The Merritt Centennials failed to gain any points off of both their games this weekend, adding two more losses to the board with just four games now remaining in the BCHL season. With their 12–33–3–2 record and their 15 point deficit to the Trail Smoke Eaters, the Cents are once again the lone Interior Division team without a playoff spot this season.
Cents at Wild – Home Game, Friday, March 10
The Cents hosted the first of their two games this weekend, hosting the league’s lone American team at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. The Cents’ roster, marred by injury and stacked with AP players, struggled to make any headway throughout the complete derailment at the hands of the Wenatchee Wild. The first period began with Conor Sullivan in goal for Merritt, with the defensive line mostly unable to protect him. The Wild opened up scoring at the 3:50 mark, with defenseman Lucas Marshall scoring his first BCHL goal. Ean Somoza, one of Wenatchee’s leading scorers, followed the goal with another just two minutes later to make the game 2-0. The rest of the period would see only one more goal, also by Somoza, who scored his second of the night quickly despite Wenatchee being shorthanded following a boarding penalty. Going into the second period, the score was 3-0.
The second period started off slow, but things were quickly back in Wenatchee’s favour following a cross-checking penalty against the Cents’ Diego Johnson. During the power play, Parker Murray with the Wild found the back of the net to make the score 4-0. Less than a full minute later, Wenatchee’s Cade Littler would increase his teams lead to five points with a quick shot to the back of Sullivan’s net. After some defensive play, the Wild would rally again to increase the score to 6-0, with centre Alexios Georgaklis scoring the goal. That would be the last straw for Conor Sullivan, who was pulled in favour of Cents AP goalie Ryder Gregga, making his BCHL debut. After a decent start, Gregga let another goal in by Ean Somoza, who completed his hat trick and made the score 7-0 following a Cents cross-checking call. Jason Stefanek and Micah Berger, both of Wenatchee, scored the final scores of the period before the buzzer sounded at 9-0.
The third period was heavier in penalties than it was in scoring, with the Cents picking up six total minutes in the sin bin, while Wenatchee served none. Jason Stefanek scored his second goal of the night to open up scoring in the third period, making it a double digit 10-0 game for Wenatchee just 44 seconds in. Scoring would cease until halfway through the period, when Micah Berger scored once again to put the Wild 11 points up. Just 18 seconds later, Luke Weilandt would make the score 12-0 as spectators cringed at the sight of the scoreboard. Looking to make it a baker’s dozen, the Wild score once more before the final buzzer, with Garrett Szydlowski’s goal making it a 13-0 shutout final. Conor Sullivan saved 19/25 in the loss, while AP goalie Ryder Gregga saving 16/23.
Cents at Vees – Road Game, Saturday, March 11
After the catastrophic loss to Wenatchee, the Cents hit the road to take on the Penticton Vees at their home South Okanagan Events Centre. Playing in front of a crowd of nearly 3000, the pressure was on. Conor Sullivan was back behind the crease following a tough loss the night before. The Cents struck first this game, with Cents defenseman Sam Lewis finding the back of the Vees net just over two minutes into the game. The goal, which was Lewis’ fist in the league, put the Cents at an early 1-0 lead. Less than two minutes later, Josh Nadeau, Vees forward and leading scorer alongside his brother Bradly Nadeau, would find the net behind Sullivan for the equalizer. Things soon got chippy with Frank Djurasevic of the Vees and Centennial Carter Schmidt both finding themselves in hot water following a confrontation. Late in the period, following a boarding call against the Cents’ Dylan Emerson, Bradly Nadeau found the back of the net to make it 2-1 during the man advantage.
The second period was one of the best the Cents have had against Penticton this season, limiting the Vees to just one goal, while answering with one of their own. Nic DeGraves of Penticton opened up scoring at the 4:06 mark, making the score 3-1 for the Vees. The Cents answered back two minutes later, with Maddix McCagherty scoring his first BCHL goal in 15 games with the team. The remainder of the period saw little action, with the exception of a four minute high-sticking penalty against Penticton’s Dovar Tinling. The score was 3-2 moving into the third period.
Keeping the score within one goal, the Cents were hungry to get back into the lead and pick up their first win against Penticton this season in the third period. Unfortunately for Merritt, Bradly Nadeau would open up scoring at the 2:46 mark to make it 4-2 for the Vees. However, the Cents were able to keep the comeback dream alive a short while longer thanks to a goal by Diego Johnson just a few minutes later. Carter Schmidt garnered himself another misconduct penalty not long after, leading officials to expel him from the remainder of the game, along with a stint in the sin bin for Mark Thurston on a blow to the head call. Things only got worse from there, with Josh Nadeau capitalizing on the man advantage to make it a 5-3 score. The Vees would only solidify this lead before the final buzzer, scoring one more by way of Brett Moravec’s empty net goal for a 6-3 final. Sullivan saved 54/59 in the tough loss.
The Cents hit the road for both of their games this coming weekend, heading south of the border to Wenatchee on Friday, before repatriating to Penticton the following night. The Cents play at 7:05 p.m. Friday, followed by a 6:00 p.m. puck drop on Saturday.