Merritt Centennials
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The Merritt Centennials accomplished a lot of firsts: their first lead after 20 minutes, their first lead after 40 minutes, but they’re still looking for their first win of the season against the Penticton Vees as 65 minutes solves nothing and the Cents fall in a shootout 4-3.

The first period was a text book road game period. Work hard defensively, commit to blocking shots, and convert when you get your opportunities. The lone goal came when Nick Wicks feathered one up the middle just out of the reach of Matt Kopperud, but Kopperud worked hard to force a Vees turnover onto the stick of a streaking Mathieu Gosselin who went down low, and then around the net to the other side to beat Jack Lafontaine on a wrap around for the 1-0 lead. Shots were 12-8 for the Cents after 1, with Vincent Duplessis stopping all 8 he faced.

The middle frame saw the Vees tie the game up on a seeing eye shot from Luke Loheit that just got over the pad of Duplessis. However, the Cents would regain their edge at the 8:10 mark of the second when Brendan Schneider and Rylan Van Unen tag teamed a puck off the end boards, Van Unen took it out front and beat LaFontaine upstairs, blocker-side to make it 2-1. After two the shots were 20 a side, and the Cents had their first opportunity to carry a lead into the third.

The final frame saw the Cents get just their second powerplay goal of the season against the Vees. Matt Kopperud found the puck after it broke free from a goal-mouth scramble, and gave the Cents a two-goal cushion 3-1. The Vees came back with a chance on the powerplay, and it was familiar foe James Miller netting the goal to make it 3-2. Eric Linell would tie things up at 3 and send the game to overtime.

In extra time the Cents and Vees traded chances. The Cents had their best chance on a give and go passing play between Captain Nick Wicks and Rylan Van Unen. But without some key stops from Vincent Duplessis, including a save on a buzzer beating 2-on-1, the Cents wouldn’t have even made it to the shootout.

In the shootout, Captain Massimo Rizzo was stopped by Duplessis. Matt Kopperud cut in with a nifty move, but LaFontaine stuck with him when he pulled it backhand. Cassidy Bowed faked a shot and went backhand to beat Duplessis. Mathieu Gosselin beat LaFontaine but not the post, and Connor Hutchison pulled off a late dangle to beat Duplessis to win the shootout 2-0.

The Centennials had a lot of positives in this game, and Head Coach Joe Martin wasn’t questioning his team at games end.

“I thought the effort was there from start to finish from our guys. The game was in our grasp, we had a few unlucky calls, a few unlucky bounces, and that was the difference.”

The Cents will reset and get ready to welcome the Alberni Valley Bulldogs to the NVMA tomorrow.  

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The Merritt Centennials (12-8) will face the Penticton Vees (9-6-0-2) for the second time in 7 days at the SOEC tonight.

The Centennials are coming off a weekend split that saw them lose to the Vees 6-1, but recover to top the potent Victoria Grizzlies 4-2. As the new month begins, the Cents are coming off a pretty successful October, one that saw them go 7-4 over that span. The high water mark was a 9-1 win over the Cowichan Valley Capitals, but low tide has hit in more recent contests as the 6-1 loss to the Vees and a 6-1 loss to the Wenatchee Wild the week before were the most lopsided losses of the month.

The Cents regrouped well last Saturday following that 6-1 loss to the Vees, by committing to team defense and shutting down the Victoria Grizzlies and top prospect for the upcoming NHL draft Alex Newhook. The Cents got a goal just 12 seconds in courtesy Mathieu Gosselin on a new-look line with Matt Kopperud and Nick Wicks. The Grizzlies would answer in the first, and take a lead early in the second on a bit of a weird one, but the Centennials stuck to the game plan and got two from Cocca in the middle frame. Gosselin would add another goal by electrifying fashion with moves in tight to add some insurance as the Cents won 4-2.

The first period has loomed large in all 3 match ups so far this season, and the Vees have dominated on the scoreboard leading 4-0, 3-0, and 3-0 after 1. All three games had a different feel, and different ways the Vees gained the edge after one period of play, but the Cents really need to focus on that first 5, 10, and 20 minutes of play to make sure they don't dig themselves a hole that's too deep against a skilled Vees club. Head Coach Joe Martin was displeased with the teams effort last week at home against the Vees and really switched things up personnel wise the following night shaking up the lines, spreading out the scoring, but also making sure that everyone on the ice was committed to team defense. It will take that same commitment tonight to top the Vees.

The Vees went 5-5 in the month of October, and are coming off a week where they went 1-1-0-1. Their win against the Cents was sandwiched between two losses: a shootout loss to the Coquitlam Express 3-2, and a loss at home to the plucky West Kelowna Warriors 5-3. The win from the Warriors now sees them in second place in the Interior Division behind the Cents.

The Cents continue to lead the league in offense and are helped by contributions from Bradley Cocca who is 3rd in league scoring with 27 points, Nick Granowicz who's 7th league-wide with 24, and Mathieu Gosselin who's coming off a two-goal game and now has 22 points - good enough for 11th in the league.

The Vees top scorers are David Silye with 24 points, Eric Linell with 21 points, and James Miller with 17 points. The Cents will have to keep a watchful eye on Miller at the point as 5 of his 7 goals have come against the Cents this season including a hat trick the last time out.

The special teams battle sees the Vees and Cents close with the extra man separated by points of a percentile. The Vees are 13th in the league at 16.3% while the Cents are 14th at 16%. The Cents penalty kill has slid back towards the basement at 16th with 76.1% and the Vees are 7th at 82.9%.

In net the Cents will have a decision on their hands as to who to start. Vincent Duplessis picked up the lone win last weekend, and Head Coach Joe Martin has been impressed with his play in practice. Duplessis is 4-3 with a .899 SV% and a 3.26 GAA. Austin Roden is coming off two straight losses and is 8-5 with one shutout, a .885 SV% and a 3.80 GAA.

Head Coach Joe Martin says that the effort they gave last Saturday against the Grizzlies is one they'd like to repeat.

"I think that's a game we can use as a template moving forward for how we want our guys to play. Commit to team defense, play hard, and have fun offensively."

The Cents will hope to expel a season and a half's worth of demons against the Penticton Vees tonight.

Puck drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.

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The Merritt Centennials had to change something after falling two games in a row. They changed the lines, they committed to defense, and they shut down the Victoria Grizzlies to win 4-2. 

It didn't take long for the new lines to click as Mathieu Gosselin converted just 12 seconds into the game with new linemates Nick Wicks and Matt Kopperud. His shot beat Kurtis Chapman blocker-high, but the Grizzlies would answer on the powerplay mid-way through the first. Carter Berger scored from the line to level the game at 1, and that would be how the first would end. The scoreline was tied at 1's as well as the shots at 13. Vincent Duplessis made his first start in 6 games, as he was coming off a night of relief against the Penticton Vees. 

The second period started out on a strange note as a shot on a two-on-one slid its way under the post, or just inside it. The refs didn't see it go in, the goal judge didn't see it go in, but the refs ruled it a goal anyways and Charlie Campbell got credit for it. The Cents showed resilience by fighting back in the game. Brad Cocca drew a tripping penalty from goaltender Chapman, and then scored on the powerplay with some strong work in front to tie the game at 2. Cocca would get the go ahead goal after receiving a no-look behind the back pass from Nick Granowicz to make it 3-2. After two the shots were 29-28 in favour of the Cents. 

In the final frame, Mathieu Gosselin gave the Cents some extra insurance with some slick moves on a partial breakaway, deking forehand and then swinging backhand to beat an outstretched Chapman to make it 4-2. The Cents would use quality team defense, discipline, and good goaltending from Vincent Duplessis to hang on for the win. Final shots were 39-36 in favour of the Grizzlies, as Vincent Duplessis picked up his first win in his return to the starting role. 

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said the Cents could use this same effort in games ahead. 

"This is the way we need to play to be successful. We might not score quite as many goals, but if we commit more to defense, we will find ourselves on the right side of games more often than not."

The Cents will next get a chance to show off their new look lineup against the Penticton Vees next Friday at the SOEC. 

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The Merritt Centennials (11-8) will face the Victoria Grizzlies (11-6-0-1) in a clash of division leaders at the NVMA tonight. 

The Cents are coming off two of their worst performances of the season,and have lost those games by a combined score of 12-2. Last night against the Penticton Vees a strong start evaporated due to goals on the counter-attack, and after one the Cents found themselves trailing 3-0. In the second, the Vees added two more and ended the night early for Austin Roden who didn't get much help from the team in front of him and surrendered 5 goals on 16 shots. The Cents lone goal came from a bit of a feel good story as Matt Kopperud returning after 5 games off beat Jack LaFontaine and then Rylan Van Unen poked the puck across the line for the Cents lone goal of the game. The Vees would add another in the third period for the 6-1 final. It now makes two games back to back where the Cents have lost by that scorelines. 

Tonight they'll look for a recommittment to team defense against the Grizzlies, and play them much like they did in the only other time they played this season - at the BCHL Showcase. The Cents capitalized on their chances in that game with goals from Kopperud and Nick Granowicz, and took pride in shutting down one of the most electric players in the BCHL Alex Newhook. In the smaller confines of the NVMA the Cents will have to be extra vigilant as the counter-attack can turn on a dime. The Grizzlies added a late goal in the final minute, but the Cents would hang on to win 2-1. 

The Grizzlies are looking to refocus after a rough go last weekend. They lost 12-5 to the Powell River Kings and 6-5 to the Surrey Eagles in a shootout. However, they picked up a win last night against the league-leading Chilliwack Chiefs. Marty Westhaver had 2 goals, and Cam Thompson and Carter Berger had singles as the Grizzlies beat the Chiefs 4-2. 

The Cents will hope for some more offense from their weapons. Brad Cocca has 25 points, Nick Granowicz has 23 points, and Mathieu Gosselin has 20. To discover some more offense the coaching staff has thrown together some different line combinations to ignite the team.

The Grizzlies top gun is a top ranked prospect in the NHL draft. Alex Newhook is third in league scoring with 24 points, young gun Alex Campbell is just behind him with 22 points, and defenseman Carter Berger has 18 points. 

It's a rare game where the Cents will have the edge on the powerplay, now 14th at 16.4%. The Grizzlies are just behind them at 15th at 15.6%. However, the Grizzlies have the edge on the penalty kill at 83.8% for 5th in the league while the Cents are 15th at 76.2%. 

Vincent Duplessis will get the start for the Merritt Centennials. He stopped 15/16 shots in relief last night and is 3-3 with a .889 SV% and a 3.45 GAA. The Grizzlies have been getting good goaltending from Kurtis Chapman who is 10-5 with a .945 SV% and a 2.12 GAA. The backup, Keenan Rancier, has struggled at 1-1 with an .837 SV% and a 5.92 GAA. 

Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw said the team needs to focus on what makes them an elite team to win tonight. 

"We neet to get back to playing team defense, playing with speed, and playing as one if we want to get back in the win column."

Tonight is Halloween night at the NVMA. Youngsters 12 and under, and even parents too, are encouraged to dress up for tonight's game. There will be a costume contest for the kids in the first intermission and Monster Mash Musical chairs in the second intermission, and of course candy for everyone!

Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and online at q101.ca. 

 

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The Cents talked about having a strong start to the game, but for the 3rd time this season they'd fall behind by a big margin in the first and be unable to come back falling 6-1 against the Penticton Vees. 

The first period started out well for the Cents, but the Vees would score on their first chance with extended zone time with James Miller making it 1-0. Ryan Sandelin would add another goal against the grain just over a minute later to give the Vees as 2-0 lead. Miller would add his second of the game on the powerplay after a parade to the box by the Cents to make it 3-0. Jack LaFontaine would stop all 15 shots after 1, while Austin Roden allowed 3 goals on 11 shots. 

The Cents didn't come out with a lot of fire to start the second and fell flat on their first full powerplay allowing a shorthanded goal to Eric Linell. James Miller would complete the hat trick on the powerplay 9 minutes into the second period by picking the top corner through a screen. Roden didn't see through the screen, and he didn't see any more time in the game getting pulled after stopping 11/16 shots against with the Cents in a 5-0 hole. The Cents would get opportunities after the Vees paraded to the box, but could only capitalize once on a full two minute 5-on-3 advantage with Rylan Van Unen poking the puck across the line after Matt Kopperud beat LaFontaine with a one-timer in his first game back from injury. Shots after two were 25-20 in favour of the Merritt Centennials. 

In the third, Head Coach Joe Martin put the lines in a blender but it didn't produce any results as Linell would have the only goal of the 3rd to make it a 6-1 final. The Cents outshot the Vees 33-32, but the shot quality wasn't there. Vincent Duplessis stopped 15/16, LaFontaine stopped 32/33. The Cents are still looking for their first win over the Vees in nearly two seasons. 

After the game Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw said the Cents need to get back to their identity. 

"We've gotten away from team defense and hard work which are really the tenets of the Centennials. We get back to shutting things down in our end and the offense will come." 

The Cents will look to turn things around tomorrow night when they host the Victoria Grizzlies and NHL prospect Alex Newhook. 

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