PENTICTON –The tables were turned on Wednesday, as the Vees were the victim of a two-goal comeback on Wednesday night, as the Merritt Centennials skated to a 3-2 double-overtime victory at the SOEC. It was just one game ago, when the Vees erased a two-goal third period deficit and edged the Powell River Kings 4-3 in double-overtime.
A milestone night became that much sweeter for one player, when the Vees opened the scoring early in the first. Travis Blanleil, playing in his 200th career game, put the home side ahead just before the five minute mark. Cody DePourcq, from behind the net, found Blanleil between the circles, who snapped a shot through Devin Kero at 4:28. Blanleil burying goal number four on the season and extending his point streak to seven games.
The Vees appeared to double their lead a short time later and again it was Blanleil in the thick of it. Blanleil looked to have pushed a cross-crease pass underneath the pad of Kero. The goal-light went on, but the referee deemed the puck never crossed the goal-line although replays showed otherwise; the Vees took a one-goal lead into the dressing room.
Anthony Conti would double the Vees lead just past the eight minute mark of the middle frame, after a nice passing play in the Cents’ zone. Chris Rygus found Conti at the back-post from the point, who then redirected the puck past Kero at 8:10 for his third goal and first in seven games. Liam Finlay, Rygus and Conti teaming up for a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play.
Merritt clawed back late in the period on a power-play, as James Neil cut the deficit in half with less than two minutes left in the middle frame. Neil outwaited Hunter Miska after a cross-zone pass, and from the right-circle roofed the puck underneath the cross-bar at 18:41.
Merritt wasn’t done there, as they drew level near the midway mark of third, on another power-play; this time not as textbook as the first. Shane Poulsen’s point-shot ramped off the foot of Adam Tracey, who was parked in front, and into the top-corner at 9:07; Poulsen however credited with his first of two.
Just as the final seconds of regulation were ticking down, Jack Ramsey had a chance to be the hero. On a two-on-one rush, Ramsey moved down the right-wing but wired his wrist-shot too high on the near-side. It went bad to worse, as Ramsey was dinged with a penalty just as regulation expired.
Playing overtime for the second time in as many nights, the Vees killed of a full two minute Centennials four-on-three power-play in the first overtime period. The penalty-kill was buoyed by a few key blocked shots and great goaltending from Hunter Miska; the two teams needed double-overtime to determine a winner.
Controversy arose again in the three-on-three period, when Travis Blanleil was taken down on a clear-cut breakaway; no arm went into the air. The game continued and Shane Poulsen, the trailer on a Cents’ rush into the Vees zone, took a pass in the left-circle and put a wrist-shot past the blocker of Miska at 3:53.
Score: 3-2 Cents (2OT)
Shots: 38-32 Vees
Power-Play: Vees 0/4 Cents 2/5
Three Stars: 1) Shane Poulsen 2) Diego Cuglietta 3) Travis Blanleil
The Vees record drops to 9-3-0-1 but the one point they pick up for the overtime loss, moves them into a share of first place in the Interior Division with the West Kelowna Warriors. The Vees get the tie-breaker, as they have a better goal differential. The overtime setback is the first loss at home this season for the Vees, as their record now sits at 6-0-0-1; Cents’ also snapping their three game win streak.
The Vees finish-off their home stand Friday, when they host the West Kelowna Warriors at the SOEC; puck is 7pm. The Vees and Warriors sport identical records and will be battling for top spot in the Interior Division.