Cents fortunate to earn another weekend split

By on November 29, 2017
Merritt Centennials’ players mob teammate Henry Cleghorn (somewhere in the pile) after his dramatic overtime goal gave the Cents’ a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the visiting Trail Smoke Eaters on Saturday night. (Ian Webster/Herald).


For the second weekend in a row, the Merritt Centennials played just well enough to split their pair of games against BCHL opponents.

After being thumped 7-2 on the road by the West Kelowna Warriors at Royal LePage Place on Friday night, the Cents returned home Saturday and managed to rebound for a 3-2 overtime win against the visiting Trail Smoke Eaters.

It was Brendan Schneider who got the Centennials to extra innings versus the Smokies, scoring the equalizing goal with just 2:22 remaining in the third period.

That set the scene for Henry Cleghorn’s thrilling overtime winner, at 3:07 of four-on-four play. It was just Merritt’s second OT victory in five tries this season.

Up until the third period, the Smoke Eaters had been the better of the two teams, and full value for their one-goal lead. Had it not been for netminder Austin Roden, the gap on the scoreboard might have been greater.

Centennials’ head coach and GM Joe Martin said sometimes a few big plays decide hockey games, and that’s what happened on Saturday night.

“When you’re not playing the greatest, a few players can make the difference,” the coach said. “Austin came up big for us early, and we got a couple of key goals late.”

Martin was very happy to see the OT winner go in.

Henry Cleghorn’s dad, Charlie, and friends, Hanna Lalonde and Brianna Hackl, all wore expressions of relief and disbelief following Saturday night’s thrilling finish. (Ian Webster/Herald).

“Just a great effort by Zach [Zorn] to keep the puck in, and then get it to Henry. It was a confident play,” he said.

The night before, Martin said his team failed to respond when things went a bit south for Jake Berger in net.

“[Jake’s] bailed us out many times in the past. We owed him one, but it didn’t happen.” 

The Cents will look to build on Saturday’s dramatic OT win this coming weekend, with rematches against West Kelowna (at home on Friday night) and Trail (on the road Saturday).

Martin will be absent from the weekend games, as well as five more games in December, as he fulfills his duties to Hockey Canada.

Martin is an assistant coach with Team Canada West. He leaves on Friday for the selection camp in Calgary, followed by the 2017 World Junior A Challenge in Truro, Nova Scotia from Dec. 10 to 14.


Friday, Nov. 24

West Kelowna 7 Merritt 2

Despite a slow start, falling behind 2-0, and taking six of the seven penalties called in the second period, the Cents were trailing only by a goal after 40 minutes and still in this one. Then the proverbial roof fell in. Three West Kelowna tallies early in the third — in a span of three minutes and 14 seconds — chased Jake Berger from the game and the rout was on. Merritt’s trips to the sin bin kept happening. The most telling statistic in this forgettable game: West Kelowna two goals on 12(!) powerplay opportunities; Merritt zero for four.

Saturday, Nov. 25

Merritt 3 Trail 2 OT

Not sure the Centennials had any business winning this one, but, boy, did they need the victory in a big way. The Smokies had four APs in the lineup and still dominated for two periods (outshooting the Cents 24-10). Another sparkling effort by Austin Roden between the pipes is all that kept Merritt in the contest. The home team finally woke up in the third, and was rewarded with a big-time break — Brendan Schneider burying a gift off the glass for the equalizer with just 2:22 remaining in regulation. Fittingly, the OT heroes were best friends Zach Zorn and Henry Cleghorn — the former tenaciously working the puck off the sideboards to the latter, who put the winner away in style. Something to build on.    

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