MERRITT - The Merritt Centennials got the strong start they needed on Friday night at home, leading to a 7-3 victory over the West Kelowna Warriors.
It was the third time in four games that the West Kelowna Warriors were down 3-0 in the opening frame, as Merritt chased starting goaltender Andy Desautels with two goals in the opening 13 minutes.
Michael Ederer opened the scoring at 6:53 as he put the puck into the goal off an end-boards pass from Griffyn Martin to make it 1-0.
The Centennials kept coming on the power-play, as this time it was John Schiavo who snapped one to the same spot on the glove hand side of Desautels, ending the starters night.
On the first shot that AP Stephen Heslop faced from the Centennials, Colin Granny snapped one to that same corner once again, though this time it was over the blocker hand of the lefty goalie.
The Warriors would show some life after that, and it was Josh Bly who sent the wrister home from the point beating a screened Jonah Imoo, as Hunter Zandee drew the lone assist.
West Kelowna would continue to come at the Merritt team early in the second period, and with Nick Fidanza in the box for running over Heslop, Jonathan Desbiens snapped home the goal that brought the Warriors within one.
That was as close as they would get in the game, as late in the middle frame Liam Blackburn took an errant stick to the neck area and was treated on the ice by Athletic Therapist Mike Bois.
The injury seemed painful, but Blackburn remained on the bench for the remainder of the period and returned in the third.
Following the short delay, the Centennials controlled play and were rewarded at 17:06 when Rhett Wilcox made it 4-2.
The Centennials had only registered one shot in the period when the injury delay occurred.
In the third period, West Kelowna was stymied a couple times in tight by Imoo until the tides turned at the mid-way point of the frame.
Merritt would score three times down the stretch with goals from Stephan Seeger (2), and Josh Kobelka (PP) to stretch the lead to 7-2.
The frustrations boiled over after the 6-2 goal, as Brayden Gelsinger tried to draw Wilcox into a fight. Wilcox would not oblige, and a fired up Gelsinger would drop the gloves. Gelsinger received four minutes for roughing and a misconduct, while Wilcox sat for two.
Kyle Marino made it 7-3 with ten seconds remaining.
These two teams battle again on Saturday, Jan. 31, in West Kelowna, as the Warriors look to snap a 5-game losing streak and put them back into a tie with the Centennials, who have the tie-breakers.
The Warriors sit two points ahead of Salmon Arm for the final playoff spot with ten games left to play.