A pair of Merritt Centennials finally shook the monkey from the shoulders on Sunday afternoon, as Rhett Willcox and Dylan Bowen scored their first BCHL goals' in a 5-4 Centennials win over the visiting Trail Smoke Eaters.
Bowen and Willcox worked to put the Centennials, now 9-7-1-0, up 2-0 early in the second period, before the Smoke Eaters made a game out of it and tied the game 2-2 before the end of the second. Zach Hartley picked up a goal and an assist and Scotty Patterson had a pair of goals in the third period to help lift his team to victory.
Replying for the Smoke Eaters was former-Cent Brendan Lamont, Jake Lucchini, Bryce Knapp and Travis Stephens. With just over a minute to go, Stephens made it 5-4 Merritt but the empty net did not help the Smoke Eaters in tying the game, as they fell to 4-11-1-1 and have yet to win in 9 contests'.
Devin Kero once again was strong in goal for Merritt, making 33 of 37 saves on the afternoon while Dustin Nikkel made 38 of 43 saves in the loss.
The game didn't seem to have a whole lot of flow to it in the early going, with both teams struggling to calm the puck down on the sticks in the offenive zone. Dylan Bowen picked up a reason to celebrate when he blasted home a point shot on the powerplay after a setup featuring Payton Schaefer and Deigo Cuglietta. It was Bowen's 1st goal in the BCHL, and it took him 37 games to obtain it, although only 11 with the Centennials. Merritt finished in front 1-0 on the scoreboard and led 14-11 on the shot clock.
Rhett Willcox scored his 1st on a cross ice pass from Adam Tracey, who was fed a blueline feed from Zach Hartley; and that line was easily Merritt's best on the night. Willcox's goal came at 7:34, but under 6 minutes later the Smoke Eaters would begin their attack. Jake Lucchini got the scoring going when he picked his corner on Kero, on an assist from Jesse Knowler. Brendan Lamont then showed Cents fans the speed they miss, scoring his 1st goal against his former team to tie the game :53 seconds after Trail initially got on the board. Like the opening period, shots were 14-11 Cents in the 2nd.
Four goals in the second period would be matched and beat in the third, as the two teams' combined for five goals, four of which came in a span of under 6 minutes. The first of the period was the 1st of the night for Scott Patterson, as line-mates Sebastien Pare and Jeff Wight weighing in with assists. It took just over :45 seconds for the Smoke Eaters to tie the game once again, as the Cents went down a man and Bryce Knapp deflected a puck by Kero to make it 3-3. Knapp tipped home a shot from Cody Bardock, in Bardock's debut for the Smokies. Patterson restored the Centennials lead later in the period at 11:34, as Wayland Williams and Devin Oakes both chipped in their 1st assists of the season. Zach Hartley intercepted a puck 1:29 later and put the Cents up 5-3 on his 2nd goal of the season, which came unassisted. Looking for life, the Smokies pulled Nikkel and Travis Stephens was able to convert as he went low blocker on Kero, while Adam Wheeldon and Knowler had helpers. The puck would bounce around for the final 1:12 as the Cents nearly got an empty netter, but the buzzer would go to expire Parents' Weekend with a 5-4 victory over Trail. Merritt outshot Trail 43-27 in the hockey game, with 15 shots apiece in the 3rd.
For the 3rd time in 4 head-to-head games this season, the Cents capitalized on a single powerplay, with three opportunities being presented, while the Smoke Eaters went 1-for-4 on the PP. Trail and Merritt will meet again December 7th in Trail.
The Centennials are in Prince George next on Thursday night, when the Spruce Kings host Merritt at 7 PM at the PG Coliseum. The Q101 Pregame Show begins at 6:30, sponsored by Norgaard Ready Mix.
I want to send a big thank you to all of the families for making the time to attend Parents Weekend, it is just the fourth season the Centennials have been doing this and I look forward to catching up with everyone before the end of the season!