Merritt Centennials
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The Centennials are in Penticton tonight to take on a Vees squad who sits in the middle of the pack of the crowded Interior Division. The 1st place Vipers sit 6 points clear of the pack following them. The Wenatchee Wild, Trail Smoke Eaters, and Penticton Vees all seperated by just a point, and the Centennials looking to get back to .500 once again, currently sitting in 6th. 

The Penticton Vees and Centennials haven't met since mid-October, and in that game Brad Cocca, just newly acquired, got the Cents on the board in the second with a powerplay goal, the Vees answered early in the third before Rylan Van Unen replied to regain the lead. The Vees would get two more in quick succession to overcome the Cents 4-2. So far the Cents have yet to top their arch rival from Penticton going 0-3, the other losses a 3-2 OT loss at home, and a 4-2 loss in the season opener. 

The Vees have gone through a metamorphisis since the last time these two teams have played. Greg Brydon, defenseman, retired from hockey, the Vees signed Jordan Henderson, who they acquired from the Cents, they signed Ocean Wiesblatt and Michael Campoli from the NCAA, they traded big defenseman Joseph Leahy for big forward Marcus Mitchell, and more recently signed Wyatt Sloboshan from the WHL, and added James Miller. Plus they'll have Captain Owen Sillinger back after serving a two-game suspension and Chris Klack will return from injury. Injuries left the Vees decimated for a while, but as they get healthy they are deeper than when they started the season. 

The Cents on the other hand have gone through very few changes since mid-October, they acquired Austin Roden from the Nanaimo Clippers, but have been content to let chemistry build amongst their group. However, they did make some moves on Monday, trading Jack Vincent to the Janesville Jets of the NAHL and re-acquiring leading goal scorer from last season Zach Risteau. Risteau had 50 points in 53 regular season games with the Cents, and added 3 goals and 1 assist in the playoff push. Newcomer Risteau has been practicing on a line with Brad Cocca, and Rylan Van Unen, and we could see that to start the game. 

The Cents are coming off a 4-2 victory over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks which snapped a 3 game losing skid since the Christmas break, Matthieu Gosselin had two powerplay goals, Zach Zorn and Brendan Schneider had the others. Zorn and Henry Cleghorn continue to lead the way for the Cents with 35 points each, but the Cents now have 8 players over 20 points including 3 rookies: Gosselin, Schneider, and Ashton Stockie. 

The Vees are coming off 2 wins at home, and are in the midst of a 4 game homestand. They're led offensively by Owen Sillinger (37), defenseman Nicky Leiverman (29), Taylor Ward (27) and Dakota Boutin (26). 

The special teams matchup sees the Vees with the edge, tops in the league on the penalty kill at 88%, and 4th on the powerplay at 21.3%. The Cents meanwhile are 9th in both categories, 18.2% on the powerplay with two goals in their last game, and 82% on the penalty kill. Zach Risteau might provide some help to the powerplay unit, as last season he scored 11 powerplay goals along with 10 powerplay assists, for nearly half his point total.  

Adam Scheel of the Vees continues to be one of the league leaders in net. 16-9-0-2 with a 2.03 GAA and a 93.3 SV%, however the Cents have seen their fair share of Nolan Hildebrand this season. He's 8-2 with a 90.8 SV% and a 2.60 GAA. Merritt will turn to Jacob Berger in the crease tonight, his last start was a hard fought loss to the Vernon Vipers in which he allowed only one goal to the top team in the BCHL. Berger is now 10-15-2-0 with a 91 SV% and a 3.22 GAA. 

Head Coach Joe Martin says that the Cents will have to look past the distractions. 

"There's going to be some minds wandering before the game, but we'll have a talk about the focus being on the 2 points that are on the line against the Vees, and we can't afford to worry about the trade deadline."

The Cents will focus on getting those 2 points against one of their biggest rivals tonight. 

Puck drop at 7pm, Pre-game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca. 

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