Two teams involved in opposite trends stayed true to form as the Merritt Centennials shaded the Vipers 4-3 in the lone BCHL fixture on Wednesday in Vernon.
Often when a team is on a roll, it gets the breaks and that's what happened in the first period. At 3:48 Dylan Chanter's low wrist shot from the point slightly deflected off Ryan Renz and through Austin Smith's pads.
Then, at 14:46 during a five on three power play, from a bad angle Sebastien Pare's hopeful shot somehow bounced in off Smith's left pad.
To be fair, the Centennials deserved their good fortune as they outhustled the Vipers and won nearly all the puck battles. Shots favoured the visitors, 12-7 and the Cents allowed only two scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes.
The next 40 minutes were quite different, however. The Vipers returned from the first intermission with fire in their eyes and tied the game on goals by Craig Martin and newcomer Cody Fowlie. Martin's goal at 3:29 was a deft deflection of a Brett Corkey shot.
Corkey's defence partner, Ryan Renz, then set up Fowlie for the former Everett Silvertip's first BCHL goal at 7:18. Renz roared down the right wing, went behind the net and set up Fowlie for a short one-timer.
The Viper momentum was derailed for a few minutes when Kevin Guiltinan, incensed by Brett Fletcher's undetected liberty, took a double minor when he went after Fletcher. On the ensuing power play, a loose puck came to Tyler Martin, who walked into a wicked slap shot that found the top corner at 13:40.
Following the go-ahead goal, for a minute or so, the Centennials recovered their poise and checked the Vipers ferociously. But then the Vipers came back strong and once again tied the game at 18:06.
With referee Nick Swaine's arm raised for a Centennial penalty, Landon Robin put on a dazzling display of stickhandling and set up Craig Martin to sweep in the puck at Tyler Steel's crease.
The Vipers had the edge in play for nearly all the third period, but a brief lapse in coverage allowed Merritt's Payton Schaefer to nudge the puck back to Richard Sabourin, whose soft point shot eluded Austin Smith at 6:32.
The Vipers continued to press but could not beat Tyler Steel, who stopped breakaways by Pierce Eviston and Cody Fowlie and held firm as the Vipers stormed his net in the last minute.
In the second and third periods, the Vipers out shot the Cents 28-17 and created 15 scoring chances while the Cents had just 5. But when one team is on a roll and the other team is finding ways to lose, those statistics matter little.
Mitch McAllister, Braedan Russell, and Logan Mick remained in sick bay. Bryce Eviston was a healthy scratch.
Cody Fowlie was named Energy Player of the game – his thumping body checks energized the crowd.