—— By Roger White

 

Patrick Raferty’s goal with less than three minutes left in the second period held up as the game winner as the Salmon Arm Silverbacks downed the Merritt Centennials 5-2 on Friday night in BCHL action at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (NVMA). The loss snapped the Cents four-game winning streak and gave the Silverbacks their first win over Merritt in three games.

The Cents, who currently occupy sixth place in the Interior Division, got on the scoreboard early on Friday night when Easton Ryan scored his ninth of the season at 3:14 of the opening period. Just over three minutes later, Salmon Arm responded when Ty Paisley picked up a loose puck in the slot and buried it behind Andrew Ballantyne to make it 1-1.

Both teams traded scoring chances early in the second period looking to break the tie when Cole Cooksey scored his 15th of the year at 3:11 to give the Silverbacks the 2-1 lead.

Dylan Wegner tied the contest for the Centennials at 12:09 with his seventh of the season, before a beautiful three-way passing play between Ryan Gillespie and Ty Paisley ended up on Patrick Raferty’s stick who sniped his third of the season to give Salmon Arm a 3-2 at the end of the second period.

Tanner Walos and Nathaniel Davis capped the Salmon Arm victory with third period goals for a 5-2 final.

On Saturday night, Luke Pfoh scored with one minute left in regulation to give the Cents a close 3-2 win over the struggling Prince George Spruce Kings at the NVMA. Michael Felsing (15) and Ray Hamlin (3) also scored for the Centennials while Karlis Mezsargs stopped 32 of 34 shots he faced for his seventh win of the season for the Cents who leapfrogged over the Cranbrook Bucks into sole possession of sixth place in the Interior Division with just eight games remaining in the regular season.

The Centennials are back in action with a pair of pivotal games against Interior division rivals this weekend. On Friday night, the Cents host the Vernon Vipers at the NVMA  at 7 p.m. while Saturday night Merritt will look for their first win over the Penticton Vees in over five years as the Cents head to the South Okanagan Events Centre for a 6 p.m. encounter. NOTE: Friday’s game vs Vernon is Kids night at the NVMA. All children are asked to wear a jersey of their favorite hockey team.