The Merritt Centennials have their backs against the wall with the Wenatchee Wild circling for a do or die game 4 matchup tonight.
The Cents have gotten incrementally better throughout the series, but have run out of time for moral victories and now need to get a W or their season is over.
Game 1 saw the Centennials come out flat, whether it was due to events of the week before, regrouping from the season, or just bad luck they fell 4-0 against the Wild going 2/8 on the penalty kill, and only mustering 14 shots on net. Jacob Berger was pulled after allowing 4 goals, and Austin Roden was perfect in relief.
The Cents had a better effort in Game 2, coming out strong with an early goal, and converting 4 times at even strength to earn themselves a tie heading into the final frame at 4-4. The Wild were able to pull ahead thanks to the strength of their powerplay which went 4/6 as the Cents fell 6-4. Both starters were pulled in this game with Seth Eisele getting the hook after allowing 2 goals on 3 shots, and Austin Roden allowing 4 goals through a period and a half. Both Berger and Austin Park allowed 2 goals in their relief efforts.
With the series shifting back to Merritt for game 3 the Cents and Wild both started the relievers of the game before, and for the first time in the series the game was scoreless after 1, and the goaltenders saw the game all the way through from start to finish. The Cents also accomplished something they hadn't yet done in the series winning the special teams battle. The Cents shut down the Wild on the powerplay as they went 0/3, and they also converted on their man advantage chances going 2/4. Despite those moral victories, the Cents allowed 5 goals at even strength in game 3, and 3 of them came from the high slot with guys walking in over the blue line. However, the Cents did show some push back at the end of the game, channeling that extra physical gear by scoring 2 goals in the final 2 minutes to make it a one goal game, but with the goalie pulled they couldn't sustain offensive zone pressure and the comeback bid fell short 5-4.
The special teams total now sees the Wild at 6/17 or 35.2% while the Cents are now 2/9 or 22%.
Goaltending remains the big question as either team could have reason to start either netminder. Austin Park has taken over in the series, but the WIld could return to Seth Eisele after Park allowed 4 in game 3. Eisele is 1-0 with a 1.84 GAA and a 88.2 SV% while Park is 2-0 with a 3.14 GAA and a 85.7 SV%. The Cents will have a big decision to make between the pipes, Berger is the first to see a game through, but Roden is fully capable of stealing a game in net. Berger is 0-3 with a 88.8 SV% and a 5.20 GAA and Roden hasn't been the goaltender of record but seen action in two games with an 88.6 SV% and a 4.56 GAA.
There's no time to feel sorry for themselves, the Cents need to regroup with their best effort of the season. When this team plays like they're capable of playing, they can beat any team in the BCHL, it's just a matter of putting that effort together for a full 60 minutes. Head Coach Joe Martin said in the post game show that they don't want to look at the end of the series and question their desire and effort levels. They can question the x's and o's, they can question the special teams, but they don't want to hold anything back in an elimination game. The Cents are playing for the promise of one more game, and for some of the team it coud be their last junior hockey game.
The Cents are cornered and the only way out is to fight their way through the Wild.
Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.