Sunday, November 13, 2011

Centennials Continue Their Winning Ways:

This was is Thursday's Merritt Herald:

Centennials continue their winning ways

By Ian Webster - Merritt Herald
Published: November 10, 2011 1:00 PM
Updated: November 10, 2011 1:52 PM

The Merritt Centennials racked up three more wins this past week – two of them in overtime - to maintain their strong third place position in the BCHL’s Interior Conference standings.

The Cents (22) currently sit just two points back of second place Vernon (24) and only four points behind division-leading Penticton (26).

More importantly, Merritt is beginning to create some breathing space between themselves and the chasing pack. In a fourth-place tie, Chilliwack and Prince George (17) now sit five points in arrears, while Westside (16) is another point back in sixth. At the bottom of the heap are Salmon Arm (12) and Trail (9).

Last Wednesday, in Salmon Arm, a dramatic overtime goal by 20-year-old centre Chad Brears lifted the Centennials to a 3-2 victory over the Silverbacks. The game winner came just 45 seconds into the first period of OT on a great scoring play by the team’s number one forward line of Brears, Evan Stack and Regan Soquila.

Other Cents’ goals on the night were netted by Brent Fletcher and Brendan Lamont in a span of four minutes at the beginning of the second period. It was 17-year-old Lamont’s first goal in the BCHL and a fitting start to a stellar week of play by the über-talented rookie.

Between the pipes, Merritt netminder Tyler Steel was as solid as a rock in turning aside 26 of 28 shots and giving up only one even-strength goal.

Friday night’s rematch between the Cents and Backs at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena was every bit as exciting as Wednesday’s game, especially since the result turned out the same: a 3-2 win for the Centennials, and Brears once again the last-goal hero.

On a night that saw plenty of rubber directed at both goalies (the Cents’ Lino Chimienti and the Backs’ Kurt Williams), the two teams traded goals evenly through the first 40 minutes. Scoring for Merritt were Payton Schaefer in the first period and Brears in the second, while Bryce Gervais and Kody Dhaliwal replied for the visiting Apes.

With time winding down in the third, and another round of overtime seemingly imminent, Brears latched onto a pass from defenseman Richard Sabourin and wired a wicked shot from the left face-off dot past Williams for the game winner.

Chimienti held the fort for the remaining 3:38 of regulation, and the Cents skated off with their second win in three nights over the Silverbacks.

If the two wins over Salmon Arm were the appetizer and the entrée on the weekend menu, then Saturday night’s 3-2 victory over the first-place Vees, in Penticton no less, was indeed the dessert.

The win was especially delicious given that the Cents had not won in the Lakeside city in almost six years – a span of 18 games.

Merritt got off to a great start in Penticton, scoring the game’s first two goals at timely points of the opening stanza. Hard-working Evan Stack tallied at the 5:27 mark on the powerplay, then Billy Marshall added another with just 30 seconds remaining in the period.

The Cents continued to dominate through a scoreless second period, but let things slip in the third. A pair of powerplay goals by Connor Reilly and Grant Nicholson, the latter with less than a minute remaining, evened things on the scoreboard and sent the contest into extra innings.

Victims of an OT loss to the Vees on the same ice one week earlier, the Cents were not about to have history repeat itself in a span of seven days.

Merritt came out four-on-four with guns ablazing, and were promptly rewarded. A tenacious forecheck by Fletcher behind the Vees’ net resulted in a turnover. The 19-year-old Pitt Meadows native fed the biscuit to a pinching Richard Sabourin, and the blueliner made no mistake, putting the puck smartly past Pen stopper Michael Garteig for the victory.

The Cents will be looking to make it four in a row this coming Friday when they host the Prince George Spruce Kings for the first time this season. Game time is 7:30 pm.

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