Morning Star Staff
The Merritt Centennials got to Kal Tire Place late and stayed even later in a 2-1 double overtime win over the Vernon Vipers Saturday night.
Zac Risteau sprung Tyler Ward for a breakaway snipe at 3:11 of 3-on-3 overtime play. The Cents were hemmed in their zone for close to 90 seconds before Ward beat Viper goalie Ty Taylor five-hole for his eighth of the B.C. Hockey League season. Ward, an 18-year-old Kamloops product, is a University of Denver Pioneer commit.
The Vipers (22-13-4-3) and Centennials (16-17-7-2) meet again Wednesday night in Vernon. The Vipers have gained points in their last 11 games.
Taylor, with 37 saves, and Jake Berger of the Cents, with 43 stops, were both magnificent. Berger, a Minnesota native, blocked 23 drives in the second period. Berger was named first star and Taylor, a Richmond product, took second star, in front of 1,938 fans.
Merritt controlled play for the opening seven minutes despite rushing to get a warm-up after arriving at the rink an hour before faceoff, outshooting the Vipers 5-0. Berger registered his save of the year when he robbed Niko Karamanis on a shorthanded 2-on-1. The Cents outshot the Snakes 16-6 in the opening 20.
Connor Clouston of the Vipers tangled with Stephan Seeger in a rousing heavyweight bout 3:33 into the second period with Clouston, a former Medicine Hat Tiger d-man, scoring the takedown on the Connecticut product in a scrap which energized both benches.
Karamanis opened the offence 13 minutes later on a rebound. Brett Stapley and Fortis Energy Player of the game Stephen Jandric drew assists on Karamanis’ 15th.
The Cents replied 64 seconds later when Risteau fed Cade Gleekel for his 14th of the season.
Merritt couldn’t connect on a powerplay when Austin Adamson took a high sticking penalty with 1:24 left in regulation. Vernon outshot the Cents 12-6 in the third period.
Vipers’ head coach/GM Mark Ferner was taking some positives from gaining a single night for the second straight game, but still wants a better showing in the early going.
“Another poor start by our hockey team,” said Ferner. “The second period was obviously better and we had some good looks but couldn’t capitalize. Once you get in overtime, anything can happen. On the winning goal, we had three guys go too low and a turnover’s gonna go the way other way as a breakaway.
“Give Merritt credit. They played a good road game and they capitalized when they had their opportunities.”
Cents’ head coach/GM Joe Martin was stoked with his team’s play.
“Really proud of the guys tonight,” said Martin. “Credit to Ty Taylor and the Vernon defence tonight, but we never quit. Glad Tyler didn’t deke on the winner and just shot it.”
Shots in the third period were 12-6 for Vernon. In OT, neither team scored, and the game went into double OT. In the extra frame, Risteau sprung Tyler Ward after being hemmed in the defensive zone for over a minute and a half, and Ward scored the game winner on a breakaway as he beat Taylor five hole.
SNAKE BITES: Vernon product Ethan King made his debut for the Centennials. The 6-foot-7 d-man played sparingly and did not get a shift in overtime. Martin says King, a recent cut by the WHL Lethbridge Hurricanes, will see more ice time as the season progresses…Vernon’s Blaine Caton scored 12 seconds after the opening faceoff as the Smoke Eaters shelled the Surrey Eagles 19-3 Saturday night before 1,361 fans at Cominco Arena. The league record for fastest goal from the start of a game is eight seconds, set in 1995 by Corey Stock of Surrey versus Chilliwack. Caton, an ex-Viper, has a dozen goals. The record for goals by one team is held by the Penticton Knights, 28-5 winners over Salmon Arm Totems in February, 1985…The Eagles dealt their starting netminder Michael Botiz to the Manitoba League’s Mirimachi Timberwolves last week. Backup Daniel Davidson allowed 14 goals, while Major Midget call-up Lukas Shaw gave up five.