The 7th place in the Interior Division Merritt Centennials enter tonight's contest just one point back of the 6th place club the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The Cents have played one less game than the 'Backs and have an opportunity to leap frog them with a regulation win. However, the last time Merritt was in a position to catch Salmon Arm they suffered their most complete loss of the season 7-4 in early October. In mid-October, the Cents were able to win a special teams battle against the Silverbacks in which the Cents scored 2 on the powerplay, 1 short handed, 1 at 4 on 4, and 1 at 3 on 3, for a 5-4 victory in Double OT.
The Cents will look to extend their unbeaten streak to 5 games in their lone game this weekend, while the Silverbacks come into this game on a 3 game losing streak. The Cents streak started two weeks ago on Sunday against the West Kelowna Warriors who they were able to dominate 5-1, then carried that momentum into BC's capital where they trounced the Victoria Grizzlies 6-0, had their lone tie of the year to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 3-3, and finished strong against the Surrey Eagles 5-4.
After the weekend, in which the duo of Henry Cleghorn and Zach Zorn were red hot, Zorn moves into the team lead in points with 18, followed by Cleghorn and Wicks at 17, all of whom are in the top 35 in league scoring. The Cents now boast 10 skaters who have at least 10 points as well. The Silverbacks have 13 10-point scorers on their squad, led by Rhett Kingston who has 19 points.
However, the Cents team defense is something that seperates them from other teams in the league. Despite being two games under .500, the Cents still have a positive goal differential at +3, while the Silverbacks who have scored the same amount of goals as the Centennials have a -21 differential with 90 goals against.
The Cents continue to crawl up the league standings in regards to special teams where they are now 6th in the league on the powerplay, but will have to be wary of the top ranked powerplay in the league from the 'Backs who scored 4 powerplay goals the last time out against the Cents. Despite being tops in the league on the powerplay, the penalty kill for the Silverbacks in hovering down at the bottom of the league at 76.4%, while the Cents are in the middle of the pack with an 81% kill rate, but a league second best 7 shorthanded goals for.
In net, the Cents will turn to the man who's seen more starts than any goaltender in the league, Jake Berger. He's 7-9-2-0 with a 3.03 GAA and a .916 save percentage with 1 shutout on the year. He will most likely be squaring off against Bo Didur for the Silverbacks who is 4-8 with a 4.18 GAA and a .867 save percentage.
This will be the final game at the Shaw Centre before the season series switches over to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. You can catch the action live at 7pm, with the Pre Game Show starting at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or on your desktop or device at q101.ca.