The Merritt Centennials (26-14-1-1) face the BCHL leading Chilliwack Chiefs (29-11-1-0) tonight.
The Cents are coming off a week that saw the trend of going to overtime continue, but they couldn’t collect the full 4 points settling for 3 of 4. Last Wednesday the Cents travelled to Coquitlam for a date with the Express and surrendered an early 2-0 lead before bouncing back with goals from Payton Matsui and Rylan Van Unen. The Express rolled ahead by 2 again, but in the third the Cents got some life late from Daniel Tkac to get within one, and then Captain Nick Wicks tied the game in the final minute to tie the game at 4’s. In OT the Cents controlled the puck and Wicks finished the game with a rush from centre, a dangle in short side, and a snipe to win 5-4 and give the Cents a 5 game winning streak.
The streak would be snapped on Friday night against the Warriors. A game that saw the Cents get all their goals on the PP. Jackson Munro had two, but the Warriors led 3-2 after two periods. Matt Kopperud would tie the game late with a one-timer on the PP, but the Cents would fall in OT after they were out possessed in extra time.
The Chiefs are the defending RBC Cup National Champions and they’ve carried over that success into this season. A new coaching staff, some new personnel and a solid returning core have given them the edge in the Mainland Division where they’re on top - and also on top of the BCHL standings.
In the new year, the Chiefs are 3-1 with wins over Coquitlam, PG, and Surrey and have had their own share of overtime drama. They fell to Coquitlam 4-3, but their most recent contest against PG went to the wire - a 16 player shootout that produced only one goal as the tenders went toe to toe.
Last year, the teams split the season series with away wins. The Chiefs won 4-2 at the NVMA in October, but the Cents returned the favour with a February 5-2 win.
The Cents will need all hands on deck to propel them to victory, but are waiting for their top scorer to break out in the new year. Brad Cocca picked up an assist over the week that was and is 5th in BCHL scoring with 52 points. Nick Granowicz is 10th with 48 points. Nick Wicks is tied for 18th with 43 points.
The Chiefs are led by a couple rookies and a veteran up front. Rookie Matt Holmes is 9th in the BCHL with 49 points. Harrison Blaisdell is 13th with 45 points, and rookie Kevin Wall is 16th with 44 points.
The special teams battle sees the Chiefs with the edge:
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Chiefs - 20.4% (6th) Chiefs - 83.2% (5th)
Cents - 18.8% (10th) Cents - 75.5% (15th)
In net, Austin Roden is 3-1 in 2019 with all games going to OT, but with the last game being a loss we could see Vincent Duplessis get a chance in the crease. Duplessis is 8-5-2 with a .904 SV% and a 3.31 GAA. Roden is 18-8 with a .900 3.26 and 1 shutout. Mathieu Caron has been the go to guy for the Chiefs. He’s 18-7 with a .914 SV%, a 2.71 GAA, and 1 shutout. Nolan Hildebrand is 9-2 with a .881 SV% and a 3.36 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin says the Chiefs are one of the top teams in the BCHL for a reason.
“They are the defending RBC cup champions and there’s a reason for it. They have some of the best rookies in the league, and are good up and down the line up.”
The Cents will look to slay another dragon tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm from the NVMA. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials have a tie to the NCAA's Hobey Baker finalists this year.
Diego Cuglietta who played for the Cents from 2012 to 2015 is up for the prestigious award. Now a Senior and Captain at Lake Superior State University, the Kamloops, BC native leads the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and is 2nd in the NCAA in goals scored with 16, while adding 7 assists, and he's also been an ace in the faceoff dot winning 300 draws which is 1st in the division and 2nd in the nation as well. He's tied for the team lead with a +13 rating, and earned MVP honors at the Great Lakes Invitational (GLI) after recording 4 goals to help Lake Superior capture their first GLI Championship in program history.
As a Cent, Cuglietta picked up 128 points over 149 games played in three seasons and was a point-per-game player in his final two years.
Head Coach Joe Martin says he remembers Cuglietta for all the right reasons.
"I recall Diego being a guy that would do anything for his teammates and being a player that was very coachable."
The first phase of voting is open until Sunday and fans can vote at http://www.hobeybaker.com.
The Merritt Centennials went to overtime for a 4th straight game in 2019, but this time they couldn't quite complete the comeback falling 4-3 to the Warriors.
Early on the Cents and Warriors traded chances early on, but it was the Warriors who'd strike first. Andrew Viggars threw a shot from the left point that got past a screened Austin Roden to make it 1-0. The Cents would answer on their first powerplay of the game. Jackson Munro would unload a shot from the left point that had just enough, rolling over the pad of Connor Hopkins and in to tie the game 1-1. After 1 the shots were 16-15.
The middle frame saw the Warriors regain the lead with a two-on-one between Mike Hardman and Bulawka. Bulawka would finish it off low on Roden to make it 2-1. Munro would tie the game with his second on the night with the extra man to get the Cents back level 2-2. The Warriors would pull ahead late in the second on an absolute weird one with the powerplay. The Warriors tried to put the puck back door, and Roden slid across to commit, it would bounce off him, off a defense man and in. An unfortunate end to the period, that could be considered the difference in the game. Shots after 2 were 34-22.
The third period set the stage for what everyone was waiting for. The Cents seemed to be waiting the whole game for the final ten minutes to hit, as they finally turned up the heat on the Warriors and came at them wave after wave. The late push paid off, as Nick Granowicz would draw a penalty, and the Cents would head to the powerplay where they had been deadly on the night. Jaydon Fetter would find Matt Kopperud on the back door, and Kopperud would clap a one-timer to tie the game 3-3. Shots after 3 were 42-39.
In overtime, the Cents got caught on the ice a little too long, and weren't able to get fresh legs. The Warriors maintained possession and came through on a shot from Mike Hardman who sniped one short-side glove-side on Roden to seal the game for the Warriors.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said he hoped it would be a learning lesson moving forward.
"I think we spent too much time waiting to get our game going. The way we played in the final ten minutes was the way we needed to play the whole game. We need to learn from this as we have some tough games coming up."
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Brad Cocca 0G 1A
3RD STAR: Lucas Cullen 1G 1A
2ND STAR: Jackson Munro 2G 0A
1ST STAR: Mike Hardman 1G 1A
The Merritt Centennials (26-13-1-1) host Interior Division rival the West Kelowna Warriors (22-19-0-1) tonight.
The Cents have clawed back into top spot in the Interior for the time being with a gutsy win on Wednesday against the Coquitlam Express. The Cents once again needed extra time to secure victory, and have extended their win streak to 5 including 2 wins before the break against Trail. Coquitlam shot out to a 2-0 lead before Payton Matsui on the powerplay, and Rylan Van Unen at even strength were able to level the score 2-2. The Express would once again pull away by a two-goal margin and lead 4-2 after two periods of play. It was looking grim for the Centennials until the final 5 minutes. The energy line gave the team a shot in the arm when they were able to convert on the rush, and Daniel Tkac cashed in his 5th of the season. That set the stage for another comeback effort, and the Cents found a way late in the third with a shot from Jaydon Fetter that was deflected by Nick Wicks and in to send the game to overtime. In the extra frame, the Cents didn't take too many chances by keeping solid possession of the puck, and Nick Wicks was able to dangle in short-side and snipe one top shelf over the glove of Matthews and in to give the Cents their 3rd overtime victory in three games to start 2019.
The Warriors are a team that possesses much of the same make-up of the Cents. A strong scoring core with 3 players in the league's top 20, a good goalie tandem, and a team that is deep and can put up offense. However, the Warriors are coming off a blowout loss to the Express 8-1, and have dropped 5 games in a row. It was a game that was closer than the score indicated, but the Cents will hope to pounce on a goaltending tandem that might not be feeling 100% confident.
The season series between the two clubs sees the Cents with the edge 3-1. They've won games at the NVMA by a large margin so far with scores of 8-3 and 8-4. In West K the games have been a little tighter with scores of 5-4 and 6-3. The most recent meeting was in West K where the Cents came back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game at threes, before allowing three more goals from West Kelowna to lose 6-3.
The Cents got a big game from Captain Nick Wicks who provided two goals in the last game and is 19th in league scoring. Brad Cocca is yet to break open a game in the new year and is 4th with 51 points, and Nick Granowicz is 6th with 48 points.
The Warriors have three representatives in the top 20 in BCHL scoring as well. Mike Hardman is 3rd with 52 points, Chase Dubois is 5th with 49 points, and Willie Reim is 14th with 44 points.
The special teams battle favours West Kelowna.
Powerplay Penalty Kill
WK - 22.4% (3rd) WK - 77.7% (13th)
Cents - 18% (15th) Cents - 75.5% (16th)
Austin Roden continues to come up clutch when it counts, and has posted four wins in a row. He's 18-7 with a .899 SV%, a 3.23 GAA, and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis is 8-5-2 with a .904SV% and a 3.31 GAA. Brock Baier is 11-5 with a .898 SV% and a 3.99 GAA. Connor Hopkins is 11-13 with a .907 SV% and a 3.43 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin knows that West Kelowna will come into Merritt hungry.
"There a team that's struggled in their last few games, so you have to be ready for a team like that. They get up to play us, so we need to match their intensity."
It's NVIT Night at the NVMA. All grade 11 and 12 students get in free with their Student ID. Check out what programs NVIT has to offer for students of all ages by visiting their staff in the Mezzanine.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on HockeyTV and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials continued the trend in the new year of going to OT and winning, this time against the Coquitlam Express 5-4.
The first period started with the Express jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Danny Pearson and Chase Danol. The Cents would cut the lead to one on their first powerplay of the game. Rylan Van Unen got the puck along the goal line, drove the net, and the puck popped loose in the slot for Payton Matsui to bat it in for his 2nd goal in 3 games and 4th of the season. Austin Roden stopped 9/11 in the first, and Kolby Matthews stopped 8/9.
In the second, the Cents quickly tied it with Rylan Van Unen potting a juicy rebound off a low Talon Zakall shot in the pads. Then the Express started to pull away with goals from Christian Sanda and Alex DiPaolo to make it 4-2. Shots after 2 were 26-19.
The final frame saw the Cents start out slow, but turn it on late. The energy line gave the Cents the jump they needed with all three combining on the action. Vincent Guy set up Brett Roloson for a shot from the high slot, and Daniel Tkac got a double tap on the rebound to make it 4-3 with 3:50 to go. Then the Cents buckled down and put the pressure on. Late in the game Jaydon Fetter unleashed a blast from the left point, and Nick Wicks deflected it in to tie the game at 4’s and send it to OT.
In OT it was all Centennials as they possessed the puck for the majority of the extra frame, and it paid off. The Cents played the puck back to neutral ice to Captain Nick Wicks, he saw an opening on the right side and glided in across the blue line, made some moves to the outside on the defender and then sniped it short-side high over the glove of Matthews to seal the win.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said the energy line is starting to build trust.
“Daniel Tkac and the whole energy line is really starting to gain some trust from Brandon and myself. I feel comfortable putting them out in any situation, and they came through for us tonight.”
The Cents now move into a one-point lead in the Interior Division over the Penticton Vees once again.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cooper Connell 0G 0A
3rd STAR: Rylan Van Unen 1G 1A
2nd STAR: Nick Wicks 2G 0A
1st Star: Christian Sanda 1G 1A