Yaniv Perets and the Penticton Vees breezed to an easy home-ice victory over the lowly Merritt Centennials.
Perets kicked out 20 shots for his fourth shutout of the season and five players shared the goal-scoring as the Vees thumped the Centennials 5-0 in front of a huge crowd of 4,415 on “Pink the Rink” anti-bullying night Saturday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Lukas Sillinger had a goal and an assist, Colton Kalezic, David Silye, Jack Barnes and Jackson Niedermayer also lit the lamp and Jay O’Brien tacked on two helpers for the Vees, who led 2-0 and 3-0 at the period breaks.
O’Brien is second in the BCHL with 45 points - 14 behind Hunter Johnson of the Trail Smoke Eaters.
The win completed a weekend sweep over the Cents for the Vees (23-8-1), who opened up a five-point lead on the second-place Trail atop the Interior Division. Salmon Arm Silverbacks are now seven points back.
Tanner Marshall made 40 saves for the Centennials, who have lost all four meetings with the Vees by a combined score of 20-5.
The Vees are now 7-4-1 at home and 16-4 on the road.
The Vees got the quick jump and never looked back as Kalezic pounced on a rebound to give them a 1-0 lead just 1:22 into the contest.
Sillinger also scored on a rebound of Evan McIntyre’s shot at 16:36 to make it 2-0.
Silye took a nice feed from O’Brien and beat Marshall on the glove side to make it 3-0 after 40 minutes.
The Vees made it 4-0 at 7:41 of the third as Barnes got his second of the season on a nice play by Liam Noble, who earned the assist for his first BCHL point.
After being denied by a pair of goalposts, Niedermayer finally broke through on a rebound of Sillinger’s shot for the fifth Vees goal at 12:35.
Sillinger, O’Brien and Perets were the three stars while Noble fittingly got the Fortis Energy Player of the Game.
The Vees make their final trip south of the border in the regular season to face-off against the Wenatchee Wild (15-12-3-1) on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
The Vees annual Teddy Bear Toss Game will be Friday at 7 p.m. at the SOEC against the West Kelowna Warriors. Fans are encouraged to bring a new or gently-used stuff animal, a pair of socks, pyjamas or diapers to throw onto the ice after Penticton’s first goal of the game.
The two teams also do battle Saturday at 6 p.m. in West Kelowna.
CJHL RANKINGS: The Vees went 2-1 this past week and it kept them at No. 17 in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings for the third straight week.
The Coquitlam Express remained the top BCHL team, though they fell two spots to No. 11. The Nanaimo Clippers earned an honourable mention.
The Brooks Bandits stayed at No. 1 as they improved to 27-1-1 in the Alberta league.
Still riding high in Quebec, College Français de Longueuil stayed No. 2 in the national rankings for another week while sporting a 21-1-0-1 record.
The Sherwood Park Crusaders (Alberta), held on to the No. 3 spot this week, having gone 25-2 to date.
The Battlefords North Stars remain at No. 4 topping the Saskatchewan league at 26-3-1-0.
The Carleton Place Canadians (CCHL) went 10-0-0-1 in November and are 27-3-2-1 so far this season to move up one spot into the top five.