The Merritt Centennials (18-22-4-1) welcome the Penticton Vees (31-10-2-3) tonight at home for the final time this regular season. The Cents are looking to leave behind a forgettable January and start fresh at the turn of the calendar month, they went 3-6-2-0 and need to get on a run to build momentum as the season winds down.
The Cents are coming off a loss to the Vernon Vipers 4-1. They skated a strong first, but surrendered a powerplay goal off a deflection in front. The second saw more seperation from the Snakes with an early goal even strength, where Berger made two huge stops before Josh Latta batted in the third attempt uncontested. The Vipers then added two more goals with the man advantage, and went 3/5 on the night. The lone goal from the Cents came late on a powerplay of their own where Jackson Munro was able to walk in from the left point and snipe his 2nd goal of the season to break what would have been a BCHL record 8th shutout for Ty Taylor.
The Vees are coming off their only loss in the month of January 6-3 against the Victoria Grizzlies. During the month they went 9-1-0-1 and nearly doubled their oponents in scoring. Two of those wins came over the Cents, the first a 4-3 win, where the Cents squandered a 3-1 lead in the second period. The more recent game saw the Cents fall 4-1. Tied after 40 minutes of play, the Vees captain Owen Sillinger did the damage in the final frame scoring two before an empty netter by Chris Klack.
To find the last game in the NVMA you have to travel back to October 13th where the Cents may have had their best chance to top the Vees this year. Leading 2-0 in the third period, the Cents allowed two goals in the final two minutes before falling in overtime 3-2.
The Vees are led offensively by their Captain Owen Sillinger, he and defenseman Johnny Tychonick have been the Cents kryptonite. Sillinger with 46 points, Tychonick with 38, and Dakota Boutin with 32. The Cents have been struggling for offense in the last few games and need more contributions from top scorer Henry Cleghorn (42), Zach Zorn (36) and Nick Wicks (34).
The special teams battle sees the Vees with the edge, now up to 5th on the powerplay converting on 20.3% of their chances, while the Cents slide to 10th with 18.4%. The Vees also own the best penalty kill in the league at 86.4% while the Cents remain in 10th with an 81.3% kill rate.
The battle in net will see the Cents run into another top netminder in the league if Adam Scheel gets the nod. He's 21-10-0-3 with a 92.8 SV%, 2.10 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Nolan Hildebrand is 10-2 with a 91.1SV% and a 2.48 GAA. Jacob Berger may be set to make his second start in a row with Austin Roden not making the trip to Vernon. Berger is 11-19-2-0 with a 90.9SV%, a 3.32 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Roden is 8-9-0-2 with a 92.5 SV%, a 2.70 GAA, and 1 shutout.
The Cents look to channel the same energy and intensity that came out after a huge hit by Zach Zorn in the third period the last time these two teams met.
Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca