The Merritt Centennials will have to wait to get back in the win column as they were bested by the visiting Penticton Vees 6-3 on Humboldt night.
Despite a moving opening ceremony that saw the Humboldt Broncos, Nicola Valley First Responders and long time bus driver Steve Rose honored, it was the Vees who were able to get out to the hot start. Just 2 and a half minutes into the game, Mason Snell scored his first in the BCHL with a shot off the boards at the half wall that squeaked through to beat starter Austin Roden. The Cents then started to push back, but a bad stretch that started with a Brendan Harrogate goal off a rebound at 12:19 of the first was followed up within a minute by another marker from Matthew Byrne; both first goals in the BCHL. The hole got deeper after a late powerplay marker in the period from Ryan Sandelin made it 4-0. Roden stopped 13/17 shots in the first, and wouldn't return to the crease in the game as he was hooked in favour of Vincent Duplessis. Derek Krall stopped all 10 shots he faced in the opening frame.
The second period was much more intense, but newcomer from the OHL Harrogate tallied another before Brad Cocca finally broke the goose egg for the Merritt Centennials. Cocca finished off a beautiful rush up the right side by Matt Kopperud, who swung it wide to Mathieu Gosselin before hitting Cocca in stride in the slot. That tally gave the hometown crow of over 800 strong something to cheer about, and the Cents trailed 5-1 heading into the third.
The final frame saw stretches where the Centennials had chances, and they finally converted just over halfway through. Rylan Van Unen was firing off shots, and after missing the net twice, finally found the mesh on the third attempt after Nick Wicks and Nick Granowicz found rebounds and fed Van Unen again making it 5-2. Brendan Schneider then got the first short-handed goal of the season and a brief stint of belief in the building to make it 6-3, but the Vees dashed the hopes of the hometown faithful with a late powerplay goal by Andre Ghantous.
The Cents powerplay struggled to convert despite good looks and went 0/7 while the Vees went 2/5. Vincent Duplessis wasn't very busy after coming into the crease, only facing 10 shots, while Derek Krall picked up his first win of the season with a 36 save effort on 39 shots.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said he liked the teams effort in the last 40 minutes, but a lack of focus in the first cost them.
"I think there were just some mental mistakes out there in the first period. The Vees were outworking us, and we had players in position, but they forgot what their job was and then the puck was in the net."
The Cents will look to return to the win column after dropping 2 in a row against the Vernon Vipers tomorrow night.