Saturday, February 22, 2014

Shaking It Off; Centennials Off To Salmon Arm Looking To Rebound:

With a chance to put a stranglehold on the final playoff spot in the division with a win on Friday night, the Merritt Centennials failed to come out of the gates with the same ethic that had led them to much success this season; falling 5-3 to the West Kelowna Warriors to take just a single win out of the season series.

Goals came from Tyler Martin(4th), Adam Tracey(12th) and Sam Johnson(8th), all deservingly so as only a handful of players showed that they could lead the team on a night where frustration settled in equally for the 850 fans in attendance as it did players on the bench. Jarrod Schamerhorn made 26 of 31 saves in the loss.

For West Kelowna, offence came wide spread as David Pope opened the scoring before Tyson Dallman, Seb Lloyd and Brett Mennear added tallies to keep Merritt at arms reach, before Adam Osczevski sealed the deal late in the game. Andy Desautels was strong in goal making 41 of 44 saves.

With the loss, the Centennials fall to 28-22-4-1 on the year with a four point lead on Salmon Arm heading to the Shuswap on Saturday night, before hosting the 'Backs on home ice on Wednesday.

Although the Warriors took the only goal of the opening period, Merritt created good chances as the Centennials rushed in on a 3-on-1 rush with Gavin Gould looking swift in the early going. David Pope opened the scoring with a quick shot that showed exactly what got him drafted, his 22nd of the season came at 10:31 from Carl Hesler and Braden Pears. Jeff Wight got another big chance for the Centennials after Diego Cuglietta and Jake Clifford went to work in setting him up, but Desautels stopped a good backhand from Wight's stick. After twenty minutes, WK led 1-0 and had a 15-10 shot advantage at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.

Tyson Dallman got the Warriors up a pair 6:02 in to the second as he crossed the blue line and chucked a puck low and hard toward Schamerhorn, beating the Cents netminder five-hole. Matt Anholt and Reid Simmonds got the assists.  Sebastien Pare was cutting out of the offensive zone when a pair of Warriors pulled a guillotine on him, with Tyson Dallman being ejected for an elbowing minor. Later in the period, with Pare ironically serving a penalty, Centennials d-man and captain Tyler Martin jumped up in a shorthanded rush with Sam Johnson and made it count as he flew up the left and got a pass from Johnson before beating Desautels to give Merritt life with just :45 seconds left in the period. Merritt outshot Kelowna 11-9 in the period but trailed 2-1 on the board, taking life in to the third. 

It was an odd start to the third, with a span of 2:33 seeing each team score a pair of goals. First, at 4:33 it was Seb Lloyd who tipped a weak shot from Braden Pears past Schamerhorn to make it 3-1, with Simmonds also getting a helper. :41 seconds later, Brett Mennear made it 4-1 when the Centennials failed to clear the zone. Adam Oszcevski had the lone assist. :25 seconds after that one, the Cents struck back as Devin Oakes and Zach Hartley worked together to get Adam Tracey the puck in the slot to make it 4-2 on Tracey's 12th of the season. Just over a minute after that, at 7:05, with the Centennials now on a powerplay, Dane Birks sent a shot through from the point that caught Sam Johnson's stick to make it a one goal game, 4-3 Warriors. Payton Schaefer also drew in an assist with 12:55 left in the third. Scott Patterson forced a two-on-zero rush late in the period but a shot was handled easily by the Warriors goaltender. Adam Osczevski restored the two goal lead with 3:36 to go in regulation as he walked out from behind the net and quickly fired a short side shot past Schamerhorn to make it 5-3, the eventual final. Merritt outshot West Kelowna 20-7 in the period, but lost the hockey game 5-3 while outshooting the Warriors 41-31. 

If Friday's game wasn't important, Saturday's definitely is. The Shaw Centre welcomes the Cents and Salmon Arm Silverbacks at 7:00 for the final time on the regular season. The 'Backs are four points back of Merritt, and have one less game played. As Luke Pierce says, keys to tonight's game are simple, "WIN".

6:30 pre-game show on Q101, I'll have the call online at! Should be a barn burner from the Shuswap. PS- roads to Salmon Arm look good today, hop on the road and come cheer on the boys!

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