Merritt Centennials
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The Centennials return to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena after a one game road trip to Prince George where they had another great game, but unfortunately ended up on the wrong side of the scoresheet. The Spruce Kings ended up taking the game in overtime despite many chances from the Cents to take the lead before then. The Cents didn’t come home completely empty handed as they will get a point for the overtime loss and now have 7 on the year, but will need more if they want to advance past where they currently sit in the league standings, 15th place.

The Penticton Vees are coming off a hard fought two game set against the Vernon Vipers where they played two tight games. One ended in a 3-2 victory for the Vees, while the other skated all the way through extra time to a 2-2 draw. The Vees remain the only undefeated team in the BCHL as they are 6-0-1. Despite their undefeated record they’ve only had two games that they’ve won in convincing fashion with a 3 goal margin or more.

One of those tight games was the first game of the season when the Penticton Vees visited Merritt last. They were able to get out to a 2-0 lead early, but in the second the Cents bounced back to tie it, before the Vees scored on the powerplay and got a late goal to ice the game and win 4-2.

The Cents will have to stay disciplined as the Vees are tied for the league lead on the powerplay with a 25.7% conversion rate, and are also very strong on the penalty kill where they’re second in the league with a 87.9% kill rate. Comparitively, the Cents have the second worst powerplay in league with a 13.5% conversion rate, and 12th on the penalty kill with a 79.7% kill rate.   

Head Coach Joe Martin says the Vees are often overlooked for their defensive play. 

"They're a hard working team, and they've had some tight games, but they've found ways to win."

The Cents will have to find a way to win to avoid another 3 game losing streak, and they'll look to do so tonight at 7pm at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. Pre game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas: 101.1 on the radio, q101.ca online, or the Q101 Merritt app on your mobile device. 

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With both coaches looking for a 60 minute effort from their clubs, it’s Head Coach Joe Martin who wishes he had a 65 minute effort, as just 17 seconds into overtime the Spruce Kings stand out rookie defenseman Layton Ahac roofed a wrister over the blocker of Jake Berger to give the Spruce Kings the edge 3-2.

The first period started well for the Spruce Kings, as they got on the board just 1:37 into the contest after a turnover by Sam Miller at centre ice resulted in a one on one opportunity for Ethan De Jong against Mattias Dal Monte. De Jong managed to get around Dal Monte, and then was able to trickle a shot over the arm of Berger to make it 1-0.

Sam Miller more than made it up to his team mates as later in the period, with just 2 minutes to go he wristed a seeing-eye shot through the crowd from the left point that deflected off a Spruce Kings defender and in for his first in the BCHL. After one period of play it was tied 1-1.

The Cents came out a team possessed in the second period. Zach Court had a penalty shot opportunity just a minute into the frame, and was promptly denied by Evan De Brouwer, but moments later on the offensive zone face off, Jack Vincent won the puck back to Sam Miller who teed it up from the line, and Alex Bourhas found the rebound for his second in two games, and Miller’s second point on the night. The teams would trade powerplays and chances throughout the remainder of the second, but the goaltenders would keep it a 2-1 score.

In the third, Merritt killed off an early penalty before having two opportunities on the powerplay where De Brouwer was able to make some key saves. When the teams returned to 5 on 5, Patrick Cozzi streaked down the right wing and his centering found Nolan Welsh with his stick on the ice heading to the net, and he tapped it in to tie it up at 2. The Cents had golden opportunities from Nick Wicks in the slot all alone, and a solid power move by Rylan Van Unen to go to the net but De Brouwer managed to get the game to overtime where the Spruce Kings won it in just 17 seconds.

After the game, Coach Martin said the team played well and had plenty of chances to win.

“The team played hard, and we had our chances. Wicks in front with a great chance everyone thought was going in, Van Unen on a partial breakaway, Court with a penalty shot... I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing out there.”

The Cents will have 2 more games this weekend against two top teams. The Penticton Vees come to town on Friday night, and the Cents hit the road for Wenatchee to take on the wild on Saturday.

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The Cents are coming off a light week of action as they only played one game during the Thanksgiving Day long weekend. A friday tilt against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in which they lost 7-4. The scoreline was a lot more flattering than the game, as it was 7-1 before the Centennials scored 3 goals in the final 5 minutes of play. Two of those goals came in the final minute. While it’s encouraging that the Cents can score in bunches, they’ll look to do so tonight before the game gets out of hand. 

That loss was also the first time Jake Berger has been chased from the net. He's been one of the Cents shining stories throughout the season, giving the team opportunities to win in every game, and after giving up 7 goals was pulled in favour of AP call up Jared Breitkruz. The Cents will look for him to return to form, and play a little stronger in front of him to prevent easy goals around the net on second opportunities. 

This is already the third and final matchup of the season between these clubs. The Cents don't need a long memory to relive the loss they received at the BCHL Showcase in mid September 4-3, a game that was very much within reach. However, The Spruce Kings will come in with a bitter taste in their mouths after the Cents handed them a 5-2 loss in the last game the two teams played on October 1st. The Cents were able to take advantage of the powerplay in the third period of that contest after the teams were tied at 2 after two. Joey Berkopec and Brendan Schneider were able to convert on the powerplay, while Jack Vincent added another to get the three goal win.  

Since that meeting the Spruce Kings are 1-1, splitting a double header against the Surrey Eagles last weekend, and are 2-3 in their last 5 games. The Cents have the same record in the last 5 games after their first 3 wins came in the same week.

The Spruce Kings are led offensively by Ethan De Jong, Dustin Manz, Ben Poisson, Ben Brar, and Patrick Cozzi up front who all have at least 10 points. They’re also led by two rookies on the back end, Layton Ahac and Dylan Anhorn along with Liam Watson Brawn who all have more than 8 points. By Comparison, the Cents only have two players with more than 8 points, Henry Cleghorn and Nick Wicks. However, the Cents have been scoring by committee with only 2 players not yet on the scoresheet this year, Mattias Dal Monte and Matt Kopperud.

Special Teams may be where the game is won and lost yet again as both teams are tight in that regard. The Spruce Kings have the edge in both categories 80% on the penalty kill, and 17.5% on the powerplay, while the Cents are 15% on the powerplay and 78% on the penalty kill.

The Cents will look to get back into the win column tonight in Prince George at 7pm. Pre Game with Jared Thomas at 6:45: 101.1 on the FM dial, online at q101.ca, or on the Q101 Merritt App.

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The Cents got an outburst of goals, unfortunately it came in the third period when the game was already out of reach as they fell to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 7-4 at the Shaw Centre on Friday night.

The first period didn’t start well as the Silverbacks got on the board early courtesy their Captain Grayson Constable. He found a lose puck to the side of the Centennial net, and put it in the empty cage as Jake Berger was caught out of position after an early scramble in front. The Cents weren’t able to spend much time in the offensive zone, as the Silverback D were very aggressive at the offensive blue line and in neutral ice and allowed only 4 shots on net in the 1st period. The Silverbacks got another one in the first from Tanner Campbell, who was able to find another rebound in front of Berger to make it 2-0 after 20 minutes of play.

In the second period Rhett Kingston got on the board for the Silverbacks not as early as they did in the first, but 3 minutes in. He was able to walk out to the high slot between the circle after curling from behind the net, and got his team leading 6th goal of the season. The Silverbacks then got an opportunity on the powerplay and made the Cents pay, this time Trey Thomas fired a backhander up and over Berger to make it 4-0. Alex Bourhas answered at the 13:15 mark of the second period with a backhander of his own, the assists coming from Mckullen Astill and Henry Cleghorn. After taking a hit from 3 Silverback players Bourhas got up and went to the net, Cleghorn played behind for Mckullen Astill and he fed it out in the slot for Bourhas. That’s how the second period ended with the score 4-1.

Three unanswered goals started the third period from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Goals from Markus Mitchell, a second of the night from Tanner Campbell, and a first of the BCHL from Nick Unruh before the Cents offense finally came to life. It started after a series of penalties from both teams left the Silverbacks with a 4-3 advantage. Shorthanded Rylan Van Unen was able to use the open ice to his advantage streaking wide on the left wing before cutting to the net, getting in tight on Bo Didur, then pulling it from his forehand back to chip it up and over the blocker. That started a late game flurry from the Cents as Nick Wicks gained the line on the left side with Ashton Stockie streaking on the right side. Wicks was able to saucer it right onto the tape of Stockie who blasted it top corner on Didur to make it 7-3, but the Cents weren’t done there. With time expiring in the third, Jackson Munro pinched in on the left point and threw out a centering pass that went off a Silverback defender and in for his first in the BCHL to make it 7-4.

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said his team didn’t make the adjustment to the Silverbacks’ defensive style until too late.

“Their defense was playing really aggressive on the offensive blueline and in the neutral zone, and we took too long to recognize that as a group. We had to make the simple play and chip it behind them.”

The Cents will look to simplify their game as they head into a 3 game week after the Thanksgiving long weekend. Prince George on Wednesday, followed by Penticton on Friday, before a home game against Wenatchee on Saturday.  

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The Cents are coming off their most successful week in the 2017-18 season. They not only got their first win of the season, they converted on their first powerplay of the season, multiple players got their first goals in the BCHL, and now they are on their first win streak of the season and look to stay hot against the Silver backs.

The Silverbacks started the season off in a very similar fashion to the Cents, losing four straight games before finding the win column at the BCHL Showcase. They rallied off 3 games in a row against Cowichan Valley, Surrey, and Coquitlam before coming back to earth against Trail last week. Both teams have the same 3-2 record over the last 5 games.

The teams split the preseason series 1-1 with Merritt winning the opener 7-4 before falling to the Silverbacks away from the Nicola Valley. Last season the Silverbacks had the edge head to head, as they went 4-3 against the Cents, but 5 of those games were decided by one goal so expect a tight matchup.  

On paper, the teams look pretty close. Both with 3 wins, the Cents with one more game, and one more loss on the year, but with a win could leap frog the Silverbacks. Both teams have scored 26 goals this season, but it’s the Centennials who have the better team defense allowing 8 fewer goals than Salmon Arm. The Silverbacks hold the edge on the Powerplay with a 22% conversion rate, while the Cents are converting on 15.9% of their chances. On the penalty kill, the Cents have the edge with a 79.6% killing rate, while the Silverbacks are at 74.4%. The Cents also have 2 shorthanded goals to their credit while Salmon Arm doesn’t have any. And Finally, Both teams haven’t won a game against the Interior Division this season, so that will be a stat that ends tonight for one team.

Head Coach Joe Martin says that he also has noticed the similarities between the teams.

“Salmon Arm had a similar start to us, they found the win column a bit quicker than we did so they’re riding a momentum swing like we are, so it will be a good game.”

The Cents will look to keep the good times rolling before the Thanksgiving weekend, and continue their winning streak as they visit Salmon Arm tonight. Join Jared Thomas for Puck Drop at 7, Pre Game at 6:45 On Air at 101.1 FM, online at q101.ca, or on the Q101 Merritt App.  

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