The Penticton Vees (34-15-3-2) fired 55 shots towards the Merritt Centennials net Friday night, coming up short in a 4-2 loss as Merritt scored timely goals. The Vees now need a rebound performance against the Langley Rivermen (25-26-2-1) to avoid losing three-straight games for the first time this season.
The Centennials opened the scoring Friday night when Daniel Tkac stole the puck away from Carson Kosobud and beat Jack LaFontaine on the blocker side from the slot with 5:34 to go in the period.
Early in the second they added to their lead on a penalty shot. Rylan Van Unen was taken down by Jack Lagerstrom, and they both slid into LaFontaine. The Vees held their breath as their star goaltender was slow to get to his feet.
While he did stay in the game, he gave up the penalty shot goal and was replaced 10 minutes later by Derek Krall, who would finish the game for Penticton.
The Vees answered back as Ryan Sandelin got a lucky bounce off the dasher behind Merritt’s net and tucked the puck into an open net for his 26th of the season.
A defensive breakdown allowed Merritt to make it 3-1 as Nick Granowicz snuck behind the defence, took a stretch pass and beat Krall over the glove with 49 seconds to go in the period.
Needing a big third, things couldn’t have started worse for Penticton as the Centennials made it 4-1 just 50 seconds into the period. While the Vees would get one back thanks to Jack Barnes, that’s as close as they would get in a 4-2 loss.
The Vees threw 30 shots on net in the third period alone, but were stymied time and time again by Austin Roden who was named the games first star with 53 saves. The loss trimmed Penticton’s lead atop the division to just two points with four games to play.
Penticton now hosts Langley for the only time this season, and haven’t seen the Rivermen since opening night. That game, James Miller scored just 32 seconds into the season, but Langley capitalized on their chances beating LaFontaine five times on just 16 shots. Mark Gallant scored a hat trick, but has just six goals since.
Langley is coming off a 4-2 loss in Trail Friday night as they make a three-game Interior Division Swing. They’ll finish the trip Sunday afternoon in Vernon.
Langley is the only team Penticton hasn’t beaten this season, and interestingly enough, the Vees also didn’t beat Langley last season. In the 2016-17 season the Vees went 3-0 against the Rivermen.