The Cents started well, but faded down the stretch as the veteran heavy Vees pulled away late to make it a 3-1 final.
The Merritt Centennials began their first exhibition game with a bang as Olson Werenka proved he's more than just a guy who bangs bodies. He scored the Cents first goal of the pre-season just 45 seconds into the first frame to give them the early lead after a pass by Daniel Tkac. However, David Silye quickly tied things up before the period was over a minute and thirty seconds old. Aiden Hosein got the start in net and after a shaky start settled in nicely making a couple huge saves to keep it tight throughout the remainder of the first period. Shots after one were 8-8 with the score tied at 1.
The second stanza saw the Vees slowly begin to impose their will on the game and the Centennials goaltenders had to be sharp to keep it close. Holtz scored for the Vees from the point midway through the frame to give them their first lead of the game after Jakob Gullmes took over duties in the crease. Shots after 2 were 26-16 as the Cents started to get buried in their own end.
The final frame saw the Vees continue to push the pace and the Centennials fall back on their heels. After earning their 5th powerplay of the night the Vees finally converted as former first round NHL draft pick Jay O'Brien performed a clinical deke from the point and then fired a shot past the blocker of Gullmes to make it 3-1. A 4-1 goal was called off due to a high stick, and the Vees played out the final minutes to secure the 3-1 victory. The Cents without much familiarity on special teams went 0/5 on the PP.
Troy Quinn looked good in his debut as a Cent, and Werenka anchored a young blue line. The standout among hopefuls was former Cariboo Cougars d-man Brophy Dunne, he contributed with a couple of big hits and some solid defensive play throughout the game.
Up front the Cents struggled to maintain zone time and apart from the first period didn't look overly threatening in the offensive zone. Tkac, Matsui, and Guy had some solid rushes, but the Cents will be looking for a more consistent attack up front tomorrow.
The Cents and Vees will do it all again Saturday night from the NVMA. Puck Drop 7pm, entrance by donation. The game will be available on Hockey TV.