Sunday, February 23, 2014

'Backs Force OT Late Before Sebastien Pare Scores Early Winner For Centennials:

Considering all circumstances, the Merritt Centennials executed their game plan nearly to a tee on Saturday night at Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm, with a 4-3 overtime win coming as a result of a late-game Silverbacks goal to tie it, before Sebastien Pare deflected home the game winner to put Merritt within a point of clinching a playoff spot.

Pare, with an assist as well, received offensive support from Dane Birks, Payton Schaefer and Jake Clifford, who all added singles in the win that saw the Centennials improve to 29-22-4-1 with just 2 games remaining in the regular season. Pare's recent play seems to be back on an upswing with 4 points in his previous 4 games, and he looked confident in Salmon Arm.

Salmon Arm had first line production to start the game as Alex Gillies opened the scoring before Nick Josephs and Cole McCaskill gave the 'Backs life as the extra point has them dropping to 25-22-1-7, 5 points back of Merritt heading in to a do-or-die game in Merritt on Wednesday night.

Wednesday's game is NVIT Night and MSS Night, as the Centennials can clinch a playoff spot for the fifth consecutive season. Details below!

Cole McCaskill fed Landon Smith up the right wing who looked for Alex Gillies before a failed attempt had Evan Anderson calm things down before sending the puck in front on a quick feed that Devin Kero just couldn't get across in time to cover the sweet spot on Gillies' 27th of the year at 2:13 of the first. The Centennials nearly tied it but instead ended up shorthanded as Daniel Nachbaur, our first intermission guest on the broadcast, bumped in to 'Backs netminder Angus Redmond to put Merritt down a man, but the kill wouldn't cause much disruption in the game plan. Just after the midway point of the period on a forward line change, Sebastien Pare had the puck all alone deep in the zone while he waited for his line to complete the change and he fed a set up Payton Schaefer for a top corner snipe to make it 1-1 at 10:32. Dane Birks then got away on a breakaway as he jumped up in the offence off a Adam Tracey clear, resulting in Birks going low backhand as Redmond nearly got it but it trickled past to give Merritt a 2-1 lead. The goal was a result of both of those players reading the transition at a very high pace, and the time of the goal was 15:46. Merritt was outshot 14-9 in an action packed first period at Shaw Centre, as the Cents led 2-1 in to the break.

It was the Centennials who took early momentum in the period with a goal that in my eyes may have been the Q101 Turning Point. Jake Clifford made his usual burst up ice, weaving through player after player, but this time the puck stayed nice and flat on his stick as he cut low to the zone and moved in front of Redmond wrapping the puck past to make it 3-1 Merritt. Oh man, what a beauty. Later in the period, after a pair of saves from Devin Kero and I'm sure a tough puck visual for the ref, the 'Backs made it 3-2 as Nick Josephs poked a sliding puck past Kero to make it 3-2 at 14:08 from Thomas Plese. Salmon Arm outshot Merritt 12-10 in the period, with the Cents taking a 3-2 lead to the break despite being down Dane Birks for the final six minutes of the period after he took a 10 minute misconduct for some post-whistle words.

The third period had some chances both ways as Salmon Arm looked to be playing its' top unit more often along with the depth players, perhaps a sign of fatigue or just as I said on the broadcast, Troy Mick seeing some extra compete in those depth guys'. The Centennials took a penalty late in the game, ironically right after I pointed out that the teams' should be allowed to play the rest of the game 5-on-5 considering whats at stake. Then, Jake Clifford finished his check and was issued a kneeing penalty, as Cole McCaskill put the game winner past Kero :16 seconds in to the powerplay. Evan Anderson picked up the lone assist at 17:19. Both teams made late game bursts' but couldn't get many great scoring chances and regulation expired with Merritt being outshot 38-38 in a 3-3 tie.

It didn't take long in overtime as Jeff Wight held the puck in the left wing corner before chucking it on goal where it caught a piece of Sebastien Pare to get up and over a crouching Redmond to give the Centennials the win just :14 seconds in to overtime. Pare's 13th of the year put the Centennials up to 6-1-4 in extra time. The goal was questioned by many in attendance as well as the Silverbacks bench with the thought the puck may have been either punched or high sticked in. Neither was the 'official' case, as it counted. Devin Kero took the advantage in goal with a phenomenal effort in his first game since February 7th, making 35 of 38 saves.

Speaking of strong games, Pare's name is joined by the likes of Shane Poulsen, Jake Clifford, Adam Tracey, Payton Schaefer and Jeff Wight for players who played very responsible two way games to help their team to the win. The list could go on, to youngster Gavin Gould or veteran leader Scotty Patterson. These players and the rest will be looked to heavily to finish what this group started back in early September, and that is reaching the 2014 Fred Page Cup Playoffs.

The final two home games of the regular season will close out the 58 game schedule by Saturday night, as the Silverbacks visit Merritt on Wednesday before Vernon in in the Nicola Valley on Saturday.

Wednesday's game is NVIT/MSS Night, with free admission for all students as well as the NVIT student families. We invite all fans and community members to come cheer loudly as the Centennials can clinch a playoff spot with a win.

Tune in at 6:30, with puck drop set for 7 PM from the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena!

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