The Merritt Centennials (0-1-0) get set to hit reset against the Prince George Spruce Kings (1-0-0) tonight.
Looking back to the exhibition opener on October 10th against PG, the Cents were unable to get the offense going coming up with a 4-1 defeat. It took a while for the teams to find their footing in the first period as both teams were playing their first competitive games since early March and at times it showed. The Cents were also dealing with some young faces in the line up that were battling nerves along with the opponent and it was a pair of BCHL veterans who opened the scoring on the powerplay for PG. Former Cent Christian Buono found Rowan Miller for a one timer on the powerplay to make it 1-0. Prince George kept the pressure on when another former Cent Hunor Torzsok gained the left wing and centered for a streaking Max Borovinskiy and the young forward was able to pick his way towards the net before putting it past an outstretched Dias to make it 2-0.
The Cents were hoping to come out of the dressing room with a little more fire, but they ended up being under fire from Prince George. After an early scrum in front, Grayson Valente was called for a misconduct for a scrum after the whistle and on the ensuing draw off a set play Corey Cunningham was able to collect a loose puck, pull to the backhand and tuck it five-hole to make it 3-0 PG. The Cents seemed to spiral for a moment after that point, and Derek Sweet-Coulter called a time out to try and settle the team. The gambit seemed to pay dividends, but it didn’t help the bottom line. Nick Rheaume was able to convert another goal for the Spruce Kings before the Cents finally found an answer. On the attack in the offensive zone, Jerzy Orchard picked the puck out of the corner, skated off the wall to the right dot and ripped a low shot five-hole to finally beat the rookie Aaron Trotter. The 2nd period buzzer saved the Spruce Kings as the Cents were starting to turn it on.
In the final frame the teams traded penalties, skated 4-on-4, 5-on-3 and everything in between. Despite chances a plenty the goaltenders handled all comers the rest of the way to make it a 4-1 final. Josh Dias held the team in it with a handful of sensational saves. Final shots were 32-28 Prince George.
The Cents hope that after a couple hard weeks of practice they can test their might against the veteran laden Spruce Kings once more and come away with a win.
The special teams battle left something to be desired from both clubs. Prince George was able to capitalize on their first opportunity, but the Cents penalty kill shut the door from then on while the Cents took themselves off the powerplay on too many occasions and couldn’t find a rhythm.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
PG – 12.5% (10th) PG – 100% (T-1st)
Cents – 0% (16th) Cents – 87.5% (7th)
In the blue paint, Josh Dias got his first taste of BCHL action and held the young Cents in the game with some sensational saves. Dias stopped 28/32 shots for a .875 SV% and 4 goals allowed. He will get the call again tonight as Colton Phillips-Watts watches on.
Aaron Trotter played exceptionally after making the jump from the CSSHL to exhibition play. The Shawnigan Lake alum stopped 27/28 shots for a .964 SV% and only had one goal get past him. Former Cents affiliate Carter Woodside is waiting for his first shot at exhibition action.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says he’s hoping the opportunity to learn and use video from the first contest will help his team out.
“We were able to get a little bit of everything from the last game – the good, the bad, and the ugly and that’s what you need to learn and grow. We’ve gone over the tape, gone over the systems and now we are ready for another test.”
The Cents will look to help themselves to their first win of the exhibition season.
Puck drop 7pm. Pre-game 6:45 on HockeyTV and Q101. Watch Party at Boston Pizza Merritt!
Supporters are also organizing a drive-by parade and are gathering at the Lawn Bowling Parking lot at 5:10 to cruise down Garcia and make some noise for the boys.