by Fraser Rodgers
January 3, 2014, MERRITT, BC (ISN) –Hunter Miska and Devin Kero started 2014 in style, as both goaltenders combined for 72 saves, as the Penticton Vees and Merritt Centennials settled for a 1-1 tie Friday at Nicola Valley Arena.
The single point and Vernon’s 4-1 loss in Trail Friday, pushes the Vees lead to six points atop of the Interior Division.
The Vees didn’t look rusty playing their first game in 12 days, as they opened the scoring late in the first period. After the Vees won a face-off inside their own zone, Jack Ramsey took the puck the other way, rushed down the right-wing and dropped the puck off for the trailing Brett Beauvais. Beauvais moved into the right-circle and picked the far corner with a back-hand that beat Kero over the blocker at 18:02; Beauvais scoring his tenth and third against Merritt this season.
From the outset, this game had the makings of a stalemate, as either side wasn’t giving up much. The scoring chances were few and far between in the second period, as neither side could find the back of the net. The Cents’ outshot the Vees 10-8 in the period but couldn’t solve the Vees puck-stopper. Miska’s best stop in the middle stanza was a quick reactionary save on a Sebastien Pare redirect attempt at the post.
The Vees penalty-kill flexed its muscle as well, killing-off two second period penalties, helping preserve a one-goal lead heading into the break.
The stalemate carried into the third period, before Adam Tracey brought the home side back level, but not without controversy. Tracey found a seam in middle of the ice and darted between the circles, before sliding the puck through Miska’s legs at 6:29. Tracey was allowed to bust down the middle after Brett Beauvais was interfered with by Merritt’s Zach Hartley at the blue-line.
Overtime was looming but not before the Vees were given a power-play in the final moments of the third. With Dane Birks sitting for a cross-checking penalty, the Vees went to work, throwing several pucks at the Merritt net but Kero was there to shut the door time and again. The Vees man-advantage carried over into the extra frame but they couldn’t manufacture the game-winning goal.
Both teams traded scoring chances in the three-on-three overtime period, the Vees best chances coming off the stick of newcomer Erik Benoit and Brad McClure. Both were buzzing around the Cents’ net but couldn’t find a way to get a puck past Kero.
Merritt had a golden opportunity to win the game when they were handed a penalty-shot after a holding penalty was called against Penticton; under BCHL rules, a penalty is automatically a penalty-shot in double-overtime. Jeff Wight tried to play hero but Miska dashed his hopes with a great save after Wight tried to squeeze a wrist-shot through his legs.
Final Score: 1-1
Power-Plays: Vees 0-4 Cents’ 0-3
Three Stars: 1) Devin Kero 2) Hunter Miska 3) Brett Beauvais
Record: 24-9-2-3 / Road: 11-6-2-1
The Vees only other tie came back on October 19th in Langley, also a 1-1 game. The Vees 53 points in six better than second place Vernon who were up-ended 4-1 in Trail. The Vees overtime record moves to 2-3-2 and they have still yet to lose in regulation to Merritt this season, posting a 3-0-1-1 record. With his goal Friday, Brett Beauvais now has three goals and eight points in five games against Merritt; he leads all BCHL defensemen in scoring with 10 goals and 48 points.
The Vees are off Saturday before returning to action Sunday afternoon at the SOEC, when they host the Centennials; puck drop is 3pm. Tickets are available at the Valley First Box Office (at the SOEC), or online at www.valleyfirsttix.com