A quick start to the game, with neither side getting a puck on net through the opening two minutes as the Dogs seemed to be a step behind the Centennials pace and the space the smaller playing surface in Merritt allows. The Centennials opened the scoring just over three minutes into the game on a won battle behind the Dogs net and a perfect pass to the slot that was one-timed home, short-side past the blocker of John Hawthorne by Zach Court, with assists going to Nicholas Wicks and Brendan Schneider at 3:19 of the first. The Bulldogs earned a power play half a minute later, but more often than not lost faceoffs and chased the puck into their zone wasting precious time. They did generate a couple shots late in the advantage, and pushed back over the ensuing minutes to get back in the game. The Centennials would quickly stop that push, going up 2-0 on a banker from behind the goal line after winning a series of battles behind the net that saw Chase Bell sneak it off Hawthorne and over the line. Assists went to Zach Zorn and Sam Miller at 9:16 of the first. The Bulldogs were penalized almost immediately afterwards, and the Centennials again cashed in on it to make it 3-0 on a cross-ice set up to the left faceoff dot for Joey Berkopec that he finished with a perfect shot top corner, long side over the glove of Hawthorne. Assists went to Tyrell Buckley and Nicholas Wicks at 11:09 of the first. The Bulldogs were again instantly penalized, and again Merritt connected quickly on the power play when Samuel Miller got a point shot from the top of the line through a screen top corner over the glove of Colten Lancaster, who came off the bench in relief, making it 4-0 at 12:01 of the first, with Henry Cleghorn drawing the lone assist. Shots in the period were 14-8.
The Bulldogs had 1:25 of power play time to begin the second, but once again didn't look especially sharp on it. Another immediate follow up power play again didn't look especially sharp, as the Dogs squandered an opportunity to at least start to get back into the game. The period would grind along with a pretty tough parade of penalties against both sides of the puck, with 5-on-5 hockey being a rarity. If anything, four-aside hockey or man-advantage hockey was how the majority of the period was played. The Bulldogs took the most of the calls, but managed to kill them all off, including two separate instances when they were down two men. They would get on the board to make a game of it in the late stages of the second as Christian Simeone carried the puck with speed up the left side over the Merritt line before putting a perfect cross-ice pass onto the tape of Cole Poliziani, who slid it through Jacob Berger to make it a 4-1 game at 18:37 of the second. The Dogs had a great chance to make it a two-goal game at the end of the period, with Simeone again setting up Poliziani, but Berger came up with a pad save on a cross-ice one timer. Shots in the period were 9-7 Merritt, for a 40 minute total of 23-15 Centennials.
The Bulldogs earned an early power play in the third period for a chance to get further back in it, but again failed to impress as they continued to lose draws and chase the puck. They would push back through the next couple of minutes to threaten around the Merritt net, but couldn't get a bounce. Colten Lancaster would come up with numerous solid saves to give the Bulldogs a fighting chance to get back in it, but the push wasn't there for any sustained periods to trim the deficit. The Bulldogs earned another power play with 10 minutes to go, but again lost draws and chased pucks which was a prevailing theme. A final opportunity late to stage a late comeback saw the Dogs threaten on a scramble, but in the end fail to make a game of it as the Centennials made the 4-1 score hold up.
Third period shots were 15-13 Centennials, for a game total in their favour of 36-30, with John Hawthorne taking the loss giving up three goals in 11:09 before Colten Lancaster came in to earn no decision but third star in relief while Jacob Berger picked up the win. VERY unofficial power play stats - I had Merritt at 2 for 10 on the power play, and the Bulldogs at 0 for 9.
With the loss, the Dogs have lost four in a row and are now winless in five. They conclude their weekend tomorrow afternoon in Coquitlam when they meet the Express.
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