I was at tonight's Vipers-Centennials game as Merritt defeated Vernon 2-1 in double overtime in front of 1,938 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Ty Taylor
Merritt: Jacob Berger
1st Period: The Centennials jumped on the Vipers early. Merritt got off to a quick start, attacked Vernon early and often. Chase Bell couldn't beat Ty Taylor on a wrap around about a minute and a half into the opening frame. Minutes later Cade Gleekel wired a quick shot from the circle that was stopped by Ty Taylor before Zach Risteau couldn't bury the rebound as Merritt was out in front in shots 5-0 just minutes in. A carbon copy of last night's game vs Salmon Arm the Vipers didn't get off to a great start, were a little slow moving their feet, played a lot of the first half in their own end. The Cents with a strong work ethic carried and dominated the play early. Vernon needed just over five minutes to record their first shot on goal were being outshot 8-1 at one point. Vernon product & Centennials captain Brett Jewell collided with a Viper in the Merrit zone as both players went down, the Vernon player was slow to get up but was up and on his feet, where as Jewell was very slow to get up, looked in some discomfort went straight to the Cents bench, before making his way to the dressing room. Jewell was ok and returned to the Cents bench and stayed in the game. The Centennials playing with a ton of speed, were moving the puck well, firing pucks on net, creating/generating chances. Ty Taylor had to be sharp in the first half, was forced to make two big saves off deflections in front as It was all Merritt in the first half. Hunter Zandee on a rare odd man rush, missed the net as the Vipers struggled offensively. Connor Clouston looked to get high sticked as he was showing his teeth to the referee's during the radio timeout. In the second half Merritt would get the games first powerplay but it was the Vipers PK that went to work. Jimmy Lambert setup Niko Karamanis who was robbed by Jacob Berger who come across the crease to make a huge pad save, keeping this game scoreless. Coming back the other way, Stephen Seeger on a deflection in front was denied by Ty Taylor. Two quality chances at both ends of the rink. Vernon would kill off the minor but not before Ty Taylor was forced to make a sprawling save on a goal mouth scramble just seconds after the penalty expired. The Vipers responded with a good push back late in the 1st. With a strong forecheck Vernon was able to create-generate some looksin the final minutes. It was 0-0 after 20 minutes of play. The Centennials coming off a 3-2 win over Penticton last night, played very well in the opening frame, were by far the better of the two teams. Merritt outworked & outplayed the Vipers the entire 1st period. The Cents with a strong work ethic, were moving the puck well, had several opportunities, worked hard-played hard. The Vipers didn't have their legs going, showed very little energy, didn't have much jump off the opening faceoff, saw very limited time in the offensive zone, played most of the period in their own end. Ty Taylor had to be sharp, keeping his club in the game. Vernon was lucky they weren't down a goal or two heading into the 2nd period. The Vipers struggled through out the frame. Merritt outshot Vernon 16-6.
2nd Period: Just over three minutes into the middle frame Connor Clouston dropped the gloves with Stephen Seeger in a pretty lengthy scrap in front of the Cents bench. This seemed to fire up the Vipers and kinda change the momentum of the game. Vernon responded and really stepped up their game. The Vipers finally got their legs going, started moving the puck, would eventually get some zone time and start creating/generating some offensive opportunities. With the Vipers buzzing in and around the goal, Centennials starting goaltender Jacob Berger had to be sharp, was forced into making several key saves. Five minutes into the 2nd Cooper Watson alone at the circle had Jacob Berger down somehow fired high and over the goal, missing the wide open cage. Tempers heated up a bit through out the period as both teams were getting under each other skin. Jagger Williamson and Tyrell Buckley were exchanging words, taking a swing or two at one another before Williamson gave Buckley a crosscheck before Hunter Zandee stepped in between the two to get involved. Lots of little scums through out the play and during the stopages. Just past the midway mark Jagger Williamson went in and around atleast two Merritt defenders before pulling Jacob Berger way out of his crease, couldn't slide the puck into the open cage as the puck come back out through the crease and out of harms way on a missed opportunity. Vernon would then get their first look with the powerplay, had some good looks but couldn't capitalize as Merritt killed off the minor. Vernon come very close to catching a lucky break after a shot from the circle come off the end wall, through the crease going through the legs of Jacob Berger and out the other side, on a close call. The Vipers would open the scoring on a goal mouth scramble after Niko Karamanis put home the loose puck in front, giving Vernon a 1-0 lead at 16:06 Brett Stapley & Steven Jandric picked up the assists. The referee's would gather around to talk about the goal before saying it was a good goal. But just 1:04 later on an odd man rush Cade Gleekel buried a quick low shot past Vipers starting goaltender Ty Taylor tying the game 1-1 at 17:10 on a nice two way passing play. Zach Risteau with the lone helper. A late hit in the Centennials zone forced a big scrum as everyone piled in with lots of pushing and shoving and the odd punch thrown as tempers heated up again at the buzzer. Brett Jewell wasn't happy about the play-scrum talking things over with the officials as teams were making their way off the ice. The Centennials would get a powerplay on the play. It was 1-1 after 40 minutes of play. A big scrap between Connor Clouston and Stephen Seeger just minutes into the middle frame, seemed to change the momentum of the game and give the Vipers some life. From here on in it was all Vernon as the Vipers carried most of the play, dominated the 2nd period. Vernon playing with more speed, had a ton of jump, really stepped up their game. The Vipers with loads of zone time, were firing everything towards Jacob Berger as Vernon with a ton of great opportunities, couldn't bury their chances. Merritt who played so well in the 1st was outplayed and outworked in the middle frame, saw very little zone time, relied on their goaltender to keep them in this hockey game. The Cents were very lucky this game was still tied and they weren't down two or three goals heading into the 3rd. A very chippy period as Vernon outshot Merritt 24-9.
3rd Period: The Cents started the 3rd with the man advantage that was given at the buzzer at the end of the 2nd period. Merritt didn't record a single shot with the PP couldn't get much going as Vernon killed off the minor. Steven Jandric with a great opportunity early couldn't solve Jacob Berger who made a big save before the Centennials sprung Chase Bell back the other way for a breakaway, fired high and over the net missing on a missed opportunity. Two good chances at both ends of the rink. The Vipers would get an early powerplay, miss the net twice on two close calls in front, again had some good looks, couldn't capitalize on their chances as Merritt killed off the penalty. For a second straight period it was all Vipers as Vernon dominated the play. The Vipers were getting all kinds of chances in and around the net, were also missing the net on several plays in close. The Centennials playing most of the 3rd in their own end, struggled offensively for a second straight period. Merritt needed fifteen minutes to record their first shot of the period were badly outplayed. With the game still tied and late in the period Zach Court with a quick rush up ice, wired a shot from the circle forced Ty Taylor into making a big pad save, keeping this game tied. With just a few minutes remaining Taylor was forced into making another big save off Zach Risteau as Merritt with two quality chances late in the 3rd. The Centennials would get a late powerplay inside the final two minutes. The Vipers would excape and kill off the remainder of the period. It was tied 1-1 after 60 minutes. For a second straight night the Vipers were heading to overtime. For a second straight period Vernon dominated the play, had a ton of chances once again couldn't bury their opportunities. The Vipers missed the net from in close, were having troubles buying a goal tonight. The Vipers carried the play, were all over Merritt. Vernon's fourth line saw very limited ice time in the 3rd period. The Cents for a second straight period were once again outplayed and outworked. Merritt playing most of the 3rd in their own end, couldn't get anything into the Vernon zone, struggled offensively. The Centennials were lucky to get a point tonight and be going to overtime. A very fast paced 3rd with very limited whistles. Vernon outshot Merritt 12-6.
Overtime: The Cents started overtime on the powerplay, that was carried over from the end of the 3rd period. With just thirty five seconds remaining Vernon was able to hold off the Centennials powerplay and kill off the minor. Not a lot of open ice as both teams were having trouble getting anything going. The Vipers were able to create an odd man rush late in OT but missed the net from in close on the only real good chance in the extra session. It was tied 1-1 after 65 minutes of play. Merritt outshot Vernon 3-2.
Double Overtime: The Vipers got a little too loose and were really taking their time setting up plays. It looked like Vernon was patiently waiting for the perfect pass-play waisted several good looks-opportunities from in close, didn't shoot instead, carried the play on forward. This cost the Vipers as the Cents took advantage of some careless plays by Vernon to create-generate their own opportunities. First it was Chase Bell with a burst of speed was denied by the quick glove of Ty Taylor who flashed the leather making a big glove save. Then it was Zach Court on a bang bang play down low rang his shot off the far post as Merritt come within inches of putting the game away. With just over two minutes remaining Ryan Brushett didn't shoot from two good spots in close, decided to hold onto the puck, waiting for the pretty play, eventually lost the puck wich then allowed Zach Risteau to spring Tyler Ward in for the breakaway, who beat Ty Taylor fivehole giving Merritt the 2-1 double overtime victory as the Cents bench erupted jumping over the boards in a huge celebration picking up their first regular season win at Kal Tire Place this season. The Centennials had the better of the opportunities, pounced on their chances. The Vipers looked too loose, were really skating slow, moving the puck slow, looked to be trying for that perfect play-goal, waisted their chances. Vernon carried the better of the play, but it was Merritt who had the better of the scoring chances. Merritt outshot Vernon 4-0.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Cooper Watson I thought played well at both ends of the rink. Jumped up into the play on occasion, was very steady on the Vernon blueline.
Ryan Brushett played well for a second straight night. Was involved in the play often, carried-moved the puck often, was creating/generating chances through out the night. A very smooth skater and puck handler, really shows off his offensive skill with the puck.
Jagger Williamson I thought played well for most of the game. Was mixing it up with Tyrell Bukley in the 2nd period.
Hunter Zandee I thought was Vernon's best player in the loss. Zandee was really moving, carried the puck often, just didn't have the finish in and around the net, missed the net often. Played hard, was really skating, played with a lot of jump-energy.
Ty Taylor (36 saves) Played very well between the pipes in the overtime loss. Saw the puck early and often in that 1st period, was forced into making some big saves with the Cents on the attack, kept his team in the game. Wasn't tested much during the 2nd and 3rd periods once again was forced into making some big game stops in the second overtime.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
For a second straight night the Vipers don't show up for the start of the game. For a second straight night the Vipers don't play a full sixty minutes. Tonight's opening frame was a carbon copy of last night's 1st period vs Salmon Arm. Vernon come out with very little jump, didn't show much energy, were caught standing around, outplayed and outworked for most of that opening frame. The Vipers give up a handful of shots early were behind in shots 8-1 at one point, played most of the 1st in their own end. If it wasn't for Ty Taylor the Vipers could have been easily been down a goal or two heading into the 2nd period. The Vipers responded after an early 2nd period scrap, wich seemed to get the team fired up. Connor Clouston's scrap seemed to change the momentum of the game as Vernon took over and dominated the play in the 2nd and 3rd periods as it was all Vipers. Vernon with a ton of pressure, get a ton of quality chances, missed some great chances from in close, were having troubles putting the puck in the net as the Vipers couldn't buy a goal. Vernon outshoots Merritt 36-15 in the 2nd and 3rd periods combined but only manages one goal. The Vipers had troubles burying their chances and hitting the net, missing the net from in close. Jacob Berger played very well but the Vipers need to bury some of their chances. For a second straight night Vernon cant put the game away in overtime, have struggled in overtimes this season. After a very poor 1st period give the Vipers credit for responding with a much better effort as the Vipers were the better of the two teams, should have easily walked away with this game tonight. Vernon needs to come ready to play and don't look at the standings. The Vipers have to be better from the start of the game, not just the finish. I thought the Vipers looked too loose in overtime, had several chances to shoot from a good spot, decided to pass or try and make the pretty play. The loss snaps the Vipers ten game unbeaten streak (7 wins-3 ties). These two teams will meet again Wednesday in Vernon. Former Vipers assistant coach Eric Godard was in attendance tonight.
Top Player's: (Merritt)
Zach Risteau (2 assists) Stood out through out the game, was one of the more offensive minded Centennials who created/generated some opportunities through out the night. Not the biggest kid but gets pucks to the net, was involved in the play, was quick, moves the puck in a hurry, played very well.
Cade Gleekel (1 goal) Also looked very good for the Merritt Centennials. I thought was another Cents forward who played very well in the victory. Was getting his fare share of chances, was involved in the play.
Tyrell Buckley Was a thorn in the Vipers side most of the night, was getting under the skin of Jagger Williamson and a few other Vernon players tonight. Played a hard game on the Centennials backend.
Chase Bell Has some wheels, played very well in the overtime win. Had some good looks-opportunities, worked-played hard.
Brett Jewell will be a little stiff-sore after tonight's victory. The Vernon product and Centennials captain collided with a Vernon player early in the 1st, was very slow getting up, looked to be in some discomfort, stayed in the game, come up with atleast two big shot blocks, took a few big checks along the wall, didn't quit, played hard all night. Really mucked It up in and along the wall, battled hard all game.
Jacob Berger (43 saves) Improves to 2-1-1 vs the Vipers this season, has really played well vs Vernon this year. Was one of the big difference's in tonight's game. Made one of his biggest saves on a penalty kill shorthanded two on one rush, was solid between the pipes. Let out some pretty big rebounds early, but seemed to settle down as the game went on. Made several big saves through out the game, keeping his team in the game, giving them a chance to win. Without Berger tonight, this game is over after the 2nd period. A strong performace.
Game Thought's: (Merritt)
After a huge 3-2 win over the visiting Penticton Vees Friday, the Centennials come into Vernon and pick up their first win at Kal Tire Place this season. After dominating the opening frame, the Cents were badly outplayed in the 2nd and 3rd periods relied on Jacob Berger to even give them a chance to win. The Centennials outshot Vernon 16-6 in the 1st were outshot 36-15 in the 2nd and 3rd periods combined. Merritt had all kinds of troubles offensively, played most of the 2nd and 3rd periods in their own end. Give the Cents full credit for battling hard, this team dosnt quit. Sure Merritt was outplayed but the Centennials work hard, did a good job at limiting the Vipers shooting lanes, come up with a few big defensive plays. Towards the end of the 3rd and in overtime it was Merritt that had the better of the scoring chances. With the win Merritt improves to 2-1-1 vs Vernon this season and if you include the pre-season the Cents are 4-1-1 vs the Vipers this year. The Centennials will finish their three game weekend with an afternoon game tomorrow host the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
Riley Brandt (Injured)
Luke Gingras (Injured-Suspended)
Michael Van Unen
Energy Player of the Game:
Steven Jandric (1 assist)
1st Star: Jacob Berger (43 saves)
2nd Star: Ty Taylor (36 saves)
3rd Star: Tyler Ward (Overtime Winner)