The Merritt Centennials needed the full 65 minutes and then some against the Prince George Spruce Kings as they needed the shootout to top the leagues top team 3-2.
The first period started with the teams trading chances, and powerplay opportunities - but neither team would take advantage and the goaltenders would be the story early. Shots were 9-8 after one in favour of the Spruce Kings as Logan Neaton and Austin Roden duelled between the pipes.
The middle frame saw a few more penalties but it didn't make a difference on the scoreboard. Logan Neaton had to make a few highlight reel stops, but Austin Roden pulled his weight too as the goaltenders continued to steal the show. Shots after 2 were 20-19.
The offense finally arrived with the 3rd period. Payton Matsui scored the 1st goal for the Cents in the New Year and his 3rd on the season 5 minutes into the frame. Converting on a 2-on-1 he opted to shoot and went top shelf on Neaton to break the goose egg and make it 1-0. However, the Spruce Kings' Nolan Welsh converted on a 2-on-1 on the following possession to tie the game up at one. The Cents would continue to press, but Prince George would get a late powerplay and Nick Poisson would score on a rush top corner over the line. That would give the Spruce Kings a 2-1 lead with 8 minutes remaining and put the Cents against the wall. Forced into a corner the Cents saved some of their best hockey for late in the game. With just under a minute to go, a shot from the line would be blocked by Nick Granowicz but he'd feed it Mathieu Gosselin, who found Matt Kopperud to the side of the net, and Kopperud batted the puck out of mid-air and in to force the game to overtime.
In overtime, it was the goaltenders chance to shine once again as Neaton and Roden came up with huge saves to keep their teams in it. Final shots were 36-31 in favour of the Cents.
The goaltender's battle went down to the wire as the teams would head to a shootout. Fresh off scoring the game-tying goal, Matt Kopperud continued to clutch up with a gorgeos penalty shot. Veering wide-left on the forehand, Kopperud cut to the middle with speed, made the move to the backhand, and then put it between his legs, and top shelf for the lone goal of the shootout. Austin Roden stopped all 3 shots he faced in the shootout and earned himself first star billing in the first win of 2019.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said the Cents came through when it counted.
"It was a great effort from Roden to keep us in it, and a great push from the team to push us over the top."
The Cents look to continue the streak against the Vernon Vipers on the road at 6pm tomorrow night.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jaydon Fetter 0G 0A
3RD STAR: Matt Kopperud 2G 0A
2ND STAR: Logan Neaton 33/35
1ST STAR: Austin Roden 29/31