Postgame: Cents 1 Vipers 3
Saturday, 29 October 2016
Written by Mantar Bhandal
The Merritt Centennials (8-8-2-1) lost their fourth straight 3-1 to the Vernon Vipers (9-7-2-0) Saturday night. It was a disappointing end to a 2 game road trip to Wenatchee – where they lost 5-3 – and then Vernon. The Centennials received outstanding goaltending for the second straight night – this time from Jake Berger, who made 36 saves. Cents Head Coach/GM Joe Martin knows that this game could’ve ended different.
“Thought the effort was there tonight. We deserved a better fate. We should’ve pushed it to overtime.”
The Centennials managed only 7 shots through the first two periods, and gave up 31. Had it not been for Berger, the game would’ve been early. The first period featured no scoring, with a penalty from Henry Cleghorn that the Centennials would kill off. Shots were 16-4 after 20 minutes of play.
The second period saw the Centennials make numerous defensive zone errors, eventually allowing the Vipers to open the scoring when Keith Anderson scored a wicked backhand off the crossbar and in at the 6:22 mark. That was his second goal of the season and made it 1-0 Vipers. Both teams had two powerplay opportunities in the period, but neither side capitalized on the man advantage. The Cents only mustered a measly three shots in the period, while the Vipers quintupled that output with 15.
The third period is where the game was decided. After killing off another Cleghorn penalty, the Cents looked in good shape.
Until a dirty hit changed everything.
Vipers captain Riley Brandt left his feet to drill Michael Van Unen into the boards well behind play. Van Unen laid motionless for a few moments before eventually skating off under his own power. Martin said that was one of the dirtiest hits he’d seen.
“He charges from the blue line, leaves his feet, hits a guy who’s in a vulnerable position, while the puck is already way out of the zone. The Vipers bench cheered the hit, laughed at our guy. It’s the most disrespectful thing I’ve gone through this season. I’m going to do what I can to make sure that kid gets suspended for as long as possible. I used to like Riley Brandt. Not anymore. He’s a dirty hockey player.”
The Centennials received a five minute powerplay, after Tyrell Buckley stepped up to defend Van Unen. Both players were ejected. The Cents had a great chance to tie things up. Instead of tying it up, a Zach Metsa turnover at the blueline allowed Niko Karamanis to score a shorthanded breakaway goal that crushed the Cents at the 14:38 mark. The Cents now faced a two goal deficit. They got one back late, with Cade Gleekel getting a powerplay tally with 1:07 left. That was the closest they’d come, as they gave up an empty netter late and lost 3-1.
The Centennials fell out of second place, with Vernon leaping them in the standings. The Centennials powerplay struggled, as they only scored once on five advantages. They’d been 0 for their last 12 opportunities.
The Centennials have a chance to right the ship, as they sail to the coast for a three game set on the Island starting with Powell River on Friday.