For the first time in 2 years if you count the playoffs, and the first in 5 if you count the regular season the Merritt Centennials won in Penticton 4-2.
Spurred on by 45 raucous fans that travelled on the Fan bus, the Cents had a strong opening period. Despite having a couple powerplay opportunities early on the Cents couldn’t convert, but thanks to a sneaky steal by Daniel Tkac in the offensive zone and a snipe blocker side on LaFontaine the Cents had the 1-0 lead after one period of play. Austin Roden made another start for the Cents stopping all 11 shots he faced in the first.
In the second, the Cents got a good start thanks to the hard play of Rylan Van Unen. He was streaking down on a breakaway when he was hauled down and went heavily into the net taking LaFontaine, a defender, himself, and the net into the end-boards in a crash. LaFontaine appeared hurt on the play but stayed in the game to face down the penalty shot that was awarded to Van Unen. Rylan veered right, and then cut across the net with a series of moves before putting it forehand and sniping high to make it 2-0. LaFontaine wouldn’t stay in the game much longer, as whether of his own volition or the coaches he was pulled in favour of Derek Krall. The Vees would pull within one on a lucky bounce on the powerplay, that came off the end board dasher right into the slot and Sandelin put it past a sprawled out Roden. Nick Granowicz would give the Cents another two-goal cushion after collecting a great pass up the middle from Cocca, and dangle in on the forehand glove-side to beat Krall and make it 3-1 after 2.
The Cents got a boost in the final frame on the powerplay. Matt Kopperud and Jackson Munro caught the Vees on a change and then played give-and-go short side before Kopperud made a move to the backhand and past Krall to give the Cents the 4-1 lead. The Vees pulled within 2 on a one-timer from Jack Barnes and pushed with the net empty late, but couldn’t come any closer. Austin Roden and the Cents would hang on.
Roden stopped 53/55 shots in the victory.
After the game, Head CoCH Joe Martin said the traveliling fans gave the team the extra support they needed.
“The fans were great, and to have them in our end when we were trying to hang on to the lead made a big difference. They were definitely a factor tonight.”
The Cents are now just 2 points back of the Penticton Vees with 4 games remaining each.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cassidy Bowes 0G 0A
#RD STAR: Daniel Tkac 1G 0A
2ND Star: Nick Granowicz 1G 0A
1st Star: Austin Roden 53/55