3pm, South Okanagan Events Centre (SOEC)
RADIO: Listen to EZ ROCK AM 800 starting at 2:40pm
WATCH: Fasthockey Pay-Per-View
The Penticton Vees and Merritt Centennials are both searching for their first wins of 2014. The Vees and Cents’ tied 1-1 Friday in Merritt, as both teams’ were playing their first game since the Christmas break. Both Hunter Miska and Devin Kero put a show between the pipes, combining for 72 saves in the stalemate.
The Vees had Saturday off but the Cents’ were doubled-up by the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 4-2 at the Shaw Centre on the shores of Shuswap Lake.
Friday, Brett Beauvais was the only Vee that got a puck past Kero, as he opened the scoring late in the first period, picking up his 10th on an odd-man rush. Jack Ramsey setup Beauvais with a well-timed drop pass at the blue-line. Adam Tracey snuck a puck five-hole on Miska early in the third to bring the home side back level and force extra time. Both teams traded chances in overtime and Miska preserved the tie when he stopped Merritt’s Jeff Wight on a penalty-shot in double-overtime.
The Vees have tinkered with their roster over the weekend, acquiring two 20-year-old centermen in Erik Benoit and Nic Pierog. Benoit was signed after he was given his release from the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL. To make room for Benoit, the Vees shipped forward Brendan Lamont to the Coquitlam Express. Pierog was acquired on Saturday, when the Vees nabbed the power-forward from the Surrey Eagles, in exchange for forward Anthony Conti and future considerations. Benoit played Friday but both he and Pierog make their home debuts this afternoon; Pierog playing in his first game as a Vee.
Olivier Mantha will get the start in-goal this afternoon, he’s 12-6-0 on the season and 4-2-0 against the Interior Division; 1-0-0 against Merritt. The Vees have been very good within their own division, sporting an 11-5-1-1 record and have yet to lose in regulation against Merritt (3-0-1-1).
The Opposition: It was a second period to forget for Merritt Saturday, as Salmon Arm scored three goals in the middle stanza to build up a 4-1 lead through forty-minutes, en route to a 4-2 triumph. Both of Merritt’s goals came on the power-play, as Adam Tracey opened the scoring in the first and Scott Patterson scored late in the third. Devin Kero was tagged with the loss, stopping 27 of 31 shots.
Today marks Merritt’s third game in two and a half days and to compound matters, they’ve been bitten by the injury bug. The Cents’ had five regulars out of the line-up Friday and four last night in Salmon Arm. Rhett Wilcox did return Saturday after sitting out Friday against Penticton. James Neil and Devin Oakes are still out with longer term injuries but the status on both goalie Russell Sanderson and defenseman Jake Clifford remains unclear.
The Cents’ were involved in the trade market this week as well, picking up 20-year-old defenseman Jason Bird from the Vernon Vipers, in exchange for the playing rights of 18-year-old defenseman Dylan Chanter. Bird is wearing number 24 for Merritt and made his Cents’ last night in Salmon Arm.
The Cents’ come into this afternoon’s match up 11 points back of the Vees and four back of fourth place Salmon Arm.
This is the sixth of seven meetings between these two teams, as they conclude the seven-game season series in Merritt on January 17th.