Merritt Centennials
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The Cents get set to hit reset against the Wenatchee Wild for game two of their double-header down under. 

Last night the game skated scoreless through two periods before finding some offense in the third. Murphy Stratton converted on a pass that got out through the slot, and Zach Court showed extreme patience to out wait Seth Eisele before tucking the puck away around the goaltender in the final minute of the third to force overtime. In the first overtime frame, the Cents weren't able to convert on a 4-on-3 powerplay, despite chances and let the game slide to double OT. For the second game in a row, the Cents fell victim to a counter-attack rush in 3-on-3 overtime as Lucas Sowder and Jasper Weatherby were unleashed with fresh legs and despite Austin Roden's stop of the initial breakaway by Sowder, Weatherby followed up the play and batted it just across the line. 

That sets the stage for a big rematch. The Cents did well to skate with the league's best offense and powerplay. They managed to shut out the Wild on three opportunities, including a lengthy 2-man advantage, and held the Wild to just two goals. The same team that scored 10 goals in their previous game! The Cents need to start picking up wins as they head into the homestretch of the season with 14 games left, they now trail the Salmon Arm Silverbacks by 5 points with 3 games in hand, but are winless in their last 5 (0-3-2) The top 5 teams in the Interior Division have booked their ticket to the playoffs, and 1 point still seperates the top 3 teams. As of right now, the Cents could see the Vernon Vipers, Penticton Vees, or the Wild in the postseason. 

The Cents will have to stare down the league's top powerplay once again, the Wild are now alone in first with a 23% conversion rate. The Cents went 0/4 on their powerplay last night and still sit in 9th with 18.5%. Wenatchee also relies on their penalty kill with an 85.1% kill rate, good enough for 3rd in the league. The Cents are also 9th on the penalty kill with a 82.1% kill rate. 

Jasper Weatherby continues to be the big threat on the Wild, leading the league with 64 points and has 2 game-winning goals in his last two games against the Cents. Cooper Zech is the big threat from the backend, leading defensemen with 53 points, and also 7th overall. However, last night the Wild displayed their depth with Murphy Stratton getting the first goal of the game, set up by the pesky Sam Hesler, and the speed and quick puck movement of the Wild was causing trouble for the Cents last night. 

The Cents got contributions from 3 of their veterans to score within the final minute last night: Tyrell Buckley (28), Nick Wicks (33), and Zach Court (27). Zach Zorn once again provided a spark to the bench when he went after Sam Morton after he charged goaltender Austin Roden after a key save. However, it left Zorn unavailable for the remainder of the third and overtime, and he's a player that the Cents coaching staff would lean on in those situations.

The game last night was exciting despite the lack of goals, perhaps tonight we will see some more offensive fireworks, but for the Cents the 2 points is paramount. 

Puck drop 7pm, Pre-game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca. 

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The Wild and Centennials skated toe to toe through 3 periods of regulation and one period of overtime, but ultimately it was Jasper Weatherby who provided the dagger in the heart for Cents fans once again with the game winner in Double-OT.

The first saw the Cents forced to play defense with a two-man advantage going to the Wenatchee Wild. To their credit they killed it off, and all other Wenatchee powerplays to shut out the league’s best unit with the man advantage.

In the second stanza there was no scoring, but a Nick Wicks chance went cross-bar and down for about as close a chance can be without going in.

The goal scoring came in the third and it was Murphy Stratton of the Wild who broke the goose egg at the 4:30 mark. After a failed clearing attempt, the puck came to Sam Hesler who threw it into the slot and the puck bounced on to the stick of Stratton who put it blocker side on Austin Roden who made his second consecutive start.

The Cents were pushing for the equalizer for the remainder of the period, and their prayers were answered by Zach Court in the final minute. After a good cycle in the offensive zone, Wicks fed Court to the right side of the net, and Court showed extreme patience protecting the puck on the backhand before tucking it in short side forehand past a sprawled out Seth Eisele.

The would force overtime, and in the first frame of OT the Cents couldn’t make good on a lengthy 4-on-3 powerplay, and would run out of time.

In final overtime frame it was a chance on a 2-on-1 with two tired Cents that didn’t convert that ended up coming back down the ice for Lucas Sowder. Sowder made the move to the backhand and was absolutely stoned by Roden, but Jasper Weatherby followed up the play and backhanded it past Roden who made a valiant dive to try and get back in position.

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin liked how his team kept pace with the Wild.

“We played well, and we proved that we can skate with the Wild. We kept their chances to a minimum, didn’t give them many second chances, and to be honest we probably out chanced them.”

The Cents will need to have more chances convert into goals tomorrow night when the teams will do it all over again. 7pm puck drop, 6:45 pre-game on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.  

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The Cents (17-22-3-1) head down South for a double-header against one of the top teams in the Interior Division the Wenatchee Wild (29-12-3-1).

Wenatchee is just one point off the pace for top spot in the league and the division, and are the highest powered offense in the league. After struggling through their first 4 games of the new year, the Wild now have rattled off 4 in a row including a win over the Merritt Centennials.

That game on January 16th saw the Wild get the first goal of the game on the powerplay from the leading scoring defenseman in the league Cooper Zech. Matt Kopperud answered for the Cents in the first period with a stunning breakaway goal, but Sam Hesler answered later on in the first to make it 2-1. In the second, Zech got his second goal of the game on the powerplay, but Zach Risteau was able to answer with a powerplay goal of his own later in the period. The third saw the Cents push and tie up the game halfway through at 3’s thanks to Henry Cleghorn batting in a centering feed after an end to end rush from Matthieu Gosselin. Unfortunately, the Wild took the late lead when leading BCHL scorer Jasper Weatherby got a wrap around goal on Austin Roden to ice the game.

The Cents last game against the Powell River Kings also saw them lose in heart breaking fashion, but they were able to force overtime. After two Kings goals through two periods. Zach Risteau was able to score two goals on a key powerplay stretch in the third. One with a two man advantage, the other with the remaining time on the powerplay. The Cents made it to double OT before they gave up a rush on the counter-attack to Ben Berard who got one past Roden on the breakaway.

The point they picked up in that game was their first since a 5-0 win against Vernon four games ago. The Cents now trail the Salmon Arm Silverbacks by 4 points in the Interior Division, and need to go on a run to get back in the division as teams are beginning to clinch playoff spots.

The Wenatchee Wild have clinched a playoff spot, and are one of the most dangerous teams on the powerplay. Tied for first with a 23.2% conversion rate. The Cents are coming off a game in which the powerplay was clutch in the third, but still are 9th in the league at 18.9%. The Wild are equally strong on the penalty kill where they’re third in the league at 84.7%. Cents are holding steady at 9th with an 81.8% kill rate but will need to be wary of the Wild’s high powered offense on the PP.

The Wild have some of the biggest threats up front in the league. Jasper Weatherby leads the way for all skaters in the BCHL with 63 points, Cooper Zech leads defensemen with 53 points, and they have3 more skaters with over 40 points: AJ Vanderbeck (46), Lucas Sowder (46), and Same Morton (41).

Zach Risteau has the hot hand for the Cents and is a point-per-game player since joining the team with 6 points. Rylan Van Unen and Chase Bell will be game-time decisions after missing the last few games with injury, and a new AP is with the team Yewta Plamondon of the Kamloops Storm.  He possesses some offensive ability with 21 goals and 13 assists in 32 games with the Storm.

The Cents have only seen goaltender Seth Eisele so far this year, but with a double-header there’s a chance they’ll get their first look at Austin Park. Eisele is 12-6 with an .890 SV%, 2.47 GAA, and 3 shutouts. Park is 16-9 with an .887 SV% and a 2.78 GAA. The Cents do have the edge in the goaltending department. Jacob Berger is next up 10-18-2-0 with a .907 SV%, a 3.35 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Austin Roden will see some action as well this weekend. 8-8-0-2 with a .922 SV%, 2.75 GAA, and 1 shutout.

The Cents will need a full effort to overcome the Wild tonight, and set the tone for the double-header.

Puck drop at 7pm, Pre-game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.   

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The effort through two periods of play was just 'okay,' but after a emotionally charged game against the Vees, the Cents needed more than okay, and found it in the third to come back into the game and tie things up. Unfortunately, as the game went into double overtime the Cents couldn't convert their efforts into a W and fell 3-2 after a Ben Berard breakaway. 

The first period saw the Cents apply the early pressure, but the Kings weathered the storm and were able to strike against the flow of play. After the Cents killed off a penalty, Mike Van Unen came to the bench, but an awkward change compunded by a pile up in front of the bench led to a 2-on-1 the other way and Josh Coblenz was able to set up Ben Thomas for the first and only goal of the period. 

In the second period the Cents lost their pace, and the Kings took advantage drawing two penalties in quick succession. With the two-man advantage the Kings were able to convert with leading scorer Berard slapping a one-timer up high on Roden short side from a nearly impossible angle to make it 2-0. 

Zach Zorn got the team fired up to start the third with a fight just 30 seconds in, and the team got the message. They went to the attack and drew two penalties of their own in quick succession 6 minutes in to the third. 

On the two man advantage, Zach Risteau wristed one top shelf over the glove of AP goaltender Alex Rolfe for the Cents first goal of the game, after some briliant puck movement around the zone. 

The Cents and Risteau followed that up with another goal on the remaining powerplay, this time Henry Cleghorn walked out of the corner and fed Risteau with a cross-ice feed that he blasted past Rolfe. 

The game would need overtime, then double overtime. Despite killing off a penalty to Tyrell Buckley in both extra periods, the Cents squandered their best chance. A 3-on-1 saw Risteau's pass fire through the crease with too much velocity, it was worked ahead to Ben Berard who was in on a breakaway, and despite the best efforts of Schneider on the back check, Berard backhanded one past the glove of Roden for the win. 

After the game Joe Martin said it was good to get the comeback on the powerplay. 

"This is all good experience for these guys, they fought back, now they know they can do it for next time."

The Cents next time will be next weekend for a double-header against the Wenatchee Wild in Washington on Friday and Saturday. 

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The Cents look to right the ship back on home ice for their lone tilt at home against the Island Division's Powell River Kings tonight. The Cents are coming off a week that saw them drop 3 straight decisions. A 5-4 loss against the Trail Smoke Eaters last saturday, a 4-3 loss against the Wenatchee Wild on Tuesday, and a 4-1 loss against the Penticton Vees last night. 

The Kings are struggling to find wins in 2018 as well, but do have a winning record. They are 3-2-0-1 in the new year with their most recent stretch seeing a 5-3 win over Nanaimo, a 6-2 loss to Victoria, and last night they scored a buzzer beater to stun the Rivermen 4-3. 

Powell River sits in second in the Island Division and are the most offensive minded team on the Island with 163 goals for. The Cents by comparison are 10th in the league with 136 goals for, but are the only team in the league with a losing record and a positive goal differential. Meaning that when they lose games, they lose in tight heart breaking fashion. 

That was the case last night as the Vees led by one after one, Zach Court tied it up in the second period on a expiring powerplay, before the Vees took control in the third with 2 unanswered goals from Captain Owen Sillinger before an empty netter by Chris Klack. 

The Cents will look to capture the magic of just over a week ago when they were able to stun the Vernon Vipers 5-0, and against a team that isn't used to the confines of the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena they just might be able to replicate that success. The boys will have to flip the switch and look forward, as they look to reverse their fortunes in 2018 with only 2 wins so far. They were leapfrogged last night by the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and now return to 7th in the Interior Division. 

The Kings have a lot of weapons in the lineup, and they're led by Ben Berard offensively with 51 points, Jonny Evans has 44, and Carter Turnbull has 39. The Cents Zach Court is the hot hand coming into tonight with 26 points, along with linemate Nick Wicks with 32. Ashton Stockie, Brendan Schneider and Zach Zorn have done a good job neutralizing teams top scoring threats, but also need to work on finding the back of the net while they're at it. 

The Powell River Kings are 7th in the league on the powerplay with 19.7%, Cents down to 10th at 18%. On the penalty kill, the Cents have the edge in 9th with 81.8% while the Kings are 13th at 80.2%. 

Goaltenders for the Kings have even managed to get points. Mitch Adamyk is 14-9-0-2 with a 91.6 SV%, a 2.70 GAA. Matteo Paler-Chow is out with injury, so the Kings have called up Alex Rolfe of the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds in the BCMML. In 9 games he has a 3.69 GAA, but in one other game with Powell River this season has a 3.42 GAA and an 88.9 SV%. The Cents will go back to Austin Roden in the crease. 8-7-0-2 with a 92.3 SV%, a 2.75 GAA and 1 shutout. Jacob Berger is now 10-18-2 this season with a 90.7 SV% and a 3.35 GAA with 2 shutouts. 

The Cents will need to take advantage of an injury riddled Kings squad that's going to have 4 AP's in the lineup including the starting netminder. 

Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1 FM or online at q101.ca. 

 

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