For the first time in 2018, the Cents can call themselves victorious. Granted there's only been 3 games since the Christmas break, the Cents didn't want to stretch this streak out any further, and proved it with their pace and determination throughout 60 minutes in the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena on Saturday night against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
The night started with the Cents getting their first lead of 2018, after Matt Kopperud was sprung on a partial breakaway by Zach Zorn, he did the heavy lifting cutting to the net, and forcing Kyle Dumba to make a huge save that had him down and out, and Zorn used his nose for the net and found the loose puck and put it in the open net.
The Cents weren't done there as later in the period they found themselves on the powerplay, and they got another first, their first powerplay goal of 2018, and it couldn't have been prettier. A Sedinery style slap-pass from Mike Van Unen to Matthieu Gosselin that he fluttered into the shortside corner over a perplexed Dumba to make it 2-0, and that's how the Cents would skate into the 2nd.
In the second, the Centennials were awarded another powerplay early, and Gosselin was awarded another goal, this time after some tenacious play in front by him and his linemates Henry Cleghorn and Chase Bell. They battled in front, recovered the puck behind the net, and then found Gosselin in the slot who tapped it home for his second on the night, both on the powerplay.
However, the Silverbacks would mount the comeback, and it would start on a weird one from Justin Wilson who took a short side shot on Austin Roden, who got the start for the Cents, it looked like Roden made the initial save, but when he readjusted the puck slid across the line to make it 3-1.
The Silverbacks got another one from Tanner Campbell later in the period to make it 3-2 heading into the third.
The Cents didn't sit back in the third, but didn't get any separation until 1:30 remaining when Nick Wicks broke across the blue line on the counter attack with Brendan Schneider. Wicks deked to the right, but feathered a backhand pass onto the tape of Schneider who tapped it past Dumba to make it 4-2.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin credited the boys for their mental toughness.
"You know it's tough when you have everyone asking, "when are you going to win one." And yeah, it was only 3 games, but that stuff starts to get on your nerves, so give them credit they came ready to play tonight and got the win."
Cents next play on Wednesday, January 10th against the Penticton Vees where they'll look for their first win against their archrivals this season.
The Centennials return home hoping to shake the blues that have followed them after the Christmas break. A delayed game loss here at home last Friday to the Coquitlam Express, followed by two more on the road to the Express and Vipers, have the Cents looking for answers and they'll hope to find them tonight against the streaking Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
The 'Backs come into this one winners of their last 2 in a row, and those wins come over some pretty good competition the Vernon Vipers 4-3, and last night they topped the Wenatchee Wild 3-0. Those teams 1 and 2 respectively in the Interior Division. The Cents and Silverbacks 6 & 7 respectively in the division, but Salmon Arm now just two points back of the Cents and you know they'd like to retake 6th place, and get out of the basement of the Interior.
The last game between these two clubs was back on December 9th at the NVMA, and the Cents absolutely peppered Kyle Dumba in the first period with 25 shots. That's more than the Cents record in a number of their games, but Kyle Dumba who got the start kept it scoreless through one. In the second, Henry Cleghorn scored 2, and in the third he'd add another for the Cents lone hat trick of the year. Zach Zorn would add one as well, and Rhett Kingston had the only answer for the Silverbacks as Merritt won 4-1.
Rhett Kingston remains the go to guy on the Silverbacks with 34 points, but the Silverbacks will have some new faces since the last time these two teams met. The 'Backs have completely renovated their goaltending situation from the beginning of the year, gone are the likes of Nic Tallarico and Bo Didur, and in come Kyle Dumba, and Reid Cooper more recently from the Coquitlam Express. They've also added some size to the blueline with Joseph Leahy from the Penticton Vees, and got Brandon Whistle from the Vernon Vipers. The moves have sparked the club, and they have rung off two straight since acquiring those players.
The Cents have a couple feelers out there, but nothing concrete as of yet on the trade front. The deadline is January 10th, and the Cents have one open roster spot to make an addition without necessarily having to make a subtraction.
On the powerplay, the Centennials are in a bit of a funk, going 1/16 since Christmas, but still hanging onto 10th with a 17.6%, Salmon Arm has just climbed above them in 9th with 18.1%, but there was a time when Salmon Arm was leading the league so they're a threat with the man advantage. The Cents hold down 9th in the league on the penalty kill, and are yet to have a perfect game since Christmas. The Silverbacks however are second worst in the league on the penalty kill at 76.9% so the Cents may be able to seize the special teams battle tonight.
On paper, the Cents with the edge in the goaltending matchup as well. Austin Roden is 6-6-0-2 with a 92.1 SV% and a 2.89 GAA. Jacob Berger now 10-15-2-0 with a 91 SV% and a 3.22 GAA with 2 shutouts. Reid Cooper and Kyle Dumba are the netminders for Salmon Arm now. Cooper 3-11-0-1 with a 90.9 SV% and a 3.63 GAA and 1 shutout. Dumba 4-13 with a 89.7 SV% and a 3.86 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin said last night that Salmon Arm is getting some payoff from their trades.
"They've made some moves and brought in some players, and so far it's paying off for them. Sometimes that's the spark you need."
The Cents will try to light a spark tonight when they take on the Silverbacks.
Puck drop 7pm, Pre-game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca
The Cents once again trailed by one late into the third period, except this time they were held off the score sheet, and the Vipers added an empty netter.
This one chalked up to a goaltender battle between Jacob Berger and Ty Taylor. Berger stopped 27/28 but Taylor stopped all 22.
The first period passed without much of note until the final 5 minutes. Tyrell Buckley went to the box, to start the eventual parade to the sin bin. The Vipers took a late penalty that carried over to the second.
The Cents couldn’t muster anything on that powerplay to start the second, but they skated with the Vipers through 2 periods of scoreless hockey. Lots of neutral zone play, lots of quick entrances, and faster exits, in a game that struggled to find its flow.
In the third, the Cents couldn’t convert on two 2-man advantages, albeit short ones, and ended up surrendering a goal on the powerplay. A Jimmy Lambert snipe to the blocker side of Berger, after a drop pass from Jesse Landsdell.
The Cents had opportunities on breakaways from Brendan Schneider and Zach Zorn to try and tie, and some saves from Taylor kept Merritt off the board.
The Cents went 0/6 on the powerplay, now 0-4 against Vernon this season, have yet to get a win since the Christmas break, and will look to break that, and their three game losing skid Saturday night at home against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
Head Coach Joe Martin says he liked his teams effort in this one.
“It was a definite improvement from our last two games, we didn’t hang our heads like I felt we did at times against Coquitlam. We had a great effort, just needed more shots in the third and to convert on our chances.”
The Cents look ahead to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Saturday night at home.
The Centennials continue their quest after Christmas to find a win, and tonight they'll face the tall task of beating the league leaders, and a team that's had their number so far this season, the Vernon Vipers.
After going 5-2 before Christmas, the Cents have dropped two in a row to the Coquitlam Express. The Vipers went 5-2 through December with one of those wins coming over the Cents, a 4-2 victory at Kal Tire Place, but it's interesting to note that their two losses in December came against Coquitlam, and Salmon Arm. Salmon Arm will be the next team on tap, tomorrow at home.
The Cents have yet to win a game against the Vipers this season despite being in every match up. They lost 2-0 early in the season, 3-2 in November, and 4-2 in December. That 4-2 game on December 15th, saw the Centennials as the ones causing puck drop delays as the bus had electrical issues and the team had to wait for a new bus. However, when the puck did drop at 7:55 it was the Centennials who had the giddy up in the first and jumped out to the 2-0 lead. The second and third belonged to the Vipers, and they were able to strike 4 times over the two periods to complete the comeback. Jagger Williamson and Josh Prokop each had 3 point nights.
Since that mid-December clash, the Vipers have made some changes to their lineup, adding Cameron Trott after he spent the first half of the season with Alaska Anchorage in the NCAA. A big defender at 6'3 205 pounds, he's played over 110 games in the BCHL and has already slid right back in with the snakes. They also pulled off a deal to bring even more skill into the lineup by acquiring Josh Latta from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in exchange for Brandon Whistle. Latta has 35 points in 64 career BCHL games including 11 points in 18 games this year with the 'Backs.
On the Vipers he's just another depth piece as they're led in points by Jimmy Lambert (44), Brett Stapley (39), Jagger Williamson (39), Jesse Landsdell (34), and Josh Prokop (31). That's 6 skaters over 30 points, 10 over 20, and 13 with over 10. The Cents by comparison have Zach Zorn and Henry Cleghorn over 30, 7 skaters over 20, and 14 over 10 points on the year, and prove that depth wise they matchup well against the Vipers.The Cents will feel like they've acquired a new player, as Rylan Van Unen will make his return to the lineup for the first time since late November, after getting selected to and winning a gold medal with Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge.
Vernon is now 7th in the league with the man advantage at 19.9%, the Cents have been snake bitten since Christmas going 0-for in their last two games, and have fallen to 10th at 18.2%. On the penalty kill, the Cents still looking for a perfect game since Christmas as they've surrendered 3 powerplay goals in two games and sit at 10th with 81.6%, the Vipers in 6th with 83%.
In net, the Vipers boast the top tandem in the league with Anthony Yamnitsky and Ty Taylor. Taylor has now unseated Penticton's Adam Scheel as the top goalie in the BCHL with a record of 15-2-0-3, a 92.3 SV%, a 1.94 GAA, and 4 shutouts. Yamnitsky is 11-7-0-1 with a 91.8%, a 2.15 GAA, and 2 shutouts. A tall task no matter who is in net. The Cents likely to go back to Jake Berger after Austin Roden got the start against the Express on Wednesday. Berger now 10-14-2-0 with a 90.8 SV% a 3.31 GAA and 2 shutouts. Roden 4-2-0-1 in a Cents uniform, 93.4 SV% and a 2.66 GAA.
In preparing for the Vipers, Head Coach Joe Martin says that all the games coming up count.
"It's not just against the Vipers, these games against Coquitlam were big, Salmon Arm is big. All these games coming up are big."
The Cents will need to come up big to top the top team in the league tonight.
Listen live on Q101.1FM, 7pm puck drop, 6:45 pre game with Jared Thomas, or online at Q101.ca.
The Merritt Centennials found themselves searching for the equalizer late, on the powerplay, Roden on the bench, but couldn’t get the equalizer they needed. The Coquitlam Express squeaking out a 3-2 victory that they built up in the first two period.
The first period saw the teams trade goals, but once again it was the Express finding the mark on the powerplay. Jack Graham got his first of the season from just outside the blue paint, putting it five hole past Austin Roden who got the start tonight.
Merritt would find the equalizer late in the period at the 15:56 mark with Matthieu Gosselin circling around the net on the right side, feeding it out to the slot to Chase Bell, who went across the crease to Henry Cleghorn who batted it home on his second attempt for his 16th of the season to tie it at one.
The second was filled with penalties, but no one converted on them. The Express would be the only team to find the board with 2 goals a 1:10 apart late in the second. Troy Robillard had the first off a goal mouth scramble, where Roden made two huge saves before surrendering on the third, and shortly after Lucas Wong found the puck loose in the high slot and beat Roden low-blocker side.
The Cents pushed hard for the equalizer in the third, throwing everything they had at Stevenson and more shots (12) in the period than they had in the game (10) up to that point.
Brad Cocca would get the Cents to within one when he came flying across the crease, and dove onto a Nick Wicks feed from the wall. The sprawling goal came with 15 more minutes to play in the 3rd, but the Cents couldn’t get the equalizer.
Matt Kopperud had two chances ring off the post in the game, and Stevenson was able to handle the rest.
After the game, Joe Martin said two lapses in play was the turning point.
“We have two mental breakdowns, one in the neutral zone, one in the high slot, and when you can’t convert on your chances your mind drifts back to that.”
The road doesn’t get any easier, as next up are the league leading Vernon Vipers on Friday night in Vernon at 7pm.