MERRITT - The one positive from Friday is the Penticton Vees don’t have to go back to Merritt again in the regular season. The Vees scored first but the Centennials scored four unanswered, en route a 4-1 at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.
The Vees (32-7-2-1) had their three-game win streak snapped and they finished with just one win against the Centennials (23-15-0-2) in four trips to Merritt this season.
Steen Cooper (8) scored the Vees only goal on a power-play in the first period. Hunter Miska was sharp in the loss, despite allowing four goals on 28 shots.
Zak Bowles, Josh Teves, Gavin Gould (power-play) and Shane Poulsen scored for the Cents and Jonah Imoo was named the game’s first star, stopping 37 of 38 shots the Vees steered his way.
It looked good in the first for the Vees, as they opened the scoring late in the frame on their second power-play. The puck came back to Mike Lee at the point and his shot was tipped just enough by Cooper, as it went off of Imoo’s mask before rolling across the goal-line at 15:49.
The lead however didn’t last long, as the Cents’ tied it late, just over a minute and a half after the Vees goal.
Bowles was the recipient of a fortunate bounce, as a clearing attempt took a deflection right to him at the bottom of the right-circle. Bowles quick shot got by Miska on the glove side, who was without his goalie stick after getting tangled with a Merritt player on the other side of the net; Bowles tying it at 18:32.
The Vees kept up the pressure in the second but couldn’t get one of their 11 shots past Imoo who stopped 25 of 26 shots through two periods.
Cents’ defenseman Josh Teves was the only player to ripple the mesh in the second, as he was rewarded when he went to the net looking for a rebound. Miska made an excellent save in close on Gavin Gould but Teves, the trailer on the odd-man rush, was right there to bang in the rebound at 12:53.
The backbreaker for Penticton came early in the third when Gould made it a two-goal game. On a Cents’ power-play, Gould too was beneficiary of a hometown bounce, as a partially blocked shot jetted right to him on the far side of the zone. Gould quickly ripped the shot past a helpless Miska at 3:13 to make it a 3-1 lead
Shane Poulsen salted away the win with a seeing-eye point shot three-minutes later. The puck was dished back to Poulsen, who walked in from the right-wing and got his wrist-shot sailed past Miska’s arm at 6:31; Miska was ran into by his own teammate as the shot came in.
Final Score: 4-1 Merritt
Shots: 36-28 Vees
Power-Play: Vees 1-8 Merritt 1-2
Three Stars: 1) Jonah Imoo 2) Gavin Gould 3) Shane Poulsen
The season series is tied three games apiece after Friday’s loss and the two teams meet again next Friday, January 23rd, back in Penticton. The Vees are now 17-6-1-0 against the Interior (8-4-1-0 on the road). Once scoring changes are corrected, Jack Ramsey will have extended his point streak to four games with his first period assist (2-3-5). The Vees lead atop of the Interior was shaved down 10 points, after Vernon’s 6-3 win at home Friday against West Kelowna.
The Vees look to bounce back in Trail tomorrow, as they make the trip to the Kootenays to face the Smoke Eaters at Cominco Arena; face-off is 7:30pm. Trail lost 5-4 at home Friday to Nanaimo. Listen on EZ Rock AM 800 or watch online at www.fasthockey.com.