The Centennials look to make it three wins in a row for the second time this season, and the only thing standing between them and another win streak is the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
The Cents are coming off two of their more dominant performances on the year, topping West Kelowna 5-1 on Sunday before beating the Victoria Grizzlies last night 6-0. Against the Grizzlies Matt Kopperud was a force all night recording the Gordie Howe hat trick, a goal, an assist, and a fight and Jacob Berger got his first shutout of the season.
The Bulldogs won their most recent game against the Cowichan Valley Capitals, doubling them up 6-3, but before that were on a 4-game losing skid.
Both teams are very similar standings wise as they both own 7 wins on the year, but the Bulldogs have one less loss and two ties to edge the Centennials in the overall standings by one point with 17 compared to the Cents 16. Despite having less points, the Cents actually have a positive goal differential, as they've scored 2 more times than they've been scored against with 61 goals on the year, good enough for 10th in the league. The Bulldogs have only managed 49 goals, third worst in the league, and have allowed 66 for a -17 differential.
The Bulldogs are led offensively by a defenseman, Mitchell Oliver (13), and a trio of rookies: Jackson Doucet (12), Brandon Bergado(11) and Keaton Mastrodonato (11). With solid performances in the last few games the Cents' Zach Zorn moves into a tie with Nick Wicks in points with 15, and three rookies are now over the ten point plateau: Matthieu Gosselin (11), Ashton Stockie (10), and Brendan Schneider (10).
This game could mark the first start for newly acquired Austin Roden in between the pipes, but with Jacob Berger getting his first shutout of the year, Head Coach Joe Martin may want to ride the hot hand. The Bulldogs will likely turn to John Hawthorne in net who owns a 6-3-0-2 record with a .922 save percentage and a 2.73 goals against average. However, the Cents could see their goaltender from last season between the pipes as Colten Lancaster was traded tothe Bulldogs during the summer, he sports a 1-7 record wih a .882 save percentage and a 4.16 goals against average, but his familiarity with the Cents could give him the edge.
Head Coach Joe Martin believes that carrying over the good vibes from last night could be crucial to success tonight.
"I think the positivity and carrying that over will be a big factor. In the last two games, the team has seen what a successful first period can do to set the tone for the hockey game, so we'll look to do the same again tonight."
Puck Drops at 7pm from the Dog Pound in Port Alberni. Pre Game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or on q101.ca on your desktop or device.
The Cents rode a 4 goal first period and added two more to their most complete victory of the season 6-0.
Matthieu Gosselin got the Cents on the board 8 minutes into the first with a low shot under the pad of Zach Rose. Matt Kopperud and Jack Vincent drew the assists, on a new look line that looked dominant in the offensive end for the Cents.
Towards the tail end of the third Zach Court drove wide on the left wing and rifled one up and over the glove Rose for the second of the game.
Just 20 seconds later Kopperud got his first of the season and first in the BCHL off an odd angle shot that just managed to squeeze through Rose from Gosselin and Vincent, and 16 seconds after that Henry Cleghorn went top corner to make it 4-0.
Berger stopped all 6 shots he faced in the first period, and all 32 shots he faced in the game as he recorded his first shutout on the year.
Rylan Van Unen added a snipe up top from a short angle to make it 5-0 in the second before Zach Zorn added some insurance late in the third on the powerplay to make it 6-0.
Brendan Schneider finished the game with 3 assists, Kopperud got the Gordie Howe hat trick, a goal, assist, and fight, and Berger got his first shutout of the season.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said that the defensive play helped power the offensive.
“We were able to move pucks cleanly, our D-men and Jake were doing a great job of communicating. I think it was our best communicating period of the year, it really helped when we were coming up the ice with pucks and it led to a lot of good looks.”
The Cents get right back to work and look to make it three wins in a row when they head to Port Alberni to take on the Bulldogs. Puck drop at 7, Pre Game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on 101.1FM or stream the game on your desktop or device at q101.ca.
The Cents are coming off one of their most impressive wins of the year against the West Kelowna Warriors taking the game by a score of 5-1, and they look to continue that same game style as they begin a 4 game road swing away from the Nicola Valley.
The journey begins at the Q Centre in Victoria where they take on the tied for 1st place in the Island Division Grizzlies who have a 10-7-2-0 record. The Cents split the season series against the Grizzlies last season with both teams taking their home games in tight one goal fashion. The Cents won 3-2 in Merritt, and the Grizzlies won 5-4 in Victoria.
The Cents are hoping that the Island Division is kinder to them than it was last season where they struggled to a 2-9 record. As mentioned, one of their lone wins came against the Grizzlies. The Cents finished October 4-4-2-0, which was an improvement over their 2-6-0-0 record in September, and they'll look to improve that in November.
The Grizzlies come into this game after a busy October in which they played 11 games. The Grizzlies finished 5-6 and come into the game losers of two straight, their last against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in double overtime 3-2.
Victoria is led offensively by stand out rookie Alex Newhook who has 21 points in 19 games played. The Grizzlies also boast 5 more players who have more than 10 points this year: Lucas Clark (17), Jamie Rome (15), Ethan Nother (14), TJ Friedmann (12), and Justin Michaelian (11).
After struggling to begin the year on the powerplay the Centennials now have the 7th best powerplay in the league at 18.6%, the Grizzlies are just ahead of them at 6th with 20%. The Grizzlies have the leagues 3rd best penalty kill at 85.5%, but only have one short handed goal. The Cents aggressive penalty kill is sitting at 80.8%, but are one off the league pace with 5 short handed goals for.
Regardless of whether he starts or plays back up, the game will be the first for goaltender Austin Roden in a Centennials jersey after being acquired earlier in the week from the Nanaimo Clippers. To date he has a BCHL record of 11-14-2 with a 3.17 goals against average, and a .901 save percentage with two shutouts in 34 games.
Head Coach Joe Martin says the Victoria start will be nice, but the team will be tough.
" Starting in Victoria geographically is nice, but they're a good team, a fast team, and have good goaltending."
The Cents will hope to test the goaltender early and often tonight at the Q Centre in Victoria. 7pm puck drop, 6:45 Pre Game with Jared Thomas on 101.1 FM, or stream the game on your desktop or device at q101.ca.
The Cents have traded for Nanaimo Clippers goaltender Austin Roden in exchange for future considerations.
With the injury to Vincent Duplessis ealier this season the Cents have been riding Jacob Berger to a league high 929 minutes played through the first two months of the season. The team has had AP call up, Jared Breitkruz as a safety net since Duplessis went down, but Breitkruz has seen only one game in relief, and one start so far.
19 year old Austin Roden is 2-4-1 so far this season with the Clippers with a 3.17 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.
Head Coach Joe Martin says that acquiring someone who could push Berger was key.
"He's a goaltender that has a full year of experience, and then a handful of games maybe nine games this year so far."
Roden, who just arrived in Merritt today, will be going back to the island this weekend with the Cents to play games against the Victoria Grizzlies and Alberni Valley Bulldogs before facing the Surrey Eagles on the way home on Sunday.
The Merritt Centennials managed to put together a strong start, played more of their depth, apply a steady forecheck, and get some timely goals in topping the West Kelowna Warriors 5-1 on Sunday afternoon in front of fans, parents, and billets to wrap up parent’s weekend.
The first period saw the Cents rifle 19 shots on net as they looked to end Cole Demers unblemished 5-0 record. Demers stood tall until the 13:09 mark when Mike Van Unen got his 1st of the season when Zach Court centred from the corner, and Van Unen made a move at the line in the centre of the ice to find a seem and go low glove on Demers. Jacob Berger got his league leading start for the Cents and stopped all 10 shots through 1.
The Cents got on the board early in the second period on the powerplay on a penalty that carried over from the first. Brendan Schneider batted home the rebound from Zach Zorn’s centring feed. But the special teams play wasn’t done yet, as Rylan Van Unen scored one short handed streaking down the left wing with Henry Cleghorn as an option in the middle, he opted to shoot and he blasted the water bottle off the net over the glove hand of Demers to make it 3-0.
The 3rd period saw the Cents take two penalties, but were able to kill them off, and shut the Warriors out on the penalty kill. Garrett Ewert got his first in the BCHL for the Warriors, before Bradley Cocca restored the 3 goal lead, and Schneider iced it with his 2nd in the game to make it 5-1.
After the game Head Coach Joe Martin credited the forecheck for causing problems for the Warriors.
“We made some changes to our forecheck 5 on 5, and it helped not just staying in the offensive zone, but also coming back to our zone. The pressure that we were able to put on them coming back, helped our defensemen be a little more aggressive in the neutral zone.”
The Cents will look to continue their winning ways next weekend when they head to the Island to take on the Victoria Grizzlies on Friday, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Saturday, and the Surrey Eagles on Sunday.