January 5, 2013, MERRITT, BC (ISN) – A short-staffed Vees squad, missing six regulars, took the Merritt Centennials to the brink in a 4-2 loss Friday. The Vees clawed back from a two-goal deficit, to only lose on a goal inside the final two minutes of the game.
The loss is the Vees tenth in regulation, now leaving Victoria, as the only team in the BCHL with single-digit regulation losses. It was also their first loss in Merritt since September 2009, a run of 10 wins in a row at Nicola Valley Arena.
The Merritt Centennials, playing their first game in 13 days, didn’t look all the rusty, scoring 64 seconds into the game. Derek Huisman took a pass at center and skated in down the middle, before beating Nic Renyard up high over the glove to open the scoring.
The Vees settled down after the Merritt goal, creating a few chances of their own, but were unable to equalize in the opening period; saddled with a one goal deficit to start the second.
The two teams came to blows in the frame, as Bryan Sinz dropped the mitts with Silvan Harper in a spirited bout; neither combatant getting an upper hand.
In a fairly evenly played second period, the Vees, despite a strong push, found themselves in a two-goal hole midway through after a lost face-off in their own end. Sam Johnson doubled the Centennials lead at 11:08 when he banged in a rebound at the top of the crease. Renyard made a pad save on a point-shot, but Johnson found himself alone at the top of the blue paint to whack in his second of the season.
The Vees went down one more skater in the latter half of the stanza. Wade Murphy was given the gate after being assessed a check-from-behind penalty. Murphy also picked up a fighting major after a scrap with Regan Soquila following the hit.
Brock Balson cut into the deficit, bring back the Vees within striking distance, when he banked-in a sharp-angled shot. Balson collected the puck from behind the net, and from just above the left goal-line scored his fifth at 18:20; Balson deflecting the puck off Tyler Steel.
The Vees despite only having 11 forwards to start the third, equalized before the four minute mark. Brad McClure kept the puck on a two-on-one rush, which turned out to be a smart move, as let he go a laser that went cross-bar down on the glove-side at 3:39; McClure’s team-leading 19th goal.
The game looked destined for overtime before an odd bounce went the Cents’ favour inside the final two minutes. Regan Soquila flipped a puck on goal from the left-wing that gave Nic Renyard fits. The puck jumped up the stick of the Vees goaltender and over his shoulder at 18:41. Renyard looked to have fumbled his stick, which in turn helped launch the puck over his left shoulder for the game-winner.
Soquila picked up his second of the game seconds later, putting the game away with an empty-net goal at 19:56.
FINAL SCORE: 4-2 Centennials
Shots 39-27 Centennials
Power-Play: Vees 0-1 Centennials 0-1
Three Stars: 1) Regan Soquila 2) Troy Stecher 3) Sam Johnson
The loss drops the Vees record to 23-10-0-3, still seven points clear atop of the Interior Division. Their road record moves to 11-5-0-1 and Friday marked just their third road loss in their Division; now 9-2-0-1. The two teams have now split the first four games of the season series; each team winning once at home and on the road.
Travis Blanleil, Cody DePourcq, Rob Mann, Jedd Soleway, Ryan Gropp and Chad Katunar did not play for Penticton.
The Vees return home Saturday afternoon for a tilt with the high flying Surrey Eagles; face-off is 5pm. The Eagles beat Trail 6-3 Friday and have won their last four, sitting second in the Mainland Division. Tickets are available at the Valley First box office, or online at www.valleyfirsttix.com