Saturday, January 18, 2014

Centennials Knock Off Vees And Close Season Series On Friday In 2-1 Win:

After a early-second period penalty shot, Diego Cuglietta opened the scoring on a two-on-one, giving the Centennials plenty of life in a 2-1 win over the Penticton Vees on Friday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena in front of a season-best 843 fans.

Daniel Nachbaur also showed off some offensive flash, splitting the D midway through the third to give the Centennials the lead, while Devin Kero made 35 of 36 saves in the game for his 15th win of the season, as the Cents improved to 22-17-3-1.

Penticton got a lone marker from team scoring leader Brad McClure, who took a net-front feed just :07 seconds in to the third from Brett Beauvais in the corner. Hunter Miska went the distance in goal with an injured Olivier Mantha, as Miska made 21 of 23 saves dropping the Vees to 27-11-2-3.

The two teams will not meet again until the potential chance to meet in the Interior Division playoffs, as the Centennials finish the season series with Penticton at 2-3-1-1, good for 6 of 12 points.

The Centennials have a seven day break before a trip to Coquitlam next Friday, 24 hours prior to hosting the Vernon Vipers.

You could sense the clubs butted head in the opening period, as one team would work the puck to centre then deep in the zone, then the other team would come right back out. There were a few good scoring chances in the period as Adam Tracey got a couple shots away but was stopped by the pad of Miska at the side of the net. Late in the opening period, the Vees would produce a couple non-glorious but still present scoring opportunities, but Kero was sharp and ready to go on this night. Penticton outshot Merritt 11-9 in the first, while a Zach Hartley penalty marked the only man advantage, though Merritt fans disagreed and thought the Cents deserved a powerplay of their own.

Early in the second, the Cents would get their man advantage as Shane McColgan carelessly launched his stick up to the face of Jeff Wight(may have been Payton Schaefer?), who got up after a few moments and returned to play shortly after. Merritt was unable to muster up any good chances before Diego Cuglietta was sent to the box for holding the stick. After his penalty expired, Cuglietta broke free on a breakaway but was hauled by down a Penticton player. That marked the 2nd penalty shot in the season series. Cuglietta tried to go glove side but Miska was there to reject it. A couple shifts after that, Cuglietta went to work again, picking up a 2-on-1 rush with Tracey, where Cuglietta opted to shoot blocker side to open the scoring. His 11th of the season came at 9:52, Jeff Wight and Shane Poulsen got the assists. Merritt would go on to be outshot 10-9 in the period, but came away with the only goal as Sebastien Pare and Dane Birks both received late period penalties. 

Photo Credit Ian Webster - Merritt Herald
To start the third, I don't think anyone in the building expected that the Vees would get on the board so quickly. Off the Nic Pierog face-off win, Brett Beauvais moved the puck deep in to the left corner before he threw it out front and had the puck go off Brad McClure and by Kero, to make it 1-1. The time of the goal was just 7 seconds in to the third. Daniel Nachbaur knew he could carry the team and you could see it in his skating stride, especially just prior to the midway point of the period as he kept the puck in front of him and sped through the Vees defenders, pulling the puck to his backhand to the side of Miska, beating the Vees netminder to gives the Cents the 2-1 lead. Penticton got a powerplay late in the game but the Centennials PK was on the ball, and with an empty net the Vees pressured but couldn't get anything past Devin Kero, or the rock solid Centennial defenders. Shane McColgan took another 10 minute misconduct at the end of the game, his 2nd in as many games since joining Penticton. McColgan did not make an impact in the game and has been held pointless in two games, while the Vees have scored just twice in their last two games. Penticton outshot Merritt 36-23, but the Centennials earned the victory by a score of 2-1.

When you look up and down the Centennials lineup, there weren't a lot of blemishes. A few too many penalties, some of them definitely avoidable, but at the end of the night it was a team effort that had the guys taking advantage of nearly every opportunity that presented, whether it was a goal or just a chance to clear the zone. You can't say enough of Devin Kero, who flies down to Air Force Academy on Saturday, Kero was phenomenal yet again in goal. Jason Bird again was solid for the Cents, and he looks to really fit in, especially playing with Shane Poulsen. 

It's a whole week off for the Centennials now, who will relax on Saturday and Sunday before heading back to the rink on Monday for practise. Game action will resume on Friday night with the 22-17-3-1 Cents visiting the 20-18-1-3 Coquitlam Express. 

The next home game goes Saturday of next weekend, when the Vernon Vipers are back in the Nicola Valley. Looking forward to seeing Graham Turnbull, Duncan Wray, Jason Williamson and company. 

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