Sunday, October 6, 2013

Complete Effort Boosts Cents To 6-1 Win In Trail:

With an opportunity to pick up their third consecutive victory on Saturday night, the Merritt Centennials took to the highways to boundary country, where a three-goal third period lifted the Cents to a 6-1 win over the Trail Smoke Eaters.

While a trio of players put up multi point games, six different Cents found the back of the net, including Bennett Huber who built a 2-0 lead with his first of the season in the opening period. Zach Hartley also garnered headlines, putting in his first BCHL goal in the third period.

Merritt finished on top on both the scoreboard and shot clock, as the 6-1 score translated to a final shot count of 39-17. Devin Kero’s toughest test came in the dying minutes, when he had to make a sharp glove save on a clear shot from the high slot.


Diego Cuglietta got the game off on the right foot midway through the opening period as he walked in with a hard snap shot which beat goaltender Dustin Nikkel as a result of a smart clearing play by Jake Clifford. Dane Birks gathered up the 2nd assist, with the time of the goal being 11:57. Gavin Gould then dropped a puck off for Bennett Huber with 1:34 left as Huber blasted home his 1srt of the season while Cuglietta drew the second assist. Shots after 20 minutes favoured Merritt 15-6.

Merritt got off to a quick start in the middle frame, as they picked up an early 3-on-1, and although unable to convert, the offense did return at 14:13 of the period. Sebastien Pare picked up a puck in the faceoff circle after Scotty Patterson got the initial shot away off the draw, with Pare beating Nikkel with a perfectly placed shot. The Smoke Eaters would finish the period hard though, as Jake Kaupilla fed a crisp pass to Curtis Toneiff who was sliding in from the point on the powerplay. Toneiff beat Kero with just 13 seconds left on the clock, as Trail held Merritt to fewer shots in the period, at 8-6 in the period favouring the Cents.

Three goals back-to-back-to-back for Merritt sealed this one, as Sam Johnson connected just 5:40 in on a setup from Clifford and Gould. Johnson's 3rd of the season put his club up 4-1 in the game. Under four minutes later, Rhett Willcox set up Zach Hartley for his first goal of his young BCHL season, in his 2nd game since returning from injury. At 13:57, the Cents would convert on the man advantage for the first time on the evening, as Scott Patterson fired home a goal right off the faceoff win from Jeff Wight. There wasn't many sparks after that point, although both goaltenders had to make sharp glove saves in the dying minutes, with Kero's stop being his best on the evening in which he made 16 stops on 17 shots. Dustin Nikkel made 31 of 37 saves in the loss, dropping the Smokies to 4-5-1-1 on the season. Merritt's win improves them to 6-5-0-0 on the year, good for 12 points and 3rd in the Interior Division. But don't blink, just 5 points separates last from first in the division.

Turning in impressive performances in the game were undoubtedly the top 4 lines up front, and the 6 players on defense, as well goaltender Kero. There wasn't any negative to take from that game, especially if you're Bennett or Zach, as getting that 1st goal of the year takes some of the anxiousness out of their games. I thought all six d-men stood out and it would be wrong to point out just one, as it was a smart game for everyone at both ends of the rink.



The Centennials will have a week of practice leading up to three games in three night’s next weekend, which begins Thursday when the Prince George Spruce Kings visit the Nicola Valley.

On Friday, Merritt heads to West Kelowna for the 3rd meeting between the teams’, while the Coquitlam Express pay a visit to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena on Saturday night.

Tune in to Thursday's game at 6:30 on Q101, while the Friday game is also set for a 7 PM puck drop. On Saturday, the puck will drop at 7:30.

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