Cents stumble at home
The Merritt Centennials failed to impress on their opening weekend at home.
Despite a line-up laden with no fewer than 14 veterans, the Cents demonstrated a notable lack of discipline and an inability to hold a lead in a pair of losses to BCHL Interior Conference rivals.
Friday, against the Trail Smoke Eaters, and in front of a boisterous crowd of over 800 fans, Merritt forged a three-goal lead in a span of just over eight minutes at the start of the second period. Brandon Bruce, Silvan Harper and Billy Marshall all tallied.
Rather than bury the Smokies, the Cents let them up off the ground and back into the game.
Starting at 14:55 of the middle frame, Trail scored five unanswered goals to win 5-3. The first three tallies came on the powerplay as Cents’ players began a steady parade to the sin bin for indiscretions on the ice and on the bench.
In total, the Centen-nials took 13 of 20 penalties assessed by referee Brandon Liefke, including an instigator and game misconduct, a bench minor, and four roughing calls.
Merritt’s starting netminder Lino Chimienti could not be faulted on any of the four goals he let in as Trail went 3-for-8 with the man advantage, while the Cents managed one goal on just three PP opportunities.
Saturday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Westside Warriors followed a somewhat similar script as the Centennials again got the early jump with goals by Brandon Pfeil and Jakob Reichert in the first 10 minutes of the opening period.
Perhaps informed of the Cents’ self-destruction the night before, the Warriors responded with four straight goals of their own - two on the powerplay - over the course of the next 20 minutes.
To their credit, the Centennials didn’t fold. With less than five minutes remaining in the third period, first rookie Brendan Lamont and then ex-WHLer Brandon Bruce scored to send the contest into overtime.
The game winner came in the second period of OT with the teams playing 3-aside. Crafty Max French stripped the puck from a Merritt defender and slipped it 5-hole on Cents’ netminder Tyler Steel for the Westside victory.