Merritt drops to 9-8-1-0 heading in to a pair of games this weekend in Vernon and Salmon Arm, and they'll be without Dane Birks, Diego Cuglietta and Jeff Wight, as the trio is off to try out for Team Canada West. Wight would eventually draw in with an assist, as goals came from Shane Poulsen, Gavin Gould, Dylan Bowen and Scotty Patterson. Devin Kero filled in for Russell Sanderson but wasn't as busy as Sanderson, making 11 of 13 saves. Russell returned to the net for the first time in 40 days, and he made 4 of 7 saves in the first period.
Prince George jumps a single point over Merritt in the overall league standings, with a record of 9-7-1-1, which is just two points back in the Mainland Division. No one needed to play hero on this night that had the Spruce Kings up 4-0 after the opening period, but Chad Staley took the spotlight with a hat trick. Karan Toor had a goal and an assist, while both Brent Lashuk and Jeremiah Luedtke had a pair of helpers. Jesse Jenks was the best player on the ice tonight, making 38 saves in the PG net.
Merritt outshot Prince George 42-25 in the game, although shots were 33-14 in the final two periods.
Prince George wanted to set the tone early and they did just that, just after the five minute mark, as Chad Staley found a bouncing puck off a forecheck rush with his line mates Jeremiah Luedtke and Brent Lashuk, who both picked up assists on the power play marker. To put the Kings up a pair, AP Donovan Law showed why he got the call up for this game as he set up a streaking Sean Landrey for Landrey's 1st of the season at 10:39. The third goal happened quickly as the Cents maintained chances in the PG zone, but the puck was cleared to Justin Rai and Bryant Christian, as the captain Christian set up Rai on the rush with six minutes to go in the period. Skylar Pacheco would then make it 4-0 as he found a puck on the left side and wound up to send it past Sanderson on the power play from Brogan O'Brien and Christian Weidauer at 17:12. The period flew by, aside from goals and penalties there were hardly and whistles. PG outshot Merritt 11-9 in the period.
Devin Kero would replace Russell Sanderson to start the 2nd, but when you look away from the stat sheet Sanderson looked sharp in the opening twenty minutes, making a few kick saves and blocker stops. Look forward to seeing Russ back in the pipes this weekend. Shane Poulsen gave the Centennials their first taste of life with his 4th of the season, which he scored by pin-pointing a shot off the far post and in at 8:51 on the man advantage. Scott Patterson then finished a play with his line mates in Sebastien Pare and Jeff Wight, making it 4-2 on another power play goal at 16:17. With the goal, Patterson now has the team lead with 8 goals. Late in the period, with a chance to get within one on an offensive zone face-off, things turned sour as Chad Staley scored again with just :11 seconds left to make it 5-2. Luedtke and Mitch Eden picked up helpers, as Merritt outshot Prince George 14-8 in the period.
They say when a good hockey team has a bad game, they usually respond with a good one. The same can be said for a player having a tough shift; and that was proven by Dylan Bowen as he responded from a shift where the puck wouldn't stop bouncing, by scoring his 2nd of the season. Bowen shows some great excitement when he scores, and he has been a key piece to the Centennial defensive core as of late. With just over 6:00 to go, Chad Staley got away on a breakaway but Tyler Martin was hot in pursuit and made a diving play, smacking the puck away from Staley before the two crashed the goal. The referee decided to issue a penalty shot on the play, which Staley scored on to make it 6-3. Regarding the call made on the ice, these players are trained to deal with adversity, and Gavin Gould made truth to that statement, beating Jesse Jenks with a hard wrister with 1:58 left to give the Centennials a breath of hope. Assists came to Jeff Wight and Tyler Martin, on a quick puck moving play up the left wing. Karan Toor would get away once, hitting the post, and twice scoring in the empty net to make it 7-4 Prince George and seal the victory for the Spruce Kings. Final shots were 42-25 Merritt.
Merritt finished 2-for-5 on the power play, while Prince George was 2-for-6. PG started the game with the leagues worst-PP but scored on their first two opportunities. The games 3rd Star as Diego Cuglietta, 2nd Star Jesse Jenks, and the 1st Star was Chad Staley.
Merritt is in Vernon on Saturday night at 7:00 to face the Vipers, while Cowichan Valley takes a trip up north to face Prince George. The Cents are in Salmon Arm on Sunday for a 3:00 PM game with the Silverbacks.
Tune in on Q101 beginning at 6:30 on Saturday, and 3:30 on Sunday as the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame show sets you up for puck drop!