Thursday, December 5, 2013

4-1 Loss In Penticton Fires Up Centennials Heading Home For Rematch:

Congrats to Payton Schaefer and Sebastien Pare on
breaking the 150 game plateau in the BCHL!
Y'know those games that have a completely different complexion every time a new period starts? Yeah, that's the game that the Merritt Centennials and Penticton Vees played out last night at South Okanagan Events Centre, with the Vees responding from an early goal by scoring four in the 2nd period, en route to a 4-1 win over Merritt.

Jeff Wight scored the lone goal for the Cents, as they drop to 16-12-2-1, with 35 points in the standings, leaving them tied with Salmon Arm and 4 back of Vernon and 5 of Penticton. Wight's goal was his 13th of the season and it came on his 18th birthday, so that was a treat for Jeff. 

Russell Sanderson was chased from the net after forty minutes with 16 stops on 20 shots, but several big time saves in the opening period gave Sanderson a welcoming return to the lineup. Nathan Alalouf of the Osoyoos Coyotes suited up and saw action in the third, making all 5 saves.

For Penticton, they improve to 18-7-1-3 on the season, and take a five point cushion over Merritt heading in to Friday's rematch back in the Nicola Valley. Goals on the night came from Brett Beauvais, Cody DePourq, Jack Ramsey and Paul Stoykewych, while Olivier Mantha stopped 20 of 21 shots.

Merritt hosts Penticton on Friday night, get your details at the bottom of the post.

The game started off with a neat rendition of O' Canada, done by a man on the bass guitar. Very nice start to what would be Teddy Bear Toss Night in Penticton. Jeff Wight added to the party just :15 seconds in to the hockey game when Diego Cuglietta sent the puck around the offensive zone boards to Jeff Wight behind the net, and the birthday boy knew exactly what to do as he wrapped it around and past Mantha to open the scoring. No assists were given on the goal, and without a FASTHockey video archive they may not be corrected, but I will say that Cuglietta touched the puck prior to Wight, although a Vee may have interfered with the sequence. That would do it for the offence in the opening period though, although the teams' would exchange their share of chances. The best chance of the period perhaps came with just over four minutes left, as Travis Blanleil got a cross crease pass but was outright denied by Russell Sanderson, who I thought actually played a very good game. There wasn't a single penalty in the period, and Merritt was outshot 10-9 by the Vees taking a 1-0 lead in to the dressing room(which might I add, huge visitor dressing rooms at SOEC). 

Paul Stoykewych would lead his team in to the middle period, getting his 4th of the season following continuous Penticton pressure. The Vees look as though Coach Harbinson knew exactly what to say in the intermission, and Stoykewych sent the teddy bears on to the ice with a hard wrist shot from the mid-right circle that beat Sanderson blocker side. Alex Coulombe and Brad McClure get the assists. Time of that goal was 3:21, and then at 7:01 the Vees would take the lead as Jack Ramsey tipped a shot between the legs of Sanderson, after Patrick Sexton picked up a Daniel Nachbaur clearing attempt. Riley Alferd also got a helper, but not sure where. 40 seconds later, it became 3-1 Vees as Travis Blanleil wound up a howitzer and had some help in front as Cody DePourq tipped home his 13th of the year. Matt Serratore had the other assist on the goal. DePourq's night would end with just over five minutes to go, as Rhett Willcox took a shot inside the blue line and had DePourq finish his check unfortunately on the blind side of Willcox, ending both players' games early. Brett Beauvais would complete the outburst for the Vees with just 9 seconds left in the second. The shot looked to be deflected by Ben Dalpe, or at least a Centennial player, making it very hard for Sanderson to stop. The assists would end up going to Ramsey and Dalpe, but the video could prove different. Penticton played a great period, getting traffic in front and it paid off with 3 of the 4 goals coming off a deflection, and the other with screens in place. Merritt was outshot 10-3 in the period, and trailed 4-1 in to the third.

You could sense that the Cents would come out with some fire under their butts', and they did just that and that fire didn't seem to fade away. Nathan Alalouf drew in to the pipes, and looked very competitive in the net for the first time with the Centennials. Brendan Lamont, of all players, would be the first one to create some ruckus as he took his man in to the boards from behind, getting ejected from the game. Under two minutes after Lamont's ejection, there was another. This time, Chris Rygus stood up Dane Birks at the blue line, and Birks' helmet went flying and Sebastien Pare jumped in to stand up for his teammate. Rygus was ejected for a hit to the head, but the only evidence of that was Birks' popping helmet, otherwise it looked to be a clean hit with perhaps some awkward contact. Later in the period, Max Coatta, along with Devin Oakes and Brad McClure, all had their games ended with misconducts, as Malik Kaila was ejected for a hit from behind that I only heard, before seeing Malik laying on the ice. To summarize the period up... blah. It was a period of poorly timed/placed hits by some skilled players, and Friday's game will be a lot better if they can move on from the final frame of this one, and get back to the hockey we know these clubs' play! Shots ended at 9-5 Merritt in the third, and Alalouf only had to made one big stop late in the game, as he held on to a great scoring chance from the Vees, while Wayland Williams played the (albeit unnecessary) backup goalie. Penticton took a 4-1 victory and leads the season series with 2 wins and an OT loss, although Friday's game is the first in Merritt. 

Devin Oakes played a great game and could have been a mention in the 3 Stars had the Cents produced some more offence, definitely something for Oakes to build off of. Zach Hartley also looked ready to go, anticipating the play ahead of him at all times, but it sure would be nice to see Hartley-Willcox-Tracey get back together. Tyler Martin was a smart defensive player in this one, making the good play in his own zone at all times and a few times it even transitioned in to deep-offensive zone shots for Tyler. Sebastien Pare and Bennett Huber once again showed great heart and hustle, with Pare standing up for his teammates and Huber doing whatever he could to fire up his boys. Russell Sanderson, despite being pulled, needs to have a bounce back game on Friday/Saturday, and keep feeling light and ready. The first goal was a far-side snipe, and the three after were all deflections that become difficult to stop.

Penticton's Cody DePourq impressed me the most, with a good sense of speed and puck possession. The Vees split up their possession very well and several others were able to become stand outs, but perhaps none more than the newcomer Steen Cooper. Looked a little off in the first with his brand new teammates, but really adjusted in to his role as the game progressed. Travis Blanleil was another player who had a strong game(with a strong shot), and his ejection I don't think in any way dictates him as a player. Olivier Mantha seemed to struggle tracking down rebounds throughout the game, but the bright side of that was there were hardly any rebounds to track down, as often the puck became lodged under his arm or pad. 

Cue up the rematch on Friday night. It should be a dandy of a hockey game, especially if the third period of the Wednesday game if forgotten about and moved on from. Second period included if you're a Centennial fan. 

Game time at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena is 7:30, with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show starting at 7 PM.

Merritt then visits Trail and the Cominco Arena on Saturday night, another 7:30 game. 


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