For the third time in a row, and the 2nd time in 48 hours the Merritt Centennials (0-2) look to solve the Prince George Spruce Kings (2-0).
On Friday night, The Merritt Centennials managed to fight their way back into the game by the end of the 2nd period, but the final frame got away from them and the Spruce Kings skated to a 6-2 victory.
The first period started much better than the initial exhibition contest with some early powerplay chances. The Cents made good on their second powerplay of the night as Trevor Isaksson collected the puck off a face-off and blasted it top corner blocker-side to give the Cents their first lead of exhibition play. Unfortunately, it wouldn't last as the Prince George would convert on their first powerplay of the night executing a picture perfect slap-pass from Cunningham to Rowan Miller to the back of the net, upstairs, blocker-side on Josh Dias.
With a tie game heading into the middle stanza, the Cents came out of the gate a little flat and Prince George got chance after chance. 4 minutes and change in Andrew Seaman streaked down the wing with 4-on-4 hockey, pulled to the backhand and beat an outstretched Dias to the far post to make it 2-1. At the 9:16 mark, the Spruce Kings converted on an odd man rush with Mason Waite finishing off a 3-on-2 with a one-timer on the off-wing that beat Dias up high despite a highlight real attempt to make the save. Prince George continued to have the Cents on the ropes until Jacksenn Hungle was finally able to give the Cents some life. Throwing his body around, he was sent in all alone on a breakaway, deked to the forehand, and went bar-down to make the game 3-2. The Cents appeared to get a shot in the arm after the goal, but couldn't get any more offense in the period.
The game was up for the taking in the final frame, and it was the Spruce Kings who did the taking. John Herrington managed to stuff one in from the side of the net that was the lone blemish on Dias' night from a goaltending perspective. Tanner Main sniped high on the powerplay through a heavy screen to make it 5-2. Late in the contest with the game seemingly out of reach, Coach Sweet-Coulter used it as an opportunity to pretend the team was trailing by a closer tally, pulling the goalie with over 2 minutes to go. Despite some solid pressure and some good chances Christian Buono iced the game with 17 seconds left to make it 6-2.
After two attempts to get past the Spruce Kings, the Cents will be hoping that the third time is the charm, but for the first time they will have to battle a road trip. It could help bring the team together, but the distance to PG is one of the longest trips for the Centennials and shaking out the road rust will be key early on.
The Cents doubled their offensive output on Friday night with two goals compared to game 1's one, but will need more than that to get past the veteran laden Spruce Kings. A pair of veteran defenders lead the way with Trevor Isaksson and Liam Visram picking up a pair of points so far, while young Jacksenn Hungle and Jerzy Orchard have added goals.
The Spruce Kings are led by crafty Corey Cunningham with 4 points, Andrew Seaman collected 3 in game 2, and they have 6 other players with at least two points.
Special teams has been a source of strength so far for the Spruce Kings, while the Centennials are trending in the right direction.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
PG - 30.2% (2nd) PG - 92.3% (3rd)
Cents - 7.7% (16th) Cents - 69.2% (16th)
After some strong efforts between the pipes the Cents are going to give veteran Josh Dias a night off. Colton Phillips-Watts will make his BCHL debut. In 20 games last season, he went 2-15 with a 3.15 GAA and a .905SV% last season with the Kootenay Ice in the BC U18 AAA league.
The Spruce Kings have seen both their goaltenders record a win in the crease. Aaron Trotter is 1-0 with a .964S V% and a 1.00 GAA. Jordan Fairlee is 1-0 with a .905 SV% and a 2.00 GAA.
After the game on Friday, Assistant Coach Paul Barnes said the Cents need to have a consistent effort.
"We had some decent stretches, but we definitely didn't come to play a full 60 minutes. We need everyone to be playing their best for the full game if we want to have a chance, and there wasn't enough players who had that tonight."
The Cents will look to put the work in for the win this afternoon. Puck drop 3pm. Pregame 2:45 on Q101 with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve. Due to Covid restrictions the broadcast team will not journey to Prince George so the away broadcast will not be available on HockeyTV, however, you can listen to the voice of the Spruce Kings Cole Waldie.
Fans looking to watch the game can also go Boston Pizza for their watch party and enter to win a free small pizza with their shots on goal contest.