Saturday, February 1, 2014

Centennials Take Double OT Thriller Over Warriors:

It took nearly the entire 70 possible minutes of hockey to determine a result between the Merritt Centennials and West Kelowna Warriors on Friday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, as Sam Johnson put home the overtime winner in the final minute of the second overtime with his 7th of the season.

The goal came off the stick of Adam Tracey, who forced an odd man rush for the now 24-18-4-1 Centennials, who also got a stellar performance in goal from Devin Kero, who made 41 saves. Scott Patterson opened the scoring under four minutes in to the game with his team-leading 24th of the season.

West Kelowna tied the game midway through the third period off a point shot from Taki Pantziris, with Liam Blackburn and David Pope picking up helpers. Andy Desautels was equally sharp in the Warriors net, making 37 of 39 stops for 28-12-3-3 West Kelowna.

The Centennials are back on the road on Saturday night, with a journey to the Cominco Arena in Trail, details below.

The game would start just as it would finish; quick pace and action packed. Early in the opening period, both teams exchanged scoring chances before a face-off to the right of the Warriors goaltender was won by Payton Schaefer, and Sebastien Pare set up Scotty Patterson in the high slot with a quick shot that opened the scoring just 3:54 in to the first. Both teams developed as much as they could in the first but with the smaller rink in Merritt, fans definitely saw playoff-like pace to the game early and often. The only penalties of the period struck late as Rhett Willcox and Jordan Masters became tangled up in the corner, leading to pushes and shoves, unfortunately for the spark plug Willcox he is playing with a cage otherwise may have wanted to shed the mitts. The teams finished the period closely playing back and forth, with Merritt up 1-0 and 11-10 in shots. 

The second period provided plenty of action with big defensive, offensive and goaltending plays throughout the period. Merritt put up 15 shots and West Kelowna 10, so there was no shortage of shots toward the 'tenders. Malik Kaila was given plenty of chances to play with Sam Johnson and Gavin Gould up front in the game, and with the help of Johnson's leadership played as solid of a game as any other forward on the roster. Kaila, along with Shane Poulsen, were both assessed penalties in the period for stick infractions, while the Centennials penalty kill looked composed and strong, clearing the puck safely each opportunity. Merritt and West Kelowna wrapped up the second with the Cents up 1-0 on the scoreboard, looking for their first win over West Kelowna since March 18th, 2013. 

In to the third period... West Kelowna came out with plenty of jump and you could see an extra sense of pep in their stride, but as much as the Warriors improved, Merritt also looked to step their defensive game up in the expected burst from West K. The line of Adam Tracey, Rhett Willcox and Zach Hartley was buzzing all night and burst in on a shorthanded rush(minus Hartley at the time) with a huge stop being made by the goaltender for the Warriors. West Kelowna tied the game at 9:16 as the Centennials couldn't clear the puck as Liam Blackburn set up Taki Pantziris on the right point, and his quick and hard snap shot may have been deflected as it beat Kero from the blue line. The teams both played fairly conservative for the rest of regulation protecting the point they each could guarantee. West Kelowna outshot Merritt 36-33 in regulation, as the teams headed to OT tied 1-1.

The first overtime seen mostly back and forth attempts that never developed in to much. West Kelowna looked to have possession when Adam Tracey picked up a puck in his own zone and started up the left wing boards. Sam Johnson slipped to the open right wing on a 2-on-1 rush with Tracey, who had to fight through defenders to get the pass across to Johnson, who fired a quick shot far side of Desautels, sending the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena in to an uproar as the bench poured off and celebrated near centre ice. Tracey picked up the lone assist on Johnson's 7th goal of the season. Tracey has now put up 13 points in his last 15 games. 

The Cents are on the road to Trail on Saturday morning for their final visit of the 13/14 season to the Cominco Arena. Merritt and Trail met to an 8-1 Cents win on Tuesday in Merritt, so expect the Smoke Eaters to come out with a bit more jump.

Game time is 7:30, with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show beginning at 7:00 on Q101 and! 

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