Cents drop Vipers to fifth place

It’s a goal, said Merritt Centennials head coach Joe Martin, he hopes will do wonders for his squad...

It’s a goal, said Merritt Centennials head coach Joe Martin, he hopes will do wonders for his squad.

It did nothing for the Vernon Vipers.

Colin Grannary moved into a tie for the team lead in his goals when he scored his 19th at 8:40 of the third period to give the visiting last-place Centennials a 3-2 B.C. Hockey League win over the Vipers Friday night in front of 1,664 disappointed fans at Kal Tire Place.

The loss, coupled with the Trail Smoke Eaters’ 6-3 win at home over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, dropped the Vipers out of a playoff spot in the Interior Division, one point behind fourth-place Trail.

The Vipers close out the first half of the season with a game this afternoon at 2 against the Powell River Kings at Kal Tire Place. The Kings fell 4-3 in overtime Friday in Langley.

Grannary took a pass from Nick Jermain and beat a couple of Vipers defenders before cutting to the net and sliding the puck through the legs of goalie Andrew Shortridge for the winner.

“We wanted to attack the hockey game in the third period though I don’t think it looked like we did that,” smiled Martin, whose team jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead only to watch the Vipers tie it in the second, and were outshot 26-9 over the final 40 minutes.

“Our mindset has been ‘what are we doing to do to blow this one?’ But it was nice that Colin stepped up for them, they took a deep breath and it took a little bit of the pressure off.”

Said Grannary of the game-winner: “It was a nice goal but a there was also a lot of luck involved. We were looking to get back in the standings and battle hard so it was a great team win for us tonight.”

Jermain opened the scoring at 7:25 of the first period on a five-minute powerplay, the result of a blow to the head major assessed to Vipers forward Jimmy Lambert, who had just stepped on the ice when he collided with Merritt leading scorer Gavin Gould.

Gould, who was skating backward and never saw Lambert, hit his head on the ice. He was down for a few minutes and left the ice but returned later in the period and played a regular shift the rest of the way.

Ryan Forbes made it 2-0 visitors on a two-on-one shorthanded effort with Vernon product Brett Jewell at 14:23.

Forbes kept the puck, shot, and Shortridge made the save. The rebound came back to Forbes who stopped, waited a couple of seconds, then picked the top corner shortside.

A blow to the head major to Merritt’s Zak Bowles on Viper forward Odeen Tufto – who didn’t miss a shift – turned the game in Vernon’s favour in the second period.

Latrell Charleson scored his fifth on a point bomb, thanks to a beautiful pass from fellow blueliner Bo Pellah, at 15:05 with 59 seconds left in the Bowles major.

With Jermain in the box for interference, Tufto shook off a slash from Nick Fiorentino and fed a backdoor beauty to Christian Cakebreak for his eighth of the year at 16:33 to tie the game.

Cole Kehler made 31 saves to pick up the win in goal for Merritt.

“Tonight was not one of our best efforts,” said Vipers assistant coach Kevin Kraus. “We had a bad start and were down 2-0. Luckily, we got a five-minute power play and another powerplay right behind it that gave us a chance to tie it up.

“But we lost too many stick battles, too many battles in the defensive zone, we weren’t hard enough on the forecheck.. We didn’t do nearly enough to win a hockey game.”

Lambert and Bowles face automatic two-game suspensions for their blow to the head majors, though Kraus thinks the league will review both and didn’t think either hit warrants a suspension.

Goalie Brendan Barry and forward Riley Brandt watched from the press box for the Vipers. Barry was hurt in practice Friday morning (his spot was taken by Kelowna major midget call-up Cole Demers), and Brandt was serving the first of a two-game suspension for a blow to the head penalty picked up Wednesday in Trail.

Meanwhile, Vipers forward Liam Finlay played for gold Saturday at the World Junior A Hockey Challenge in Cobourg, Ont.

Finlay and his line mates Tyson Jost of the Penticton Vees and Joseph Nardi of the Alberta League’s Whitecourt Wolverines combined for nine points in the third period Thursday night to lead Canada West to an 8-5 semifinal win over Canada East.

Canada West took on Russia in the championship game.

Finlay had 1+2 in the third period and has 2+2 in three tournament games.

Canada West and Canada East combined for a record nine goals in the final 20 minutes.

  • Cooper Leitch scored twice in the Smokies’ win over Salmon Arm. Trail played in Merritt Saturday. The West Kelowna Warriors scored twice in the final 2:05 and Matthew Greenfield made 41 saves in a 2-0 home-ice win over the Vees. Vernon’s Spencer Hewson scored once to lead the Nanaimo Clippers to a 9-1 romp over the Prince George Spruce Kings. Noah Turanski of Vernon assisted on the first of five unanswered goals in the opening period as the Coquitlam Express crushed the Surrey Eagles 8-2. The Wild scored three times in the final 11 minutes for a 4-2 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs in front of 3,249 fans in Wenatchee.

 

 

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