Sunday, November 3, 2013

Centennials Win In Merritt To Sweep Home-and-Home With Chiefs:

With an opportunity to earn a second straight win over the Chilliwack Chiefs, the Merritt Centennials knew it probably wouldn't end up another high scoring game, but once again consecutive goals helped lift the Cents to victory; this time by a 3-2 score.

Rather than rely on the likes of Scott Patterson and Sebastien Pare once again, it was the Centennials depth players who stepped up to bat in this game. Rhett Willcox and Adam Tracey provided goals for the 'fourth' line, while James Neil scored a beauty of a shorthanded goal to tie the game at one. Russell Sanderson earned a well-deserved nod as First Star, saving 21 Chief shots.

The Chiefs didn't need to solely rely on their goaltender like they did at times on Friday, as they seemed to do a good job of clogging up the neutral zone. Andrew Silard scored once and added an assist, while Matheiu Tibbet did the same. Josh Halpenny, who played in half of the 7-2 Chiefs' loss, looked much more in the zone, stopping 29 of 32 shots.

The 12-9-1-0 Centennials are off for the week as they prepare for the Langley Rivermen on Friday at home, before hitting the road for Langley on Saturday. The 4-12-1-2 Chiefs host Alberni Valley on Sunday, while they begin a home-and-home on Friday in Surrey.

Action began just moment after the puck dropped, as Andrew Silard found a puck just :27 seconds in after a shot from Matheiu Tibbet, which then went in the air and over Russell Sanderson's head and rolled behind the goaltender to open the scoring. The lead lasted just over five minutes before the Cents got on the board, when James Neil stripped the puck from the man-up Chiefs, streaking in and beating goaltender Josh Halpenny to tie it up at 6:21. From there, the Cents would build on a big save from their goaltender and the momentum allowed Rhett Willcox to walk in alone and roof the puck for his 2nd of the season. Gavin Gould and Shane Poulsen picked up the helpers in the goal at 9:48. Things would slow down, seemingly, for the next 7 or 8 minutes, before the Cents got right back to it. Zach Hartley picked up speed in to the zone, then fed it to Adam Tracey who lasered a shot past Halpenny, 3-1 Centennials. The period expired with that standing as the score a the break, although Chilliwack led 11-10 on the shot clock. 

Early in the second period, Wayland Williams and Bennett Huber were both given chances for good chances and the Chilliwack net minder did a good job of blocking the goal, before the Centennials had a chance of their own from Sebastien Pare on a hard shift to stop the Chiefs from breaking out. Chilliwack made it a one goal game at 9:52 on the man advantage, after the Cents bench nearly watched James Neil pick up another shorty. Instead, it was Matheiu Tibbet who scored as he walked over the line and fired a shot on goal which beat Sanderson to make it 3-2. Sanderson was perhaps the Centennials best player in the period, making a few key saves because of his ability to maintain strong positioning. Late in the period, Willcox beat the goaltender but Eric Roberts somehow swept the puck from the goal line, before the two engaged in a scrap in front of the Cents bench. Merritt left the period with a 3-2 lead, but took a 21-19 shot advantage. 

It seemed in the third period that both teams wanted the game so bad they couldn't figure out where the puck went once they got to the neutral zone. The period had plenty of scramble bounces, although you have to credit both teams' big guns for stepping up late in the game to lead the younger players. The only real excitement was created as the Cents got another puck to squeak past the net minder, this time Adam Tracey was there to put it in but the referee was out of position and couldn't get a sight of the puck several feet behind the Cents goal. Chilliwack pulled their goalie late but the Centennials once again kept forcing the puck to the neutral zone where they were able to kill off the final moments of the game and hang on for a 3-2 win, their second in a row over the Chiefs.

Merritt finished the game at 0-for-5 on the power play, after having a very successful night on a bigger ice surface last night in Chilliwack. The Cents killed off 3-of-4, which was a batter ratio than the Friday game. 

Another home-and-home weekend. Beginning Friday in Merritt at 7:30, the Langley Rivermen and Centennials face off on back-to-back evenings. The teams then travel back to the Events Centre in Langley for the Saturday night game, which will get rolling at 7:15.

Luke Pierce is off to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to join Dane Birks and Jeff Wight with the CJHL TopProspects Game and World Junior A Challenge rosters. Birks and Wight both scored on Saturday in the Canada West-USA Exhibition game, despite TCW losing 4-3.

The tournament opens on Tuesday at Birks & Wight face Team Switzerland. Updates will be posted on the blog all week, as well I'll have an interview with Luke up before Thursday!

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