Sunday, December 1, 2013

Centennials and Kings Settle For A Split As Goalies Shine:

The general synopsis from the crowd of 850 in Merritt on Saturday night agreed that a 1-1 draw between their Centennials and the visiting Powell River Kings was the best hockey they've been treated to this season. And I agree.

A single point doesn't help the Centennials out much in the standings, as they moved to 16-11-2-1 on the season, which is a pair back of Vernon and three behind Penticton for top spot.

Jeff Wight scored his 12th goal of the season, and Devin Kero had a solid night in goal making 40 saves, which was good for both players to be named in the 3 Star Selection. (Wight 3rd, Kero 2nd)

Jarryd Leung opened the scoring for 20-2-4-1 Powell River, and goaltender Jeff Smith was the nights' 1st Star with a whopping 53 saves, many of which weren't just outside angle shots.

Merritt has three games in the immediate week, with a trip to Penticton kicking things off on Wednesday, more details can be found below.


I thought that the opening period was the best period of hockey I have seen in a long time, and after chatting with fans on the concourse during the intermission, everyone seemed to agree. The first came with just a single penalty, as the Cents shot count jumped to finish the frame at 17-10. Merritt created two or three strong scoring chances including one which Wayland Williams joined the forecheck with Gavin Gould and nearly helped convert. Fans were anxiously awaiting their chance to toss their teddies on to the ice, but they'd have to keep waiting a bit longer as the teams were scoreless after twenty minutes. 

After a very strong first period, the Centennials looked as though their momentum continued in to the middle frame, although Powell River came out with added energy and looked much better than in the early going of the first. Vernon-product and friend of the show Jordan Burns was one of the best Powell River players in the period, along with Ryan Scarfo and Jarryd Leung. It was Leung who would open the scoring with his 12th of the season at 15:16, as he converted on a mis-read from the Centennial defenders deep in the Merritt zone. Luke McCaw and Jeremy Leclerc picked up assists on the goal. It wasn't quite the period the first was, but fans continued to get their monies worth after 40, with Merritt trailing 1-0 despite leading 27-23 on the shot clock. 

Diego Cuglietta and Jeff Wight were buzzing all night, with the pair working together to get the Centennials on the board just prior to the 5:00 mark, and as I said on the broadcast, "toss the teddy's, it's 1-1"! Pretty exciting moment to see the communities support of those in need, and of course the Centennials fans were looking at a chance for the win. That's when you queue the Jeff Smith Show. 17 saves in the 3rd period and many of which came out of continued pressure by the Cents, but Smith was so strong with his positioning the Centennials couldn't force it by him. That's not to take credit from Devin Kero, as he made three or four more highlight saves in the third. These two teams couldn't solve anything in regulation and were headed to 4-on-4 tied at 1. Merritt outshot Powell River 45-32 in regulation.

Luke Grayson took a late-penalty for the Kings, and early in the overtime upon his arrival back on the ice, he was fed a breakaway feed and nearly scored his first Junior A goal, but Devin Kero shut the door. Five minutes of 4-vs-4, and five more minutes of 3-vs-3 wasn't enough for either team to solve their respective goaltenders, as Dane Birks set up Jeff Wight and Diego Cuglietta for the Centennials best chance. After a slow break out, Powell River moved in with an equal opportunity as Kurt Keats set up Jarid Lukosevicius down low. Luko, as they call him, was robbed by Kero as he hung on tight to the goal line as the Kings forward streaked through the crease. With each team getting 9 shots in the overtimes, Merritt finished the game with a 54-41 shot advantage but finished with a 1-1 tie.

Devin Oakes filled in on a line with Cuglietta and Wight for much of the game, and looked very good in that role, always being in the right place for the puck to come to him, and he battled hard all night. Gavin Gould was another battler in the game, he played a 200-foot game and played more like a 200-pounder as well. On the blue line, Wayland Williams and Malik Kaila had big bounce back games, playing very responsible yet still on the edge. 

You can't say enough about the goaltending in this one. A combined 93 saves and just two goals. Jeff Smith and Devin Kero get big props for their continued efforts. Smith was the best King by a mile, but that doesn't play down the Kings as they had several other standouts. As the game went on, I thought captain Aidan Wright and Brian Rideout played more and more important roles, along with another d-man in Jeremy Leclerc. Up front, Truman Gonzales had a ton of 'want' in the game and looked to always be ready to strike, while the expected offensive unit of Coleshaw-Scarfo-Dorantes moved the puck very well. 


Wednesday night is the next action for the Centennials, as they visit South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton to face the Vees. Merritt was the first team to get a win at SOEC, when Shane Poulsen scored in overtime. 

Penticton won their home-opener vs the Cents, and Wednesday's game tees up a return-battle on Friday in Merritt. Puck drop Wednesday is 7:00, then 7:30 on Friday.

The busy weekend concludes with the Centennials in Trail on Saturday night, with the Fri/Sat games beginning at 7:00 on Q101, while Wednesday's matchup begins at 6:30 with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show. 

Notes From The Cafe:
It was great to see the colours of the Powell River Kings, an organization I have much respect for, along with the individuals who make their wheels turn. Big thanks to Alex Rawnsley, PxP voice of the Kings, for joining me for a more-than astounding pre game show interview. Always nice to see one of my closest friends in the broadcasting world, as we go back to the summer of 2011 when I first took up full time play-by-play. 


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