The Merritt Centennials are back in action after splitting games last weekend going 1-1, the loss coming in a 50 plus save effort from Austin Roden 3-2, and the win coming from a strong first period where the Cents racked up 4 and rode those goals to a 4-1 win. They have two games on tap this weekend, against Trail and West Kelowna, but first on tap is the battle with the Warriors.
The Cents have played two games against the Warriors this season, and will look back fondly on the most recent matchup against West Kelowna, as it kicked off a 4 game unbeaten streak. The Cents won the game 5-1, got solid goaltending from Jacob Berger, controlled play with their tenacious forechecking, and beat up on the short manned Warriors. The Van Unen twins lit the lamp, Brendan Schneider had two, and Brad Cocca had the other goal for the Cents while Garrett Ewert scored his first of the season for the Warriors. However, in the first match up of the season the Warriors were the ones who controlled play, and the Cents only managed a late goal from Jack Vincent to break the shut out bid and lost 3-1.
The Warriors have gone 4-4 since their last matchup against the Cents including a couple big losses 9-2 against Wenatchee, and 11-3 against Pentiction last week, but they have gotten back to their winning ways by topping Prince George 4-2 in their most recent game. The Cents have gone 3-2-1 since last playing the Warriors including a streak where they went unbeaten in four. They were on a two game slide before righting the ship against Alberni Valley on Saturday to get back in the win column.
Both teams will be sending one representative to the World Junior 'A' Hockey Challenge main camp next week. Joe Martin will be joined by Rylan Van Unen as the lone forward that gets the call from the Cents, and the Warriors will be represented by Chase Stevenson. in 26 games with the Warriors this season Stevenson has 6 goals and 10 assists. Van Unen has 7 goals and 4 assists along with 35 penalty minutes.
Other players who lead the offense for the Warriors are Captain Jared Marino (20), Chase Dubois and Michael Ryan (19), and Parm Dhaliwal (18). The Cents are led by Zach Zorn (20), Henry Cleghorn and Nick Wicks (19), and Captain Tyrell Buckley (16). Eerily similar point totals from the top producers on each side.
In net the Warriors turn to Cole Demers and Nik Amundrud. Amundrud has been in and out of the lineup with injury, but sports a 6-6 record with a 91.3 save percenteage and a 2.87 GAA. Cole Demers has been seeing more time in the crease and since the last game between these two clubs where he was leading the league in many statistical categories, he's come back down to earth. He has a 8-3 record with a 91.9 save percentage and a 2.77 GAA.
The Cents look to Jacob Berger and Austin Roden in net. Berger picked up the win last weekend, while Roden made 50 plus saves in a losing effort, but earned first star. Berger is 8-10-2-0 with a 91.5 save percentage and a 3.04 GAA and 1 shutout. Roden has seen 9 games of action this season, and two with the Cents. He is 2-5-0-2 with a 91.4% and a 3.07 GAA. The goaltending matchup also very even.
In the special teams battle, the Cents now up to 3rd in the league on the powerplay going 22.1% while the Warriors are 9th converting at 19%. On the penalty kill, the Warriors have the edge with 83.9% good enough for 4th in the league, while the Cents are 6th with an 82.6% kill rate.
Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw says that the Warriors have some tricks, but the Cents should be ready.
"West Kelowna has a bigger team, they like to draw you in and put pucks behind you into the white ice. It's going to be just staying disciplined, staying disciplined in our systems, staying disciplined between the dots, and we should be okay."
Puck Drop is at 7pm at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna. Pre Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM, or stream on your desktop or device at q101.ca.