The Penticton Vees started off their nine-game home series with a crowd-pleasing 6-2 win against the Merritt Centennials on Friday.
Coming off a 5-2 win in West Kelowna, the Vees returned to Penticton for the last stretch of the regular season with a five-game win streak.
Through the opening period, the Vees offence kept up the momentum from their previous wins, scoring four times before the first intermission.
“I thought in the first we were real solid,” said head coach Fred Harbinson. “We were really moving the puck well.”
Connor Hutchison started the scoring off for the Vees 4:08 in, picking up his fifth of season with assists from Tyler Ho and Colton Kalezic.
Earning his second tally-mark, Drew Elser picked up the rebound off the post from Evan McIntyre’s shot halfway through the period.
Jay O’Brien picked up the first of his three points in the game with a goal at 12:56, for his 20th of the season. Evan McIntyre and Lukas Sillinger assisted on the goal.
With 1:05 let on the clock, O’Brien snagged the rebound from Jackson Niedermayer’s shot, directing to Danny Weight to finish off the play for the fourth goal of the period, and Weight’s 21st of the season.
The Vees started the game down two players, with Jack Barnes and Cade Webber both out for injuries, before losing another mid-game.
“It hurt losing, we already had Barnes out with the flu, then you lose your captain. He should be fine by next week,” said Harbinson. “I thought in our second period they took it to us. Our power-play was out of whack tonight. Once we lost David (Silye). Give Merritt credit, they kept battling.”
Merritt poured the shots on in the second period, putting 16 against Vees’ goalie Carl Stankowski compared to the Vees’ 7. Late in the period, a power-play for the Centennials gave them the advantage they needed to get past his guard.
“The puck seemed to be bouncing a little bit, I tried to control what I could control,” said Stankowski after the game. “I take the mentality of one shot at a time, and it slows the game down for me, and that’s what I do and it’s been working for me so far.”
Stankowski blocked 30 of the 32 shots sent his way for his 11th win of the season.
The Vees didn’t stop trying to add to their lead, with Weight earning his 22nd of the season with another pair of assists from O’Brien and Niedermayer 6:20 into the second.
The final Vees goal came 12:28 into the third, with Darwin Lakoduk getting into the double digits, assisted by Tyler Ho and Liam Malmquist.
With the win, the Vees extend their streak to six games, as they look to beat their division-leading 11 game streak from the start of the season.
“We’ve got eight more games to go here,” said Harbinson. “We have a little bit of a break here until next Saturday. We play Vernon, and it will be our last battle against them, we’ve had some good battles with them throughout the year. Not having to go on a bus, and being able to take care of our bodies in our home building before playoffs is going to be outstanding.
The next game in the home stretch is Feb. 1 when the Vees take on the Vernon Vipers for the last time in the regular season.
The puck drops at the South Okanagan Events Centre at 6 p.m.
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