Sports

Merritt Centennials secure playoff spot

The Merritt Centennials have used a three-game winning streak to clinch a B.C. Hockey League playoff spot despite going through some major adversity.

The Cents, who entertain the Vernon Vipers tonight at Nicola Valley Arena, iced the Penticton Vees 1-0 and grounded the Langley Rivermen 5-0 in road games last weekend with heavy hearts.

Five days before the win in Penticton before a record crowd of 4,002, the Centennials’ Sebastien Pare lost his mother, Tracy, due to illness. A celebration of life was held in her honour on Sunday, in Langley, which the entire Cents’ team attended.

The night before, while in Penticton, Cents players and officials were informed after the game that Brad Steel, the father of Centennials netminder Tyler Steel, had suffered a serious heart attack while en route to the game.

Steel, a former Vernon resident, remains in Kelowna Hospital.

“Friday night was incredibly tough,” Cents head coach and GM Luke Pierce, a former Viper, said, “and Saturday was a very long, and emotionally draining day. The players did an absolutely marvellous job of sticking together. I am very proud of them.”

The Cents got 28 saves from rookie goalie Russell Sanderson (first star) in a 4-2 win over the visiting Salmon Arm SilverBacks Wednesday night.

Pare, Jeff Wight, Brent Fletcher and Derek Huisman (empty net) scored for the second-place Cents. Shane Hanna and Brayden Sherbinin replied for the SilverBacks.

The Vipers are eight points back of the fourth-place SilverBacks with two games in hand. Vernon has nine games remaining, including a battle with Salmon Arm next Friday at the Shaw Centre.

Vernon hosts the league cellar-dwelling Cowichan Valley Capitals Saturday night.

Both teams have had trouble scoring all season. The Vipers’ leading pointgetter is Mason Blacklock with 15-24-29, while the Caps’ top man is Steen Cooper with 10-17-27.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Penguins recalled former Vee Beau Bennett for their game tonight against the Winnipeg Jets. Bennett was taken 20th overall by the Pens in the 2010 entry draft. He has 25 points in 35 games with the AHL Wilkes-Barre-Scranton Penguins of the AHL.

In college hockey news, the Quinnipiac Bobcats are ranked No 1 in the NCAA Division 1 Poll released Monday.

The Bobcats are 21-3-4 and received 41 first-place votes. They were second in the last poll.Minnesota Gophers (19-5-4) are No. 2.

Clipper grads Kellen Jones (6-19-15 in 28 games) and Connor Jones (7-5-12 in 22 games) are juniors with the Bobcats.

Clay Harvey (Powell River), Russell Goodman (Nanaimo), Zack Currie (Cowichan), Zach Davies (Prince George), Michael Garteig (Penticton) and Travis St. Denis (Penticton) are also with the school in Hamden, Conn.

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