The Merritt Centennials opened up a three game Island swing the best way possible on Friday night, upending the Powell River Kings by a 4-1 score to take a 3 point lead in fourth in the Interior.
Jason Bird provided his first goal as a Cent in the late first, before he added a powerplay marker shortly after as Zach Hartley and Gavin Gould provided singles for the 27-20-4-1 Centennials.
Scoring for Powell River was Aidan Wright, which opened the scoring in the game but surrendering four unanswered goals drops Powell River to 32-15-2-4 with their fifth straight loss.
Jarrod Schamerhorn improved to 2-1 with a 35 save performance, while at the other end Jonah Imoo was relieved after the first and Jeff Smith went the distance, finishing with 17 of 18 saves.
The Centennials are now on the boat over to the Island for a Saturday night matchup in Cowichan Valley.
The Kings got on the board first as a faceoff in the offensive zone was won back by Drew Dorantes where Aidan Wright met it and fired a point shot that beat Schamerhorn. That was about it for the dangers of the Kings as their 10-2 shot lead finished with the Centennials going on a similar run to end the period. Jason Bird opened the scoring for Merritt as he made the most of an even strength opportunity which had him use patience and wait until the clearing following an attempted shot block, as Bird shot past goaltender Jonah Imoo with a hard shot on the far side of the post. Within two minutes later Bird added another on the power play as he rushed from his own zone up the left-wing before firing a quick snapshot on the near side of goaltender Imoo. Just over 45 seconds later the puck slid down to the bottom of the left circle off a poke-check from Jake Clifford, before Zach Hartley was able to fire off a quick snapshot to put the Centennials in front. That was the score after one, 3-1 Merritt as the Kings 'n Cents tied 13-13 in shots.
Late in the first period, Danny Nachbaur and Jordan Burns squared up at centre ice with Nachbaur connected with a few quick left jabs and nearly an uppercut before the two were wrestled to the ice and headed to the rooms until their early-second period returns.
To start the second, Jeff Smith replaced Imoo, who allowed 3 goals on 9 shots in the opening period. The second didn't provide much offensive excitement, more so just a good road period as the Centennials kept scoring opportunities to a minimal. Shots after forty minutes of play were 21-21, with the Centennials continuing to lead 3-1 in to the break.
Midway through the third, the Centennials took advantage of a chance to seal the fate of the Kings as Gavin Gould got a beautiful pass from Nachbaur; who received an even more beautiful drop pass between the legs from Diego Cuglietta inside the blue line prior to beating goaltender Jeff Smith on a forehand backhand deke, taking a 4-1 lead and knocking all life out of the Hap Parker Arena.
As Luke Pierce said on the post game show, rather than credit one guy the game can easily be looked at as an example of team-first success.
The Cents make their lone visit to the 'Big Stick' in Duncan on Saturday night to face the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
Puck drops at 7:00, with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show beginning at 6:30.
With a win, the Centennials could take the first of two games in hand they will eventually have on the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, who currently trail Merritt by 3 points with both clubs looking at 6 games remaining.