The Merritt Centennials suit up following their first win of the season, but will face who is so far the class of the Interior Division, and last year the class of the league in the Wenatchee Wild.
The Centennials looked great through 40 minutes of play on Tuesday night against the Surrey Eagles. Despite not scoring the first goal of the hockey game, something they had managed in their two previous contests, the Cents bounced back with a goal from Mathieu Gosselin. Then in the second period the Cents exploded to life scoring 4 unanswered goals throughout the period with Assistant Captain Brendan Schneider and Rylan Van Unen each netting two. With a 5-1 lead heading into the third it seemed as if things were in cruise control, but the Eagles had other plans. Surrey was able to score 5 goals in the third period, including a hat trick from Aaron White, but luckily for the Centennials their offense didn't dry up as they got two more goals, one from rookie Daniel Tkac and another from the veteran Gosselin to edge the Eagles 7-6.
The Wild have continued where they left off in the BCHL, winning hockey games with speed, skill, and special teams. In their first game of the season against the Vipers they managed to spoil the snakes home opener in large part due to their powerplay that went 3 for 4. The Wild's second game of the year came against the Eagles, and they were able to mangle the birds 6-3 including a 5 goal outburst in the second. Look out for the newcomers named Christophe. Both Christophe Tellier and Christophe Fillion have been exceptional through 2 games of play and lead the league early in points with 6 and 5 respectively.
Last season the Centennials and Wild always provided entertaining matchups, and other than a 7-3 loss during the regular season. The Cents and Wild were only ever separated by a goal. The Cents did what no other team could last season, and that's win twice in Wenatchee, however, the away team had the advantage in the season series as they captured 5/6 games. These teams also have some playoff history now after last years first round defeat. The pill made harder to swallow as the Cents were without the services of their Captain and MVP Tyrell Buckley due to a concussion. The first round wasn't kind as the Cents lost 4-0, 6-4, 5-4, and 4-1 across the 4 games, while the Wild went on to capture the Fred Page Cup as BCHL Champions.
Special teams remains a big question mark for the Centennials as discipline has been an issue for the first 3 games. The Centennials have had an extra man on the ice 21 times, but have only gotten an extra goal as a result once and have a 4.8% success rate on the powerplay. The Wild have nearly 10 times that, as they've gone 4/10 in their first two games of the season, and have also been perfect on the penalty kill so far this year, but have only been short handed 6 times. By comparison the Centennials have been shorthanded 23 times, and have allowed 6 goals for a 73.9% kill rate.
Goaltending was something the Centennials were confident about heading into the season with two returning netminders, but early on in the season the two goaltenders haven't been playing with much confidence. Vincent Duplessis was pulled from his first start of the year in the season opener in favour of Austin Roden, and is 0-1 with a .875 SV% and a 5.98 GAA. Roden has been shelled for 11 goals over the last two games and is now 1-1 with a .854 SV% and a 4.80 GAA. The Wild have returnee Austin Park who they rode to the BCHL Championship and he's 1-0 with a 4.09 GAA and a .829 SV% while newcomer Cal Sandquist is 1-0 with no goals against and a perfect save percentage on 12 shots against.
Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin says that the Centennials will have to be a lot sharper if they expect to win against the Wild.
"These are the BCHL Champions and we can't afford to make the same kind of mistakes that we've been making in the first few games of the season against a club like the Wild."
The Centennials will see if they can get some measure of revenge for last years playoff defeat when they clash with the Wild tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and online at Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials scored beyond the first period for the first time this season, and had a great 40 minute effort, but nearly saw it go for naught as the Surrey Eagles stormed back in the final frame to make it too close for comfort in a 7-6 win.
The game was delayed due to Surrey bus trouble, but it eventually got underway about 20 minutes behind schedule. The Surrey Eagles were the first to strike, courtesy a powerplay goal from Riley Hayles at the 3:45 mark. The Cents answered later on in the period with a goal from Mathieu Gosselin from Brad Cocca at the 14:25 mark to tie things at 1. Early on it seemed like a low-scoring affair was on the horizon. In the second, that changed.
The Centennials could do no wrong in the middle frame. Brendan Schneider and Rylan Van Unen scored just over a minute apart in the early goings of the second. Schneider slapped home a centering feed from out of the corner off the stick of Brad Cocca to give the Cents their first lead of the game, and their first goal beyond the first period. Moments later Rylan Van Unen got one past Davidson to make it 3-1 from Nic Granowicz and Joey Berkopec. But Van Unen wasn't done there as he was found by Nick Wicks from the right point charging towards the net on the left inside hash mark and one-timed it through to extend the Cents lead to 4-1. Schneider added his second of the period late, a wrister bar down and in to give the Cents a 5-1 lead and their best effort through 40 minutes of a hockey game to date in the season.
The final frame is when things got a little crazy. The Eagles wasted no time adding a goal just 2 minutes into the period. Daniel Tkac answered with his 1st goal of the season and in the BCHL at the 4:36 mark. The Eagles weren't deterred and put another two past Austin Roden to make it 6-4. Mathieu Gosselin restored the 3 goal lead by muscling one over the line to make it 7-4, but the Eagles answered with another two of their own and ended up making it a one goal game with just over 4 minutes remaining in the third. However, despite the Eagles empty net effort, the Cents hung on for their first victory of the BCHL campaign 7-6.
Austin Roden stopped 24/30 shots for his first win of the year while Daniel Davidson stopped 36/43 shots in his first game of the year. Once again the Cents struggled on special teams going 0/5 on the man advantage while allowing 2 goals on 9 opportunities against.
After the game, Head Coach and GM Joe Martin said there's plenty to work on.
"I think there's a lot of learning moments in this game, from our Captain Nick Wicks to our rookie Daniel Tkac, there's a learning moment for each and every player in the lineup and we will need to learn quickly while the season is young."
The Cents will hope to put their lessons to the test on Friday night when the reigning BCHL Champion Wenatchee Wild come to town.
The Centennials look for their first win of the season tonight as they host the Surrey Eagles.
The opening weekend didn't go to plan as the Cents saw two strong first period efforts undone by poor stretches of play that allowed the opposing team to take control of the game. In Salmon Arm, it was a 5 minute stretch of the second period where the 'Backs were able to use the powerplay to pull themselves out of a 2-0 deficit and into a 3-2 lead. At home against the Vernon Vipers, it was just a couple minor mistakes that were fully taken advantage of. However, neither game resulted in what the Cents were looking for - a win. Special teams played a factor in the result of both games with the Cents going 0/7 against the 'Backs and 1/6 against the Vipers with the man advantage while surrendering a total of 4 goals on the penalty kill throughout the weekend. The Cents lost 4-2 in Salmon Arm, and 5-2 at home at the hands of the Vernon Vipers. Bright spots throughout the weekend were newly minted Captain, Nick Wicks, line mate Rylan Van Unen, former affiliate Frazer Dodd and some encouraging play from rookies Daniel Tkac, Brett Roloson and Talon Zakall.
The Surrey Eagles find themselves in the same boat as the Merritt Centennials after the first weekend of the BCHL season. Despite out shooting the Coquitlam Express in their home-opener the Eagles also couldn't take advantage of the powerplay going 0/6 and falling 4-2. Similarly to the Cents, the Eagles also faced a much stiffer test in game 2 of the weekend when the Wenatchee Wild came to town. The Eagles led heading into the second period, but the Wild exploded for 5 goals to put themselves in the drivers seat. The Wild didn't look back in a 6-3 win. Much like the Cents, the Eagles are hungry for their first win of the season.
The Centennials and Eagles only meet 2 times during the regular season. Last year, the Cents took both matchups, including their first win of the year after starting 0-6 - a 2-1 victory with former Eagle, Colten Gerlib, providing the game winning goal. The Cents also took the game on the coast by a 5-3 final during an Island road trip that saw them kick start their season. Needless to say, the Centennials cemented some key victories over the Eagles last year, and hope to get another one tonight.
Special teams may be where the game is won and lost. Neither team has been spectacular so far, the Centennials have the worst percentage in the BCHL in terms of teams that have scored on the powerplay with 6.3%, and this comes despite having the most opportunities with the extra man with 16. The Eagles have yet to score a powerplay goal, and despite 6 opportunities against the Express in game 1 of their season, the clean-checking Wild only supplied them with one opportunity. On the penalty kill, the Cents and Eagles are tied at 71.4% over their two games, but once again the Centennials have also been the team with the most time spent in the box with 14 minors called against them.
Both goaltenders have seen the crease for the Centennials on opening weekend. Vincent Duplessis got the start in the season opener against Salmon Arm, but was pulled after allowing 3 goals in quick succession, however, it was a move made to stem momentum not necessarily because of poor play. He made 20 saves on 23 shots for .913 SV%, but because of his half game in net has a bloated 4.01 GAA. Austin Roden came into the season opener half way through the game and allowed one goal, but had 5 get past him in the home opener against Vernon and sits with an 0-1 record a 4.66 GAA and a .868 SV%. The Surrey Eagles have only had one goaltender suit up for them so far, former Wenatchee Wild puckstopper, Seth Eisele. He is 0-2 with a 4.05 GAA and a .871 SV%. Whichever team gets the better goaltending may get the better result.
After the game against the Vipers, Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin said that he needs the full 60 minute effort from the full lineup.
"We are getting a solid effort from some of the guys at the top of our line up, and we're getting a solid effort from some of the guys trying to make a name for themselves, but we haven't seen a full team effort yet, and we haven't seen a full game effort yet."
The Centennials will hope that after the full 60 minutes of play tonight, they're victorious over the Surrey Eagles.
Puck drop 7pm at the NVMA, Pre-Game at 6:45 on Q101.1FM and online at Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Vipers had their home opener spoiled by the Wenatchee Wild, and tonight at the NVMA they did the same to the Merritt Centennials.
Despite a good crowd in the building to cheer on the hometown side for the first game of the season, the Centennials once again couldn't pull out a full 60 minute effort.
Things started great when newly minted Captain Nick Wicks got the party started just over 5 minutes into the game with his first goal of the season, and the Cents first goal on the powerplay. The assists went to the twin brothers Rylan and Mike Van Unen. The Vipers were on their heels early, but managed to get a break on the counter-attack. Michael Young found a juicy, but uncharacteristic rebound from Austin Roden and potted that to tie the game 1-1. The Vipers followed the same formula 5 minutes later and Jesse Landsdell was the beneficiary of another big rebound to take the lead for the snakes 2-1. 3 minutes later the Captain arrived again to tie the game, finding a loose puck in front and potting it in with the assist going to Nic Granowicz.
For the second game in a row, the Centennials had a strong first period, but in the middle frame it was a much tighter checking affair. The teams managed to stay out of the box for the most part, but just over halfway through the period the Vipers pulled ahead with a quick snipe from Nicholas Wildgoose to regain the lead 3-2.
In the final frame, things started to unravel for the Centennials and it seemed to be one step forward, two steps back. Just when the Centennials were about to go on the powerplay, they took a penalty to go to 4-on-4 hockey. In the third, Head Coach Joe Martin started to throw the lines in a blender and it was the young guns that made the impression. However, Vernon was the only team that made an impression on the scoreboard adding 2 to pull away and spoil the opener 5-2.
After the game, Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin wasn't too high on his own teams effort.
"I think it takes a full team. And we're getting effort from the top of the line up, and from the bottom, but there's a lot of players in the middle that need to start showing up."
The Centennials will look to regroup and show up as a full team for the full 60 when they take on the Surrey Eagles on Tuesday night at the NVMA.
The Centennials announced their leadership group ahead of their Home Opener tonight against the Vernon Vipers.
Assuming the role of Captain will be forward and 3rd year Cent, Nick Wicks. The Assistant Captains will be second year Cent Brendan Schneider, and newcomer Nic Granowicz.
Nick Wicks takes over from Tyrell Buckley as Captain for the 2018-19 campaign. He is the highest scoring returning player for the Centennials after supplying 42 points in the 2017-18 campaign. During the summer his hard work was awarded with a commitment to the University of Alaska Anchorage Sea Wolves for the 2019-20 season.
Brendan Schneider will be leading through his hard nose, hard working play on the ice. Last year Schneider was the highest scoring rookie on the roster with 16 goals and 20 points for 36 points.
Nic Granowicz may be a new member of the Centennials, but he's no stranger to junior hockey. Now playing in his 4th year of Junior 'A', he served as the Captain for his team in the NAHL, the Topeka RoadRunners before transitioning to the USHL and the Cedar Rapids Roughriders.
The lettermen will take the ice officially as a leadership group for the first time tonight at the Home Opener against the Vernon Vipers. Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 online at Q101.ca.