The Merritt Centennials were unsuccessful in this weekend’s attempt at securing any of the six points available to them in a three-game weekend, losing all three and extending their losing streak to six games. The Cents now hold an 11–30–3–2 record with just eight games left in the regular season of the BCHL. The Trail Smoke Eaters currently trump the Cents by 13 points in the Interior Division standings, holding the last playoff spot over Merritt.

Cents at Silverbacks – Road Game, Salmon Arm, February 24

The Cents headed to Salmon Arm’s Shaw Centre for their first game of the week, taking on the Silverbacks in Friday night hockey action. Starting on goal for Merritt was #35 Conor Sullivan, with starting netminder Johnny Hicks still injured. The first period was a slow burn, and strong defensively on both sides of the ice. With the exception of a few minor penalties, the action didn’t start until a slashing call against the Cents’ Carter Schmidt at the 17:42 mark, leading to a man-advantage for Salmon Arm. Silverbacks forward Brandon Santa Juana was able to find the twine behind Sullivan in this time, making it a 1-0 game for Salmon Arm at the end of the first period. 

The second period began similarly, but saw action quicker with another power play goal by Salmon Arm following a hooking penalty against the Cents, making the score 2-0 at the 10 minute mark. The tide shifted briefly the other way when the Centennials score on their own man-advantage just minutes later, bringing the score to a more manageable 2-1. The period would end with this score. 

The third period got off to a flying start, unfortunately for Merritt, with Casy Laylin finding the back of the net quickly to make the score 3-1 for Salmon Arm. Minutes later, following an interference call against the Cents’ Ryan Spinale, Silverback Nathan Mackie scored to make the score 4-1. Not half a minute later, Hayden Stavroff would cement the home team’s lead to 5-1, before the rest of the period would remain scoreless. Final score was 5-1 for Salmon Arm, with the Cents’ Conor Sullivan saving 34/39 in the loss.

Cents at Wild – Home Game, February 25

Saturday’s home game against the BCHL’s lone American team, the Wenatchee Wild, saw the Cents host Mental Health Awareness night in support of the Ty Pozzobon Foundation. The foundation was created six years ago following the tragic death of Merrittonian Ty Pozzobon, a pro bull rider who achieved international success before tragically taking his own life after a battle with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Saturday’s game featured a ceremonial puck drop by the Pozzobon family, ‘chuck a puck’ by donation with proceeds going to the foundation, and plenty of opportunities to learn more and get involved. 

The first period of play got underway with Conor Sullivan once again in goal for Merritt. The period saw mostly defensive action, with shots on goal limited to 14 for the Wild and 8 for the Cents. The Cents garnered two penalties within the first 15 minutes of play, but would also ultimately strike first with a goal by one of the team’s top scorers, Jackson Krill, at the 18:11 mark. The first period ended with the Cents in the lead by 1-0. 

The second period put Wenatchee in the spotlight, with the team dominating both penalties and scoring for the entire frame. After penalties for both interference and roughing within the first half of the period, the Wild straightened up their act with a goal by Luke Weilandt at the 12:58 mark. Wild forward Micah Berger would break the tie and make it 2-1 in favour of Wenatchee with another goal just minutes later.

The third period saw two sets of roughing calls leading to two 4 on 4 scenarios, and more strong defensive play. Only one goal would be scored, by Wenatchee, after the Cents had pulled their goalie in an effort to have more attackers on the ice. After a full 60 minutes of play, the final score was 3-1 for the Wild, with Cents goalie Conor Sullivan saving 39/42 shots on goal in the losing effort.

Cents at Warriors, Road Game, West Kelowna, February 26

The Centennials played one of the BCHL’s two Sunday games this week, taking on West Kelowna’s Warriors at their Royal LePage Place home ice after their major 9-1 defeat to the team last week. Starting in goal for Merritt was AP player Nathan Preston. The Cents’ Sunday afternoon roster also included Jalen McRae, a Merritt-based hockey player and current starting player for the KIJHL’s Princeton Posse. The first period started with Christopher Duclair for the Warriors sneaking one past Preston, opening scoring to make it 1-0 at just the 2:25 mark. The Cents responded with a score-tying goal of their own just minutes later, making it a 1-1 score by was of Jaxson Murray’s 19th goal this season. Unsatisfied with the tie, the Warriors’ Nic Porchetta responded with a goal of his own just 23 seconds later to make the score 2-1. 

The second period was disastrous for the Centennials in their effort to keep the the game within reach. Despite their success at preventing another Warriors goal in the first half of the frame, things quickly devolved from there. Preston was unable to stop a shot from West Kelowna’s Brennan Nelson, who scored to make it a 3-1 game at the 14:07 mark. Less than two minutes later, Ben MacDonald made the score 4-1 with a quick shot to the back of Merritt’s net. At the next faceoff, Michael Salandra with the Warriors would make it away with the puck for a 5-1 game, with West Kelowna scoring 3 within minutes. The remainder of the period saw only penalties. 

The Cents started off with a man-advantage early in the third period, but were unable to capitalize on the opportunity. When the Cents’ Carter Schmidt garnered an interference penalty minutes later, the Warriors score on the power play at 11:10 to further increase their lead to 6-1. Striking fast once again, the Warriors scored again just 30 seconds later, by way of Christopher Duclair’s second of the night. The rest of the period would remain scoreless, for final score of 7-1 for West Kelowna. Nathan Preston saved 42/49 in the loss. 

Next week 

This coming week, the Cents will host both of their two scheduled games. On Friday, March 3, the league-leading Penticton Vees come to Merritt once again for a rematch of last week’s game, where they beat Merritt 7-2. The following night, the Warriors visit from West Kelowna, looking to remain undefeated against this season’s Merritt Centennials. Puck drop for both games is set for 7:00pm at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.