Friday, September 13, 2013

Warriors Edge Cents 3-2; Teams Prepare For Rematch:

It was a night of firsts' for the Merritt Centennials on Friday at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna.

For the first time in the BCHL season, the Merritt Centennials scored a powerplay goal, as Ohio-product Jake Clifford buried his first goal north of the border - although it wasn't enough to earn his team two points, as the West Kelowna Warriors slipped by the Cents 3-2 in the clubs' first teams following the BCHL Bauer Showcase.

Devin Kero was great in net for Merritt stopping 39 shots in his second straight start, although Coach Luke Pierce confirmed that Merritt's Russell Sanderson will start the Saturday game. Pierce compared the duo to Lino Chimentti and Tyler Steel, a tandem that manned the crease together for the Cents in Luke's first year as a coach in 2011/2012.

In net for West Kelowna, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan's Andy Desautels was strong but struggled to contain pucks in close. He finished the night with 26 saves, and through 2 and a half games played has faced just 59 shots this season. We may hear Tanner Burgardt's name tomorrow, as the former Prince Albert Minto is expected to get his first BCHL start.

In the opening period, it was the Warriors who found the back of the net midway through, as Ambrose Firkus found time on the right side, roofing it on Cents goalie Devin Kero. It wasn't long after that in which Kero had to make his nicest stop of the young game, when Brennan Clark flew in shorthanded but couldn't get by the left pad of Kero. Special teams were consistently busy in tonights game, from the drop of the puck until the final buzzer. West Kelowna had Merritt's number in the opening period, out shooting them 12-7 and leading 1-0 in to the break.

Another highlight of the night would come from Kero in the 2nd period, as the Warriors looked to go up by a couple goals. Kero robbed Firkus who found a wide open slot, by sticking his glove way out to his side while going low in to position. The Warriors would get their two goal wish though, as David Pope beat Kero for a 2-0 lead. Less then 30 seconds later, the Cents responded as Jake Clifford found the back of the net with the assists coming from Gavin Gould and Adam Tracey. West Kelowna's Liam Blackburn added a single marker before the break to restore the two goal lead and give West Kelowna momentum heading in to the third. Merritt was out shot 14-12 in the middle frame, but trailed the game by a score of 2-1. Also in the middle frame, the 1012 fans in attendance got their taste of the rivalry when Brett Mennear and Sam Johnson dropped the mitts with a couple minutes to play.

Just over five minutes in to the final frame, Sam Johnson picked up a puck beneath the goal line and scooped it back out front and in to the net following a Daniel Nachbaur rush which had Nachbaur pull goaltender Desautels way out of position on a high speed rush. Nachbaur impressed with his ability to keep the puck on his stick, much like James Neil and Jeff Wight did throughout the game as well. The Cents pressured for most of the third but would be penalized three times in the final 10 minutes which seemingly took the wind from the teams sails, although the Cents still did get the puck deep with a shorthanded empty net in the final minute. Tyson Dallman nearly put home the empty netter as the buzzer went, with the Warriors narrowly escaping with the victory in their home opener while outshooting Merritt 42-28.

See the boxscore here!

Merritt will need an effort tomorrow night that was similar to the effort put forth at times of tonight's game. If the team can rally behind their home town crowd and get some confidence early; they should be able to get the wheels rolling and keep them going. It was nice to see the power play respond so watch for the Cents special teams to continue to improve in the coming games.

Faceoff time is 7:30 with the Q101 broadcast beginning at 7:00 with the Norgaard Ready Mix pregame show getting underway. There is a tailgate party at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena prior to player intros, so make sure to get down there early!

The Centennials hit the road on Tuesday to Cominco Arena in Trail for their first meeting of the season with the Smoke Eaters. Both the home opener and Tuesdays game in Trail can be heard on

See you at the rink!

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