchup tomorrow night at the NVMA against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.