MERRITT — That 10th win of the season continues to evade the Prince George Spruce Kings as they fell 3-2 to the Merritt Centennials on Thursday night at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.
The loss marked the first time the Spruce Kings dropped a game to the Centennials since Feb. 7, 2020 when the Cents beat the Kings 5-2 in Prince George.
Despite putting 40 shots on Cents’ Johnny Hicks, the Spruce Kings struggled to find the back of the net. Hicks stopped 38 shots to earn his fourth win of the season as Merritt improves to 5-9-2-0.
Prince George sees their record fall to 9-5-1-1 yet remain in third in the Interior Division with their game on Thursday being the only one on tap for the BC Hockey League.
In the opening period, the Centennials got the scoring underway. At 9:00 of the first period, Ryan Spinale scored his second of the season to put Merritt ahead 1-0. Aleksy Chichkin and Coleman Jenkins earned the assists on the play.
Merritt carried a 1-0 lead into the dressing room following the first 20 minutes, however, with Davide Patella committing a hooking penalty with 11 seconds remaining, the Spruce Kings earned some powerplay time in the early moments of the second period.
The Centennials ended up putting pressure on the Spruce Kings’ powerplay unit, eventually killing of the penalty as the Spruce Kings saw an opportunity to equalize pass them by.
Later in the period, a shot on net by Kilian McGregor-Bennett popped off the pad of Hicks and to the side of the net where John Herrington stepped up and scraped in the loose puck for his ninth goal of the season, tying the game up for PG. The goal came at 9:52 of the middle frame.
Shortly after, Spinale scored his second of the night to reclaim the momentum and the lead quickly. Chichkin earned the helper on the play.
Moments after the Cents took the lead 2-1, Austin Fraser was sent off to the penalty box after being called for boarding. It took the Centennials just six seconds on the man advantage to create some cushion for themselves on the scoreboard. Christian Lowe scored his sixth of the season as Merritt led PG 3-1.
The score would remain there until the final minute of play in the third period after Spruce Kings Head Coach Alex Evin pulled Jordan Fairlie in an effort for a late comeback.
Herrington scored his 10th of the season with 58 seconds remaining on the clock. Ben Lefranc earned his second assist of the night.
The goal brought the Spruce Kings to within one, however, it was too little too late as the Centennials were able to close out the game and secure the 3-2 victory.
The Spruce Kings will look for a quick bounce-back game Friday afternoon when they play the second of the doubleheader against the Centennials.
Puck drop is scheduled for 4:00 PM.