The Merritt Centennials (26-13-1-1) host Interior Division rival the West Kelowna Warriors (22-19-0-1) tonight.
The Cents have clawed back into top spot in the Interior for the time being with a gutsy win on Wednesday against the Coquitlam Express. The Cents once again needed extra time to secure victory, and have extended their win streak to 5 including 2 wins before the break against Trail. Coquitlam shot out to a 2-0 lead before Payton Matsui on the powerplay, and Rylan Van Unen at even strength were able to level the score 2-2. The Express would once again pull away by a two-goal margin and lead 4-2 after two periods of play. It was looking grim for the Centennials until the final 5 minutes. The energy line gave the team a shot in the arm when they were able to convert on the rush, and Daniel Tkac cashed in his 5th of the season. That set the stage for another comeback effort, and the Cents found a way late in the third with a shot from Jaydon Fetter that was deflected by Nick Wicks and in to send the game to overtime. In the extra frame, the Cents didn't take too many chances by keeping solid possession of the puck, and Nick Wicks was able to dangle in short-side and snipe one top shelf over the glove of Matthews and in to give the Cents their 3rd overtime victory in three games to start 2019.
The Warriors are a team that possesses much of the same make-up of the Cents. A strong scoring core with 3 players in the league's top 20, a good goalie tandem, and a team that is deep and can put up offense. However, the Warriors are coming off a blowout loss to the Express 8-1, and have dropped 5 games in a row. It was a game that was closer than the score indicated, but the Cents will hope to pounce on a goaltending tandem that might not be feeling 100% confident.
The season series between the two clubs sees the Cents with the edge 3-1. They've won games at the NVMA by a large margin so far with scores of 8-3 and 8-4. In West K the games have been a little tighter with scores of 5-4 and 6-3. The most recent meeting was in West K where the Cents came back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game at threes, before allowing three more goals from West Kelowna to lose 6-3.
The Cents got a big game from Captain Nick Wicks who provided two goals in the last game and is 19th in league scoring. Brad Cocca is yet to break open a game in the new year and is 4th with 51 points, and Nick Granowicz is 6th with 48 points.
The Warriors have three representatives in the top 20 in BCHL scoring as well. Mike Hardman is 3rd with 52 points, Chase Dubois is 5th with 49 points, and Willie Reim is 14th with 44 points.
The special teams battle favours West Kelowna.
Powerplay Penalty Kill
WK - 22.4% (3rd) WK - 77.7% (13th)
Cents - 18% (15th) Cents - 75.5% (16th)
Austin Roden continues to come up clutch when it counts, and has posted four wins in a row. He's 18-7 with a .899 SV%, a 3.23 GAA, and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis is 8-5-2 with a .904SV% and a 3.31 GAA. Brock Baier is 11-5 with a .898 SV% and a 3.99 GAA. Connor Hopkins is 11-13 with a .907 SV% and a 3.43 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin knows that West Kelowna will come into Merritt hungry.
"There a team that's struggled in their last few games, so you have to be ready for a team like that. They get up to play us, so we need to match their intensity."
It's NVIT Night at the NVMA. All grade 11 and 12 students get in free with their Student ID. Check out what programs NVIT has to offer for students of all ages by visiting their staff in the Mezzanine.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on HockeyTV and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.