The Merritt Centennials (18-9-1-1) have another long road trip to Prince George to take on the Spruce Kings (19-7-1-2).
The Centennials are coming off a week where they went 1-0-1-0 for an overtime split against the Trail Smoke Eaters and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Against the Smoke Eaters the Cents had trouble getting the offense going as they weren't quite getting passes tape to tape, in a game that was filled with neutral zone hockey. The Smoke Eaters scored on their first powerplay, and first shot of the game, but no other offense was found until the 3rd when Brad Cocca tied things up to send it to overtime. The Cents and Vincent Duplessis fell by way of a controversial goal call in overtime, as Duplessis made the save as he was falling into the net, but he was ruled to have crossed that line. The Cents would return home on Saturday night to take on the Silverbacks and after a flurry of offense in the first period which included Payton Matsui not only scoring his first, but his second goal in the BCHL, and Brad Cocca adding a shorthanded goal, the 'Backs crawled back to tie it with 5 minutes remaining in the third. The Cents would prevail thanks to Jackson Munro in overtime, scoring his first goal of the season after returning from injury the week before.
The Spruce Kings are coming off a double-header against the league-leading Chilliwack Chiefs where they split action. In both games they led, but on Friday the Chiefs stormed back to win it in a shootout 3-2, and the Kings crowned the Chiefs the following night by a score of 6-3.
This will be the first match up of the year against the out of division opponent, and last season the Cents went 1-1-1 against the Spruce Kings. They lost the season series opener in the BCHL Showcase 4-3, won at home 5-2, and lost on the road 3-2 in overtime. The game will see a battle of two opposing coaching philosophies as the Cents represent one of the leagues best offenses with 113 goals for while PG represents the leagues best defense with only 63 goals allowed.
The Cents attack is led by Brad Cocca who picked up 2 goals over the weekend to improve his total to 41 points on the year which is 3rd in the league. Nick Granowicz has 38 points for 5th league-wide while Mathieu Gosselin is 12th in league scoring with 33 points.
The Spruce Kings are led by Ben Brar with 32 points, Dustin Manz with 31, and Captain Ben Poisson and Patrick Cozzi each have 25 points.
The special teams battle sees the Spruce Kings with the edge.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
PG - 20.4% (5th) PG - 78.8% (12th)
Cents - 16.9% (14th) Cents - 76.4% (15th)
In net the Cents goalies split the weekend, and split the decisions. Vincent Duplessis fell in overtime and is now 6-3-2 with a .908 SV% and a 3.13 GAA. Austin Roden prevailed in overtime and is 12-5 with a .896 SV%, 3.47 GAA, and 1 shutout. The Spruce Kings have relied on Logan Neaton throughout the season and he's managed the workload well going 16-3 with a .913 SV%, a 1.98 GAA, and 1 shutout. Prince George announced in a trade yesterday with Vernon that they have moved back up Bradley Cooper to the Cents Interior Division rival.
Head Coach Joe Martin knows this game will be a test of patience.
"They're one of the few teams in this league that employs a purely defensive style of neutral zone play. We will have to wait for our opportunities and make those opportunities count if we want to come out on top."
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.