The first period was pretty even with each team skating well and getting some shots at the opposition goaltender. Only one penalty to speak of and the Vipers couldn't manufacture much on their only powerplay and the frame would end scoreless.
The game was essentially won in the second period for Merritt who took it to the Vipers outshooting them a wide margin, but also taking advantage on special teams as just a handful of seconds into their first powerplay of the game Nick Jermain would walk out of the right circle and wire one off the post and in to make it 1-0. The Vipers would get a powerplay of their own a few minutes later, but some sloppy defensive zone coverage allowed Gavin Gould to win a puck battle and feed the blueline where a point shot and a rebound resulted in Ryan Forbes getting the shorthanded tally and the Cents lead was up to 2-0. The Cents really had the momentum in the second period and didn't let up. The shots would finish 15-7 Cents after 2 periods and they held a 2-1 lead.
The Cents had gone through some struggles recently and for the Vipers third periods had been their forte. The question was going to be which would show through. In all honesty it was both. The Centennials went into a defensive shell and the Vipers turned on the pressure and thanks to an early goal, planted the seed of doubt as Odeen Tufto score a beautifully executed man advantage just 44 seconds into the third. The Vipers continued to up the pressure, but the Cents to their credit really slowed them down in the neutral zone and limited the quality scoring chances. The Vipers would pull the goalie around the 90 second remaining mark, but Zak Bowles would score an empty netter to make it 3-1. Nick Jermain would add another empty netter to make the final score 4-1.
Here is the official box score:
|1-0 Merritt Centennials at 2:52 (PP) - Nick Jermain from Gavin Gould and Michael Faulkner|
|2-0 Merritt Centennials at 9:37 (SH) - Ryan Forbes from Ryan Coghlan and Gavin Gould|
|2-1 Vernon Vipers at 0:44 (PP) - Odeen Tufto from Christian Cakebread and Liam Finlay|
|3-1 Merritt Centennials at 18:39 (EN)- Zak Bowles from Gavin Gould and Malik Kaila|
|4-1 Merritt Centennials at 19:33 (EN)- Nick Jermain from Colin Grannary and Brett Jewell|
|STARS OF THE GAME|
|1st STAR||2nd STAR||3rd STAR|
|Merritt Centennials||1 for 1 (100.0%)|
|Vernon Vipers||1 for 5 (20.0%)|
The Vipers did well to remain disciplined only taking one minor penalty that resulted in a powerplay. The problem was the Cents scored. It was a good set up by the Cents, but it hurts the numbers to be scored on the only PK chance. The other backbreaker was the eventual game winner shorthanded by Ryan Forbes.
For Andrew Shortridge, I thought this was a solid return to the lineup. He hadn't played in 11 days and did well to battle any rust and competed very hard. He continues to give his team a chance to win and this team knows he'll make the saves he needs to make.
I thought the Viper powerplay has started to come around of late. They have powerplay goals in their last 3 games and seem like they're on the brink of breaking out in a big way.
The Vipers only have one more game this week and its in Wenatchee on Saturday. You can hear all the action on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:50 from the Town Toyota Center.