Diego Cuglietta scored a pair in a span of under twenty seconds for his 15th and 16th goals of the season, while Adam Tracey tied the game and put the Cents back in front with his 10th and 11th notches of his rookie season. Jarrod Schamerhorn took home his first full victory in a Centennials uniform, making 26 of 28 saves as the Cents improved to 26-19-4-1.
With the 'Dogs falling to 17-27-2-6, Scott Clark and Justin Georgeson put Alberni on the board while former Centennial Connor LaCouvee made several key saves, totalling 37 of 41 saves.
Merritt now travels to West Kelowna on Tuesday, with spots still open on the fan bus for fans that wish to cheer the team on on the road.
With two teams that haven't seen each other yet this season going at it in an important game, you could tell there was an unequal sense of balance early on. Both teams had their opportunities as risks were kept fairly minimal. Scott Clark wheeled the puck in to the offensive zone off a defensive zone face-off and he was able to feed it out to the glove side slot of Schamerhorn where Harlan Orr sent home a quick shot that perhaps came against the flow of the play leading up to the goal. Jake Kaupilla, former Smoke Eater, also picked up an assist at 2:05. LaCouvee showed his true colours when he robbed a couple of Centennials, including Wayland Williams who walked in with a wrist shot and had the puck deflect just on to the back of the goaltender but no one could force it in to tie the game up. Merritt outshot Alberni Valley 17-8 in the first but couldn't beat a goaltender that seemingly came with some extra motivation, 1-0 Island Dogs.
In the second period the Centennials came out looking like they definitely wanted to knot the game up, and a great chance was created when Payton Schaefer built up a chance for Scotty Patterson who hit iron from the side boards and had Jason Bird nearly get an unexpected shot from the point as Schaefer dug away net-side for the puck that wasn't there. The offence did convert when Devin Oakes fed the puck to Wayland Williams who slid down in to the high slot and fired a shot at LaCouvee that caught him under the arm and rolled out for Adam Tracey who reached out and poked it past the Bulldog netminder to make it 1-1 at 6:16 from Oakes and Zach Hartley. Schamerhorn later made his best save 8:55 in to the period as Hunter Stewart got him sliding across his net to keep his pads tight to the ice surface. Merritt outshot Alberni 12-9 in the period with the game tied at 1, and the middle period felt more like the teams hadn't played each other yet this season, bit of tension on the ice.
Things loosened up for the Cents in the third period as they came out a lot smoother and to Alberni's credit, so did they. Early in the period, it was the Centennials who got the bounce they needed as Devin Oakes forced the puck to Adam Tracey in the high slot, who somehow had the puck fling off his stick toward Zach Hartley, where it caught a piece of either Hartley or a Bulldog defender to make it 2-1 Cents at 2:54 with the entire line having played a great game and deservingly earned a point(or two) each. Oakes then set up Jason Bird for a quick moving rush and LaCouvee again made a great save to keep his team in the game. It's funny how in hockey one bad play can cost a team the game, but that's exactly what happened as Diego Cuglietta and James Neil came in on a 2-on-1 with Neil feeding Cuglietta to beat LaCouvee at 10:44 to make it 3-1 Merritt. Neil and Jeff Wight picked up helpers. Back in to the zone they went, that line that was men amongst boys in the game, and Diego Cuglietta showed off his hand-eye by batting a puck out of mid air a foot beneath the crossbar to make it 4-1 Centennials just :18 seconds later, taking most of the life out of the Bulldogs bench. Neil and Tyler Martin had the assists. Credit the Bulldogs for not completely giving up, as Justin Georgeson stayed close to the net and got a shot to somehow ride up and over Schamerhorn with just 1:48 to go. Harlan Orr got his second assist of the night with the score then reading 4-2, and with an empty net the Centennials attempted for Cuglietta and Tracey to get the hat trick but the final buzzer sounded before any success could be found but the real success was there on the board with the Cents taking an important two points on home ice. 4-2 final, with the Cents outshooting the 'Dogs 41-28.
As I said, two of the Centennials lines tonight were very good but that doesn't come without saying the Patterson unit and the Johnson line with AP Luke Santerno didn't look great. Santerno, namely, played without a doubt a BCHL style game and I look forward to this kid being in the league next season, can hope that it's for Merritt. Cuglietta, with 9 points in his last 5 games, was up to his usual 'super-Diego' self on Saturday night.
These teams are going to meet once more next season as the Centennials visit the Dog Pound, as well as Powell River and Cowichan Valley. But first... Big game in West Kelowna, read below.
Warriors... Cents... Fan Bus! Been looking forward to this event all year, let's fill up these last six spots on the bus to get the wheels on the road!
The Centennials are in West Kelowna on Tuesday night for a 7:00 game, with the fan bus set to take off the Memorial Arena at 5:00 PM, so there is time to get home and clean up! Scheduled return is before midnight so you can get your beauty rest :)
Listen to Tuesday's game live at 6:30 with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show with yours truly, head online to Q101.ca for a listen live link!