Saturday, November 23, 2013

Centennials Take Weekend Series Opener Over Eagles With 5-4 Win:

Darius Davidson scored his first BCHL goal for the Surrey Eagles just over three minutes in to the hockey game, but the Merritt Centennials erased four separate leads after that in a 5-4 Centennial victory to open up a home-and-home series with the Eagles on Friday night.

Diego Cuglietta pocketed a pair of goals, including a shorthanded marker in the open in period, as Jeff Wight also scored two with Scott Patterson singling as Merritt improved to 16-9-1-1. Shane Poulsen also contributed in the offensive game with a pair of helpers, which included a near-goal on the tying goal, as his point shot his Wight's skate.

Joining Davidson on the box score for the 10-16-1-0 Eagles was Brett Mulcahy, Jonah Renouf and Luke Sandler. Bo Didur made 25 saves on 30 shots while facing a pair of former Vancouver NW Giant teammates in Malik Kaila and Gavin Gould.

Devin Kero debuted his new white, red and black pads(thanks to Bauer) and got to get them broken in with 22 of 26 saves in the game, including 19 of 20 after the first period.

Darius Davidson walked in on the left win 3:02 in the opening period and sent a hard wrist shot low glove side on Devin Kero, who got the start with Russell Sanderson out due to injury. Davidson's 1st BCHL goal came in his 26th game of the season, congratulations to him! Diego Cuglietta was then sent on a two-on-one by Dane Birks, and Cuglietta made no mistake of beating Bo Didur to tie the game with a shorthanded goal, his 2nd shorty of the season. Less then :30 seconds later, the Eagles would re-capture the lead as Jonah Renouf scored a very NHL14 like goal, as he walked out of the corner and out waited Kero for his 9th of the season. The offence wasn't done there, nor was it close to being done... Jeff Wight tied the game at 16:05 as Scotty Patterson fed him a puck deep in the offensive zone, and as Wight wrapped around the net Didur failed to get up tight to the post as the Cents tied the game at 2. Brett Mulcahy, the Surrey captain and a Kelowna-product with a strong Vernon/Armstrong tie, would rejuvenate the Eagles lead with 2:15 left in the period as he wired home a snap shot past Kero. That is where the game sat after just 20 minutes, 3-2 Eagles. Shots in the frame were 9-6 Merritt.

Patterson was allowed to streak in on a 2-on-1 five minutes in to the middle frame on a strong puck-up-ice play from Bennett Huber, which gave Patterson an option to shoot or pass to Daniel Nachbaur. Patterson shot and picked up his team leading 16th goal of the season, as Nachbaur returned to the lineup for the first time since getting surgery over a month ago. At around the 9 minute mark, Didur made his best save as Cuglietta went in with a slap shot, but was robbed by the glove of the Surrey net minder. Payton Schaefer fired a chance off the crossbar, before pressure went back the other way and Luke Sandler put the Eagles back in front 4-3. Sandler pulled a similar move as Wight's, and it also worked as Kero couldn't get his pad on the ice quick enough for the final time in the hockey game. Surrey's lead lasted just 1:46 before Jeff Wight tied it up once again, taking a Poulsen point shot off the side of his foot. Sebastien Pare also picked up an assist, in a game which he seemed to be getting under the skin of his opponents. Cuglietta gave Merritt their first lead of the hockey game with just 1:31 left in the second period, as James Neil fired a puck on net to have it bounce back out to Poulsen, whose shot was deflected right to the stick of Diego for the eventual game-winner. Merritt went to the room in front 5-4 on the scoreboard and 18-13 overall on the shot clock.

The third period didn't bring as much excitement as the opening forty minutes, although it was clear the Centennials wanted to protect their lead, as they won several puck and board battles. A pair of Centennials left the game and did not return in the third period, with James Neil appearing to limp off the ice after blocking a shot, and Scott Patterson being the victim of a questionable hit from Luke Sandler. The Sandler 5-minute Major was issued with just 2:30 left in the game, and the Centennials were unable to put the puck in the net during their 5th man advantage of the night although Cuglietta came close to adding an empty netter. You have to hope for the best for James and Scotty, as the Centennials have seen an increased production rate from both in recent weeks. Merritt was outshot 13-12 in the period, as both goaltenders made key saves including two big stops by Kero in the final period to preserve the 5-4 win.

With the win, the Cents stay atop the division as Vernon also picked up a victory and Penticton lost to Coquitlam. Merritt's record is now 16-9-1-1 with 34 points. Zach Hartley played a very unsung game along with Sam Johnson and Bennett Huber, mind you Huber did pick up a point. Those three were moving the entire game, that's what coaches like to see. Malik Kaila was also versatile on the blue line, and Shane Poulsen played yet another standout game. 

Impressing for the Eagles were the Renouf twins, who don't seem to back off of anything despite their size. Two very skilled players who will take their twin powers to Quinnipiac to replace the Jones twins! Danton Heinen also played a strong game, along with his line mates Nic Pierog and Brett Mulcahy. Domenic Masellis is just 16 years old but pushed over 210 pounds on the scale, and his presence was felt all game. I can't wait to see this kid play at 20. 

A rematch. Tonight. South Surrey Arena. The game ended with sparks last night so we're sure to be in for a barn burner beginning at 7 PM down on the coast. If you can't make it to the rink, you can always tune in on Q101 - Merritt's Music Mix, beginning at 6:30 with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show!

It will be a busy night in the BCHL as Merritt, Vernon and Penticton all have chances to take sole possession of first in the Interior Division, so make sure you scoreboard watch!

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