The Merritt Centennials started the road trip off right with the help of some late game heroics from Brad Cocca as they edged the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 4-3.
The first period saw the Cents skating well, and they had more chances, but the Bulldogs scored against the grain when Nicholas Seitz got past a defender and wristed one from the outside, up high, on Vincent Duplessis. That would be the lone goal of the period as the Cents and Dogs would go 0/1 on the PP, but the Bulldogs would start the second with Joey Berkopec in the box. Duplessis stopped 7/8 shots, while John Hawthorne stopped all 13 he faced in the first.
The Cents would kill off the penalty to Berkopec, and when he rejoined his linemates, he found the back of the net. A quick D-to-D feed from left to right point saw Berkopec just throw one on net, and it found a hole, beating Hawthorne down low for the Ontario natives first of the season, and the Cents first of the game. Rylan Van Unen gave the Cents the lead after he took out the sand wedge and chipped one over the shoulder of Hawthorne in tight after being set up by Nick Wicks and Nick Granowicz on the powerplay. The Cents then surrendered the lead on the powerplay when Mitchell Deelstra cut up the middle and roofed one on Duplessis to tie things up heading into the third. Duplessis turned aside 17/19 while Hawthorne kept out 19/21.
The final frame saw the Centennials seize the lead early courtesy a power move off the wall by Granowicz to the slot where he let go a backhander that had enough to get across the line. The Bulldogs evened things up again just over halfway through the third when Ryan Miotto came across the line and ripped one up top before the Cents could mark him. Leading point-getter Brad Cocca played hero with 1:26 remaining in the third when he converted on a drop pass from Christian Sabin – a lock and load shot, beating Hawthorne blocker side. Duplessis finished the game stopping 24/27 shots for the win, while Hawthorne suffered the loss stopping 29/33.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin gave credit to his team for sticking it out against a tight-checking team.
“The Bulldogs don’t give you much to work with, they try and frustrate you, and then take advantage. The guys saw their way through that and were able to come up with key goals at key moments.”
The Island road swing continues tomorrow night at 6pm against the Cowichan Valley Capitals.