The Merritt Centennials managed to fight their way back into the game by the end of the 2nd period, but the final frame got away from them and the Spruce Kings skated to a 6-2 victory.
The first period started much better than the initial exhibition contest with some early powerplay chances. The Cents made good on their second powerplay of the night as Trevor Isaksson collected the puck off a face-off and blasted it top corner blocker-side to give the Cents their first lead of exhibition play. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last as the Prince George would convert on their first powerplay of the night executing a picture perfect slap-pass from Cunningham to Rowan Miller to the back of the net, upstairs, blocker-side on Josh Dias. The first period would end all square at 1-1 with shots favouring the Cents 13-7.
With a tie game heading into the middle stanza, the Cents came out of the gate a little flat and Prince George got chance after chance. 4 minutes and change in Andrew Seaman streaked down the wing with 4-on-4 hockey, pulled to the backhand and beat an outstretched Dias to the far post to make it 2-1. At the 9:16 mark, the Spruce Kings converted on an odd man rush with Mason Waite finishing off a 3-on-2 with a one-timer on the off-wing that beat Dias up high despite a highlight real attempt to make the save. Prince George continued to have the Cents on the ropes until Jacksenn Hungle was finally able to give the Cents some life. Throwing his body around, he was sent in all alone on a breakaway, deked to the forehand, and went bar-down to make the game 3-2. The Cents appeared to get a shot in the arm after the goal, but couldn’t get any more offense in the period. Shots after 2 were 25-21 PG.
The game was up for the taking in the final frame, and it was the Spruce Kings who did the taking. John Herrington managed to stuff one in from the side of the net that was the lone blemish on Dias’ night from a goaltending perspective. Tanner Main sniped high on the powerplay through a heavy screen to make it 5-2. Late in the contest with the game seemingly out of reach, Coach Sweet-Coulter used it as an opportunity to pretend the team was trailing by a closer tally, pulling the goalie with over 2 minutes to go. Despite some solid pressure and some good chances Christian Buono iced the game with 17 seconds left to make it 6-2. Final shots were 34-27.
After the game, Assistant Coach Paul Barnes said the Cents didn’t give a consistent enough effort.
“We had some decent stretches, but we definitely didn’t come to play a full 60 minutes. We need everyone to be playing their best for the full game if we want to have a chance, and there wasn’t enough players who had that tonight.”
The teams won’t get much time to rest on the result as they get back at it on Sunday afternoon – 3pm puck drop. 2:45 pregame on Q101.