In a whirlwind week of BCHL action that saw the Centennials play three games in four nights, the Merritt squad was able to pick up its first pair of points on the season.
It was quite a strong bounce-back effort for the Cents on Thurs. April 8, just 24 hours after allowing the Prince George Spruce Kings to score in the double digits for a third straight loss.
Yet hitting the ice for game four of the shortened pod season, a quick turnaround had Merritt up 2-0 after twenty minutes of play against the Chilliwack Chiefs in their own barn, thanks to the first of the season from both Walker Erickson and Josh Olson. Erickson capitalized after a nice give-and-go with Brandon Dent, before just over one minute later, Olson shovelled home a rebound after a few deflections in close.
The Chiefs’ Jackson Munro, who spent two season with the Centennials, cut the lead in half just over one minute into the second period with Ben Ward in the box on an early tripping call. Merritt responded with a powerplay marker of their own just before the midway point of the game, when rookie Alexander Ochitwa found the back of the net for the first time in his junior hockey career.
A couple more Chilliwack goals snuck their way past Cents goaltender Josh Dias in the frame, along with one from Merritt’s Jake McLean, to close out the game’s scoring with a 4-3 final for the Centennials.
The win was not only the first of the year for the Cents, but the first loss of the season for the Chiefs.
Dias was named the first star of the game, in the win, making 36 stops on 39 shots.
After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter told Cents play-by-play man Jared Thomas that the team seems to be learning how to play together.
“We are learning how to win together, and we learned that we have a pretty resilient group here. I’m really proud of the effort they showed tonight to bounce back after some hard conversations earlier today.”
Back at it on Saturday night against the Spruce Kings, Dias once again saw plenty of action, facing 14 shots in the first period alone. Only a breakaway could fool the first-year tender, with Prince George’s Andrew Seaman deking to the backhand to beat an outstretched Dias.
From there on out it was a goalie battle between Dias and Prince George’s Aaron Trotter, with neither side able to find the back of the net until Spruce King Nick Rheaume scored four minutes into the final frame.
The Cents were shutout for the first time this season, despite throwing 20 shots on net. Dias once again earned one of the star of the game spots, coming third in making 34 saves.
Another close battle followed on Sunday in a rematch with the Chiefs, when the Cents came up just short of a comeback in the third period.
Going down 3-0 through the first forty minutes, Jerzy Orchard and Josh Olson both scored their second of the year in the third, though the Cents came up short in a 3-2 loss. Dias once again had a stellar performance in making 31 stops.
Through the first six games of the year, the Cents hold onto a 1-5-0 record, four points back of the Spruce Kings in the three-team pod division in Chilliwack. The Chiefs lead the division with a record of 4-1-0.
Merritt returned to the ice against the Chiefs Wednesday night following press time, while the next game goes Fri. April 16 against the Spruce Kings. Puck drop is set for 5p.m.