The Merritt Centennials are making a late B.C. Hockey League playoff push.
The Cents moved into fifth place in the Interior Division Tuesday night, four points back of the Vernon Vipers and one up on the Trail Smoke Eaters, by downing the Snakes 3-1 in front of 320 spectators at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.
The Smokies fell 9-3 in Salmon Arm Tuesday (Vernon’s Harlan Orr had a goal for Trail).
The Vipers (20-25-3-0) host the Langley Rivermen tonight at 7 at Kal Tire Place.
“I don’t think we were terrible, we just didn’t do enough to win,” said Vipers head coach Mark Ferner.
“Neither team really dominated any area. We just didn’t play with enough urgency and desperation. That’s where it gets disappointing.”
Michael Regush snapped a 1-1 tie at 11:44 of the third period with his fifth goal for the Centennials. Regush threw the puck out front from behind the Vipers net and the puck somehow ended up going off a body and past goalie Brendan Barry.
Vernon product Brett Jewell added the insurance with his 12th of the year, unassisted, at 18:01.
Michael Faulkner opened the scoring for the 19-27-4-1 Centennials at 3:12 with his fourth.
Riley Brandt tied the game for the Vipers with his 15th of the season at 12:42 with Hunter Zandee and Colton McCarthy picking up assists.
Merritt outshot Vernon 36-30 with Barry taking the loss for the Vipers. He started in favour of Andrew Shortridge, who is battling tonsillitis.
Cole Kehler picked up his 15th win for the Centennials.
The Rivermen (27-20-3-1), third in the Mainland Division, have clinched a playoff spot.
“Our (playoff) destiny is in our own hands,” said Ferner. “We’re not panicking. We’re four points up with a game in hand.”
Former Viper Matty Saharchuk has 18 goals and eight assists in 31 games with the Rivermen since being acquired from Salmon Arm.
Austin Cho, acquired in November for Ben Butcher, had one assist in eight games for Langley before being dealt to the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Georgetown Raiders.
The Vipers, meanwhile, have used their final roster card to welcome back a familiar face.
Nic Rasovic, 19, returns after playing 35 regular season games with the team in 2014 and 2015. He was dealt to the Drayton Valley Thunder of the Alberta League but left the team.
Rasovic, a forward, has played more than 120 Junior A games with Vernon, Drayton Valley and Coquitlam.