The Merritt Centennials and West Kelowna Warriors was chalked up to be a meeting of two of the top teams in the Interior Division, but only one of those teams came to play as the Centennials stomped the Warriors 8-3.
The teams tested each other early in the first before the Centennials finally broke the deadlock. Rylan Van Unen received a feed from Payton Matsui and Brendan Schneider, and ripped a quick shot from the high slot, top shelf to get the 1-0 lead. Matthew Kopperud got the second goal of the night by dangling past a defender, regaining the puck and then shooting down low to beat Connor Hopkins. Schneider got the third goal of the game on the Cents first powerplay, after Nick Wicks saucered a feed across for a Gosselin one-timer, Schneider found the big rebound for the 3-0 lead. Shots after one were 17-8 Centennials with Austin Roden making the start.
In the second, the Cents powerplay continued it's torrid pace with Gosselin finding Nick Granowicz on the back door, not once but twice. Granowicz finished off two beautiful set ups by the Goose at the 1:46 mark and the 5:50 mark to give the Cents a 5-0 lead and chase Connor Hopkins from the net. Ironically, on the goal Roden picked up his first assist of the season, and leaves Vincent Duplessis as the only player on the Centennials who hasn't registered at least a point. The Warriors would score on the breakaway to break the goose egg for Roden, but Christian Sabin and Joey Berkopec would answer right back for the Centennials and Brock Baier would have a rocky start to his relief duties. The Warriors would add another before Brad Cocca would convert on a goal-mouth shot after following Nick Granowicz to the net. Shots through 2 were 29-21 Cents
The Warriors would score the lone goal of the third period, but it could've been more than one if not for sensational saves from Roden during the final 20 minutes. He ended up stopping 42 of 45 shots for the victory.
Energy Player of the Game - Joey Berkopec - 1G, 1A
3rd Star - Austin Roden - 42 saves on 45 shots
2nd Star - Mathieu Gosselin - 3A
1st Star - Nick Granowicz - 2G, 1A
After the game Head Coach Joe Martin credited the win to one thing.
"I think our intensity carried over from our game on Friday, and the guys were ready to play. They were fighting for he puck all over the ice, and just wanted it more, and it showed on the scoreline."
Next up for the Cents is the Wenatchee Wild at the NVMA on Wednesday night, 7pm puck drop.
The Merritt Centennials (14-8-0-1) lock horns in a shootout for first place this afternoon against the West Kelowna Warriors (14-7-0-1).
The Cents are coming off a 4-3 thriller against the Vernon Vipers on Friday night. The Cents never trailed in the game, but the Vipers were quick to tie things up throughout. The special teams were electric for the Cents going 0/6 on the penalty kill, and 3/5 on the powerplay. Goals with the extra man came from Matt Kopperud, Christian Sabin, and Nick Granowicz. Captain Nick Wicks scored the lone goal at even strength, and the Grano got the go ahead goal with 6 minutes remaining in the third. Vincent Duplessis was sensational in a first star performance where he stopped 43 of 46 shots.
The West Kelowna Warriors will remember the last time they played the Centennials well, as it was one of the last time they tasted defeat. They followed that up with two more losses, but since then they've gone on an 8 game win streak, and have streaked into a tie with the Centennials and the Penticton Vees atop the Interior division. The lone game of the season so far was a wild offensive affair, the Cents opened the scoring with Brad Cocca, only to have the Warriors score three unanswered, but that didn't phase the Cents as they responded with three of their own from Brady Ziemer, Brendan Schneider, and Matt Kopperud. The 5-3 showing after one would be plenty for most teams, but not the Merritt Centennials. Mathieu Gosselin would score the lone goal of the second period for the Cents, with the Warriors answering with one, and in the third the Cents took advantage of a parade to the penalty box to make it an 8-4 final. Cocca, Vincent Guy, and Mike Van Unen would add three in the final frame.
The Warriors extended the win streak to 8 last night with a victory over the lowly Surrey Eagles. A 5 point night from Mike Hardman gave the Warriors a 6-2 win, the powerplay went 2/3, and Brock Baier stopped 30/32.
The Cents continue to be led by Brad Cocca with 31 points, Nick Granowicz is on his heels with 30, and Mathieu Gosselin has 27.
The Warriors are led by Willie Reim with 28 points, Mike Hardman with 26, and Chase Dubois with 23.
The special teams battle sees the Warriors with the edge, but the Cents will be looking to build off their best special teams game of the season:
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 18.3% (10th) Cents - 77.2% (15th)
Warriors - 21.2% (4th) Warriors - 81.3% (9th)
The goaltending duel will see Austin Roden return to the crease for the first time in 5 games, as Vincent Duplessis has held the fort for a while. Roden is 8-5 with an .885 SV%, 3.80 GAA, and 1 shutout. Duplessis is 6-3 .907 SV%and a 3.25GAA. Brock Baier has impressed since coming to the West Kelowna Warriors. He is 6-2 with a .916 SV% and a 3.07 GAA. Connor Hopkins is 8-4 with a .912 SV% and a 3.09 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin knows that West Kelowna is on a roll and will be coming in with lots of confidence.
"These guys are hot, they've been getting bounces going their way, but we just have to stick to our game plan and hopefully we will have a similar result to what we had the last time out against them."
It's a matinee match up between the Warriors and the Cents. 2pm Puck drop, 1:45 Pre-Game on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials waited until the third period to get the game winner for the second time in this four game homestand as they topped the Vipers 4-3 in regulation time.
The Cents and Vipers started off slow in the first. Shots from distance were the order of the early goings, but both teams would cash in on bank shots off the end boards. Matt Kopperud opened the scoring 7:51 into the game on the powerplay, after a shot from Jaydon Fetter went wide, between the legs of Porter off the back boards, and onto the stick off Kopper to the side of the net. The Vipers would answer just under a minute later on a similar play. A shot wide bounced off Vincent Duplessis, and then out to the slot to Sebastien Streu who tied it at ones. That would be the score after 20. Shots were 13-7 after 1. Aiden Porter got the start for the VIpers.
In the second period, the Cents would regain the lead at the 12:30 mark, and once again it would come thanks to the powerplay. This time it was a Mathieu Gosselin shot from the top of the right circle that Porter would stop, only to have deflect off a hard-charging Christian Sabin and into the net. The 2-1 lead would last until late in the 2nd, when the Vipers answered just after a penalty against the Centennials had expired. Shots after two were 33-20.
The final frame saw the Centennials get out to an early lead, Nick Wicks converted on a loose puck to the side of the net to make it 3-2 just 4:46 into the period. Once again, the Vipers didn't take long to answer as Teddy Wooding converted after Mike Van Unen coughed up the puck at centre ice. The Centennials would score their 3rd goal on the powerplay for the eventual game-winner. Brad Cocca buzzed behind the net and found Nick Granowicz out front for a quick bang-bang play to make it 4-3 with 6:31 remaining in the third. The Cents would hang on to win, with Duplessis stopping 43/46 shots in the winning effort. Aiden Porter stopped 23/27 for the Vipers in the loss.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said that the biggest plus was the special teams performance.
"I think we've been waiting for a game like that. Where we shut down a team on the penalty kill and are really able to make them pay with the extra man."
With the win the Cents move back into sole possession of first place in the Interior Division, but the West Kelowna Warriors play the Surrey Eagles tomorrow night.
Energy Player of the Game:
3rd Star - Teddy Wooding 1G, 1A
2nd Star - Matt Kopperud 1G, 1A
1st Star - Vincent Duplessis 43 saves on 46 shots
Next up: West Kelowna Warriors on Sunday Afternoon - 2pm puck drop.
The Merritt Centennials (13-8-0-1) welcome the Vernon Vipers (8-6-5-2) to town during Parent's Weekend tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a weekend split against the Penticton Vees and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. They lost in their first trip to the penalty shootout against the Vees 4-3. Mathieu Gosselin, Rylan Van Unen and Matthew Kopperud had goals to give the Cents a 3-1 lead in the final frame, but the Vees stormed back to tie it and then win it. The following night the Cents rebounded on home ice against the Dogs. With the 3rd best home record in the division at 8-3, the Cents got off to a good start against Alberni scoring 3 goals in the first to lead 3-1. The newly formed top line of Nick Granowicz, Brad Cocca, and Christian Sabin were in on all of them with Granowicz scoring twice, Sabin scoring the other, and Cocca drawing assists on all three. Granowicz completed the hat trick early in the third before the Bulldogs stormed back to tie things at 4. Brendan Schneider got the game-winner with 2 minutes remaining to vault the Cents over the Dogs late. Vincent Duplessis had back to back 38 save nights and went 1-0-0-1 over the weekend.
The Vipers and Cents will meet for the third time this season and have split the season series so far. The Vipers spoiled the Cents home opener by a score of 5-2, but the Cents returned the favour a couple weeks later when they invaded Vernon and won by the same score.
As of late, the Vipers have been struggling by their lofty standards. They've been in a lot of tight games, but have had trouble scoring goals as evidenced by their 59 goals for - the lowest in the Interior Division. They've also spent the most time in extra time with 5 games lost in overtime and 2 lost in the shootout, but have yet to win a game that's gone longer than 60 minutes. However, with those trips to overtime come extra points in the standings which they've used to keep pace in the tight Interior Division and they sit just 4 points back of the Cents and Warriors at 23 points.
The Vipers are coming off a loss to the Penticton Vees on Wednesday night in overtime. The game was tied at two after goals from Ben Sanderson and Sebastien Streu for the Vipers, and the scoreline held through 60 minutes. However, a late major penalty to Mitch Andres gave the Vees 5 minutes to try and get the go-ahead goal. While they couldn't do it in regular time, with the 4-on-3 advantage in overtime they made good and won the game. In their last 5 games, the Vipers are 2-1-1-1.
The Cents welcomed a new face to the team yesterday. Payton Matsui joins the Centennials after a very successful season in the United States Hockey School League, and a brief stint in the USHL. With St. Thomas Academy last season he scored 26 goals and 28 assists for 54 points. An astounding 2.16 points-per-game. This season he spent time with the Central Illinois Flying Aces and tallied 2 goals in 13 games. Head Coach Joe Martin expects him to add to the overall depth of the roster, provide offense, but also bring a full 200 ft game.
Brad Cocca continues to lead the Cents in scoring, now 4th league-wide, with 30 points. However, coming off a 4 point night including a hat trick, Nick Granowicz is 5th in the league with 29 points. Mathieu Gosselin is 3rd on the team, and 12th in the league with 25 points.
The Vipers are led by defenseman Jack Judson in scoring with 18 points. Forwards Josh Latta and Captain Jagger Williamson are tied for second in team scoring with 14 points, and Alex Swetlikoff has 13 points.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Vipers- 22.1% (1st) Vipers - 81.2% (9th)
Cents - 16.8% (13th) Cents - 76.1% (16th)
The goaltending match up sees Vincent Duplessis coming in with some solid play for the Centennials. He's now 5-3 with a .903 SV% and a 3.28 GAA. Austin Roden will see action this weekend and is 8-5 with 1 shutout, an .885 SV% and a 3.80 GAA. The Vipers have given the majority of starts to Aiden Porter who is 5-8 with 2 shutouts, a 2.69 GAA, and a .905 SV%. Max Palaga was brought in from the Kamloops Blazers and is 2-2 with a .943 SV% and a 1.77 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin says that the Vipers are a team that always present a challenge.
"They're a solid defensive team. They're having some trouble scoring goals right now, but that doesn't mean we can take them lightly. We will have to play our game, our way to win tonight."
For families of 4 attending tonight's match, they can enjoy a special of $20 for two adults and two kids tickets. Parents and Billet Parents will be honored before the game in a ceremony.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials have added another player to the roster: Payton Matsui.
According to Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin, Matsui is a player they've had their eye on for a while.
"We recruited Payton back in the spring last year, and committed to him them, but being American we wanted to see where he ended up. He's spent time with Central Illinois this season, but he made the decision to come here and approached his staff in the USHL to be moved to the Centennials."
Matsui, who hails from Lakeville, Minnesota, was a big time producer in the USHS with St. Thomas Academy last season scoring 26 goals and 28 assists for 54 points, or 2.16 points-per-game. He's also spent some time with the Flying Aces of the USHL this season netting 2 goals in 13 games.
While he boasts a significant point pedigree, Coach Martin says he expects a complete game from Matsui.
"He's another piece that makes us a bit deeper at two ends of the rink. I know that he's a guy that will be able to add some offense, but he's not coming just for that."
Fans will get their first look at Matsui in a Centennials uniform on Friday night against the Vipers.