|Leo Fitzgerald scored a short handed goal|
It was a tough way to end a magical run, but alas, the season has come to a close. They fought hard through 4 games, but couldn't come away with the much needed “W”. Tonight's contest had it's moments, but when the horn sounded, the better team was moving on. The game featured many wild sequences, most not in favour of the home team, with the 2nd period featuring an all out circus. But, let's start with the first, a period that was mainly dominated by the Centennials.
Once again, the Centennials opened up the scoring, but this time it took them over 18 minutes to find the back of the net. The goal came on the power play, by who else than the Spruce Kings killer in the series, Evan Stack. The Centennials forward scored the overtime winner the night before and had already potted a game winner earlier in the series. The goal was the only one in the first period, with the shots all tied at 10. Merritt did out chance the Spruce Kings in the period, and were really taking it to the home team. Prince George came out a little tentative, and it showed.
The second period is where things really started to unravel for Prince George. Leo Fitzgerald scored a short handed marker half way through the 2nd to tie the game up and send the fans into a frenzy. It didn't last long though as a weird transition saw Tyson Witala get hauled down going after yet another short handed breakaway. Shortly after Jarryd Ten Vaanholt dropped to the ice after taking a knee on knee hit, which then lead to Merritt breaking in on a 3 on 1 and scoring their second power play goal of the game. Chad Brears would get the goal, but the whole scenario took only 10 seconds, and left the fans furious. The crowd rained down boos, chanting “NO GOAL” over and over, which obviously fell to deaf ears. From a broadcasting stand point, I agreed with them. Tyson Witala was clearly interfered with on his way to the puck. I understand letting teams decide the game in playoffs, but that's not what happened. The non call and subsequent goal changed the tempo of the game, and took away any momentum that Prince George had gathered with the short handed marker.
After all of this, Paul De Jersey ended up losing his cool, cross checking Brent Fletcher in the chops behind the play to get himself ejected from the hockey game. It was obviously emotions boiling over, but the penalty put his team in a 5 minute short handed scenario, and took yet another weapon away. Merritt wouldn't capitalize on the major penalty, but 9 minutes later Carter Shinkaruk put a wrister past a screened Ty Swabb to out a strangle hold on the hockey game.
The third period saw Prince George receive 3 power play opportunities, but non of which would produced goals. Before it was all said and done though, Captain Ben Matthews showed why he is the captain of this hockey club. With 15 seconds on the clock, Merritt trickle a puck towards the empty Prince George net, but in a last second desperation move, Matthews fought off a Centennials, dove out, and swiped it off the goal line. The move caused him to go face first into the post, but it really showed why he was made captain. He has the heart of a champion, and with 15 seconds remaining, some would have packed it in and let the puck go to protect himself, but not Mr. Ben Matthews.
The game would end 3-1, giving Merritt the sweep over their Interior conference rivals. When the dust settled, Prince George was just out matched by a group of players that were playing as a complete unit. Merritt doesn’t have the flashiest of guys, or the top scorers of the league. What they have is a hard nosed style, and a group of men who go to war. Package that with a fine goaltending performance by Laval native Lino Chimienti, and they are a force to be reckoned with next round.
The Three Stars:
1)(PG)Jarryd Ten Vaanholt
To read the full box score recap, click here.
As we said before, it was a magical season that eventually had to come to an end. I don't think many fans expected it to go down this way, but sometimes that's just hockey. It'll be a tough way for some of these players to end their BCHL careers, but they can hold their heads high knowing they've helped rejuvenate a franchise and a city. We will take a couple of days to regroup, and then give you one final run down on the season and our final thoughts on this blog. Thanks for everything this season, we could not have done it with out YOU, the fans!