It had been nearly two weeks since a home game, and nearly a month since the last home ice win, and Tuesday night had the Merritt Centennials show exactly how much they appreciated home ice in a 4-1 win over the visiting Vernon Vipers.
Jeff Wight was one of several difference makers in the game, as his goal to make it 2-0 and assist to make it 3-0 helped him to 1st Star honors, along with an empty netter to seal the deal in the dying seconds, giving him 17 on the season. Diego Cuglietta ended the game as the 2nd Star, finishing with a goal(10th) and an assist, and Jason Bird earned the 3rd Star with his first point as a Cent against his former team.
Rhett Willcox set up Adam Tracey for the goal to open the scoring in the second, with Willcox taking the Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game. Tracey's 7th of the year came well deserved, as did Willcox and Zach Hartley with the assists. The all-rookie line played a great game and was given encouraging words from Head Coach Luke Pierce on the Q101 Post Game Show.
Devin Kero was sharp when called upon, making 21 saves on 22 shots. At the other end, Austin Smith seen 33 shots from Centennial sticks, including 16 in the second period. Smith made 30 saves, with the final tally going in to the empty net, just.
Ryan Renz scored the lone goal for Vernon, as he moved in with a in tight backhand that beat Kero for Renz' 3rd of the season. Renz was paired with former-Cent Dylan Chanter, as Chanter returned to Merritt for the first time since the 2012/13 playoffs.
With the win, the Centennials now sit at 21-17-3-1 on the season with 46 points, which is enough for 4th in the Interior Division. Also tied for the final playoff spot is the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, who have one less victory than the Cents this season.
Merritt finished 1-for-5 on the man aadvantage, improving to 4-for-16 against the Vipers in the season series, while Vernon went 0-for-3 to fall to 3-for-22 against Merritt.
The next game for the Centennials is Friday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena as the Cents take on the Penticton Vees. Puck drop is 7:30, with the Q101 broadcast beginning at 7:00.