The result, however, didn't match the effort as the Centennials fell 5-4 to the Vees in the back half of the home-and-home set. The Vees blew a 4-2 lead but scored the victory with a goal in the final 40 seconds.
Scotty Patterson put home a pair for the 16-13-2-1 Centennials, while Sebastien Pare had 3 assists to lead the way offensively along with Sam Johnson, who had his best game of the season racking up a goal and a pair of assists. Russell Sanderson was strong in goal, finishing the night with 24 saves.
Steen Cooper scored his first goal as a Vee, after Brett Beauvais and Anthony Conti scored opening period goals. Brad McClure also added a pair of goals in the win, helping the Vees improve to 18-7-1-3. In net, Hunter Miska stopped 38 of 42 Merritt shots.
The Centennials are off to Trail today, for their final trip to Trail until February 1st. Details below!
The Centennials seemed to come out of the gate with an added level of energy, and that level never seemed to drop throughout the game, although there were some tough hurdles to come their way. The Vees took a 2-0 lead after the first despite being outshot by the Centennials, and the games opening goal came at 12:23 with the Vees on the man advantage. Brett Beauvais moved down to the top of the circle right in the slot, where he took a pass from Ben Dalpe to beat Russell Sanderson with a wrist shot. The Vees were on a 5-on-3 upon the goal, and Merritt was able to kill off the second minor. Anthony Conti put the Vees up by a pair when he plucked a clearing attempt out the air right in front of the Cents' goal, beating Sanderson with a shot through the legs. Sanderson later had his moment of glory, as with just under five minutes to go he made three big stops in a matter of seconds, before swallowing up a wrist shot from the blue line. Sanderson faced 11 shots in the opening period as Merritt fired off 13, despite trailing by a pair.
To match their effort in the opening period, the Centennials came out ready to play once again in the second. Jeff Wight and Devin Oakes worked hard along the end boards as Wight joined Diego Cuglietta on the transition to the left corner, and Cuglietta was able to find the puck on the hash marks where he turned and fired quickly. Cuglietta's 7th of the season puts him within a goal of doubling his rookie goal total. Merritt continued to buzz offensively in the period, but Hunter Miska made all but one save, as Penticton was outshot 15-8 in the period. Late in the period linesman Ryan LeSage became tangled up in traffic in front of the Cents bench and injured his leg, forcing the game to go forward with one referee and one linesman, although the linesman assumed referee duties.
The game resumed in the third with only a pair of officials, but after 3-4 penalties that had fans up in arms, a backup linesman was called in from the crowd to balance the officiating. I don't know his full name, but I have to commend DOUG for stepping in when it was clear the game needed it most. Dane Birks was issued a interference call for a check on Steen Cooper(who had the puck), and Cooper went on to put the Vees up 3-1 just :10 seconds in to the powerplay. 1:20 after that, the Centennials would strike back as Scotty Patterson was set up from Sam Johnson and Sebastien Pare, the start of a big period for them. Brad McClure went on to restore the two goal lead for Penticton, before Johnson scored his 4th of the season to make it 4-3. Pare picked up his 2nd assist as Wayland Williams also had an assist. Patterson would shoot from the hash marks on the left boards to tie the game at 13:55, with McClure off on a Delay of Game penalty. With just :40 seconds left, it was McClure who proved the difference maker as he moved around the left wing circle and snapped a hard low shot past Sanderson to make it 5-4. That score would hold up as the final as the Centennials outshot Penticton 42-29.
The line of Patterson-Johnson-Pare was phenomenal, as well as the unit of Wight-Cuglietta-Oakes. There is good things to say about the other two offensive units which made it easy to like the game the game the Cents played. Devin Oakes played a great game on Wednesday and built on that performance with another strong performance, while Sam Johnson played hands-down his best game of the season. Sam was out 1st intermission guest and I'll have that interview here on this post when we get to Trail, as I'm typing on the bus!
With only 1 point earned through their past 5 games, the Centennials are hungry to get back in to the race atop the Division standings and the battle back starts tonight in Trail. The struggling Smoke Eaters have scored just once in a pair of games in Trail against the Cents, in 5-0 and 6-1 Centennial wins.
Gametime tonight is 7:30, but assuming you won't be making the journey I invite you to join in on the broadcast with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show starting at 7:00 on Q101.
Head to Q101.ca to listen online, or BCHL.ca to watch thru FAST Hockey.