Friday, February 14
Merritt 4 Powell River 1
Despite a 12-hour bus and ferry journey that started at 5 a.m. Friday morning in Merritt, the Centennials were the team with more jump at night as they upset the Powell River Kings 4-1 on their home ice.
“It was a very gutsy performance, a full team effort,” said Cents head coach and GM Luke Pierce. “We knew that we would have to weather the storm early, but I thought that we countered very well.”
After the Kings took an early 1-0 lead, it was Jason Bird’s first two goals as a Centennial — less than two minutes apart — that sparked his team’s effort the rest of the way.
“The scoring thing has been weighing on [Jason] a bit since he’s been here,” said Pierce. “For him to get two real quick ones back-to-back was big for us.”
Zach Hartley and Gavin Gould also scored for good measure in one of Merritt’s best road outings of the season. Jarrod Schamerhorn was outstanding in the Merritt net, stopping 35 of 36 Kings’ shots.
“[Powell River] didn’t get a lot of good looks,” said Pierce, “and when they did get pucks on net, Jarrod was there to make the stop.”
The Cents went one-for-seven on the powerplay, and successfully killed off all nine man-advantage opportunities for Powell River.
Saturday, February 15
Merritt 4 Cowichan Valley 3
“If Friday’s performance was gutsy, then Saturday’s was just a very determined effort,” said Cents head coach and GM Luke Pierce.
Sebastien Paré’s goal just 33 seconds into the first overtime period was the difference in the Cents’ 4-3 victory over the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Saturday night.
“Dane [Birks] got the puck on a turnover,” said Pierce. “He went down the wing and put a low shot on net. Sebastien was there to stuff home the rebound.”
After another tough travel day, the Cents again gave up the game’s first goal before settling down and finding their groove. Wayland Williams tied things at 1-1 late in the first, and Diego Cuglietta scored goals in the second and third periods to keep things knotted at 3-3 and set the table for Paré’s heroics in OT.
“Wayland had a great weekend,” said Pierce. “He’s really starting to find his comfort level. And Diego and Sebastien came through when we needed them.”
Jarrod Schamerhorn was good again in the Merritt net stopping 19 shots. Two of the Caps’ three goals came on a pair of powerplays in the second period.
Sunday, February 16
Alberni Valley 2 Merritt 1
The Cents came awfully close to the weekend sweep, losing 2-1 to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon.
“When you win the first two, you want to win that third one,” said Cents head coach and GM Luke Pierce. “Had Alberni’s game against Powell River not been cancelled on Saturday [due to ferry issues], I think we would have had them. [The Bulldogs] were well-rested and came out hell-bent. They were hitting us at every opportunity, and I think our guys got a bit frustrated and took some undisciplined penalties.”
It was 1-1 through 20 minutes with Dane Birks scoring for Merritt. The ’Dogs netted the game winner on a powerplay midway through the second while one-time Centennial netminder Connor Lecouvee shut the door on his former teammates the rest of the way, stopping 35 of 36 shots.
Jarrod Schamerhorn was every bit as good in net for Merritt despite playing his third game in three days.
“Sunday’s game might have been his best game of the three,” said Pierce. “Schamy stood on his head a few times. Their second and winning goal came on a five-on-three powerplay for them. It was the difference in the game. Our effort was good all night. We just shot ourselves in the foot a bit.”
Cents welcome the Warriors (again) this Friday
When West Kelowna pays its last regular-season visit to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena on Friday, the Merritt Centennials will be looking to make amends for the 7-2 drubbing they suffered at the hands of the Warriors in the two teams’ last meeting back on Feb. 11.
“We want to play [the Warriors] like we played them back on Feb. 7 (a 2-1 win for Merritt),” said Centennials head coach and GM Luke Pierce. “We played them hungry and hard.”
The Cents will also be looking to further solidify their grip on fourth place in the BCHL’s Interior Division in advance of their Saturday night tussle with the fifth-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
With the two teams having six and seven regular-season games left to play respectively, Merritt leads Salmon Arm by five points in the race to the post-season..
“Our goal is to win both weekend games and make the last week of the regular schedule irrelevant,” said Pierce.
Friday night’s game at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena is ‘Western Night’ so wear your cowboy hat!