The 6th seeded Merritt Centennials boarded the bus early for a matchup tonight against the 3rd seeded Wenatchee Wild for the first game of round 1 action in the BCHL playoffs.
The season series has been close considering the difference in seeding, and these teams have played some very entertaining games against eachother. Throughout the season, the Cents went 2-3-0-1 against the Wenatchee Wild.
They first met on the first weekend of the season, despite 2 early goals by the Cents the Wild roared back and won 5-3.
Game 2 saw the Cents go down to Wenatchee and pick up their first road win of the year, a 3-2 nail biter where Jacob Berger had to come up huge, and the Cents had to defend against the waves of Wild offense.
The third installment was the only lopsided contest of the year, despite the Cents leading 3-2 early in the second, the Wild came back with 4 unanswered and won 7-3.
In early December, the Cents and Wild skated to a 3-all tie late into the 3rd before Jasper Weatherby scored a late heart breaker to give the Wild the 4-3 edge.
Then came a double-header down in Wenatchee in late January which may be the most accurate preview of these first two games of the playoffs. The Cents and Wild skated to a 2-1 double overtime thriller in game 1, with Zach Court tying the game in the final minute before Weatherby got the dagger in OT. In game 2, the Cents were in the driver seat for the majority of the game and scored 3 before the Wild tried to climb back but fell short 3-2.
Wenatchee has been the top team at home in the BCHL this season going 24-4-1-0, but of those 4 losses, two of them came to the Merritt Centennials, and that should give fans hope heading into these first two games. The goal differential in the season series was 21-16 in favour of the Wild, but if you take out that 7-3 game, it becomes just a one-goal edge for the Wild 14-13. The matchup on paper is a lot closer than you’d believe.
The Cents will have to be wary of the offensive prowess of the WIld, they boast the top scoring forward and defenseman in the league as well as the top scoring offense overall. Jasper Weatherby finished the season with 74 points, Cooper Zech was the top defenseman with 69 points, AJ Vanderbeck their Captain is no slouch in the scoring department tying Weatherby with 37 goals, and they have secondary threats like Lucas Sowder (60) and Sam Morton (54) Any of those players would be the leading scorer on the Centennials, but the Wild play a very different game style than the Cents.
Merritt hasn’t been slouches in the offensive department either, and with points in 7 straight games before a loss in a mean nothing game to end the season, the Wild have to have some healthy respect. Henry Cleghorn paced the attack with 48 points, Nick Wicks is one of the premier play makers on the team and finished with 46. Zach Zorn finished with the most game winning goals and tied with Cleghorn for the most goals on the team with 20 along with 22 assists. Zach Court (41), Brendan Schneider (36), and Zach Risteau (20) had a strong finish playing on a line together. The biggest hole will be felt on the back end as the Cents will try and play on without the services of their Captain Tyrell Buckley who took a hit late in the season that will keep him out of the early games in this series with concussion symptoms.
The special teams matchup heading in is very close as well. The Wild were close to the top in both categories all season, but finished 3rd in each. Their powerplay 21.1%, and their penalty kill 85.2%. The Cents saw a strong rebound at the end of the season, and their powerplay finished 5th at 19.8% while their penalty kill finished 4th at 84.6%.
In net, the wins and losses favour the Wild, but some of the underlying stats favour the Cents goaltenders. The Wild will look to Seth Eisele and Austin Park. Eisele is the only goaltender the Cents have seen this season and is 20-11 with an 88.7 SV%, a 2.64 GAA and 3 shutouts. Park is 16-9 with an 88.7 SV% and a 2.78 GAA. The Cents will turn to the same tandem that’s gotten them where they are to finish the season. Jacob Berger has the lion’s share of starts this season by virtue of being here all year and is 13-22-2-0 with a 90.5 SV%, a 3.45 GAA, and 2 shutouts. He also has the experience of guiding the team through the playoff run last year in high pressure situations. Austin Roden has proved himself more than capable throughout the season, and down the home stretch going 12-9-2-3 with a 93.1 SV%, a 2.40 GAA, and 2 shutouts. The Cents will have a decision on their hands.
That’s the story going into game one, but once the puck drops all those stats get thrown out the window.
Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.
The Playoff schedule has been released for Round 1 matchups as the Merritt Centennials are set to do battle with the Wenatchee Wild.
Games 1 and 2 will go in Wenatchee on Thursday and Saturday Night at 7pm.
Due to the distance between the two clubs they've settle on the 2-3-2 format to limit travel.
The 3 games at the NVMA will be the following Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday - March 6th, 7th, and 9th.
If games 6 and 7 are required, they will be played back in Wenatchee.
The Merritt Centennials were playing with many regulars out of the lineup, and the bench got shorter towards the end of the game with fights, as the Langley Rivermen came out on top 4-0.
In a game that didn’t have any bearings on the standings for the Cents, they were also short a number of their regulars. Tyrell Buckley is out with injury, but Jackson Munro and Joey Berkopec were out of the game sick. The Cents skated with 4 d-men and Zach Zorn even came back to help out on the back end.
The lone goal of the first went to the Rivermen Captain Brendan Budy who scored on a 2-man advantage from the high slot with a crowd in front. It was the only one that got by Jacob Berger as he made 15/16 saves.
In the second, the Rivermen were held off the scoresheet until late, when John Wochiechowski found Angus Crookshank on a partial 2-on-1 and Crookshank made the quick move to the forehand to put it past a lateral moving Berger.
The third saw the Rivermen convert early, this time Budy had the puck go off his booty and flutter over Berger after it was thrown at the net waist high.
A few minutes later the Rivermen’s Ethan Leyh was driving wide, and down low, his feed to the slot got past everyone and back to the right point where Carter Stephenson unloaded a one-timer through the five hole of Berger.
In the final ten minutes of the game the rough stuff started. Zach Zorn dropped the gloves with Nick Ponak and the two had a spirited tussle before Ponak scored the takedown. Not to be outdone, Christian Sabin threw down against Alec Capstick minutes later, and scored perhaps the most convincing Cents win in terms of a tango this year.
The damage was already done however, and Langley held on for the 4-0 win.
Despite the loss, Head Coach Joe Martin felt the team showed character.
“I felt we gave a good effort, down a few regulars, players stepped up, Zorn volunteered to play defense, and battled through. That third goal early in the period was a bit unlucky for us, but other than that we were right there.”
The Cents will now look forward to the first round of the playoffs where they’ll encounter the Wenatchee Wild. Game 1 goes Thursday from the Wolf Den in Wenatchee.
Stay tuned to Q101 for details about the schedule, year end awards, and more analysis.
The Merritt Centennials are set to square off in their final game of the season on the road against the Langley Rivermen.
The Cents have locked up their playoff seeding, and now know who they'll play in the first round of the playoffs following their loss to the West Kelowna Warriors last night, but the Rivermen still have something to play for. Langley is looking to hold off challengers in the Mainland Division for that second seed, and as they don't have as many wins need to pick up points. The Cents will play Wenatchee in round 1 and last night on the post-game show Joe Martin said this will be the only game of the season that doesn't mean much, but that doesn't mean the Cents don't want to finish strong.
Merritt had their 6 game unbeaten streak snapped last night against the West Kelowna Warriors, falling in overtime 2-1. Despite a full house to take in the action in the home finale, the Cents couldn't muster the offense that they'd had early in the week. Flattering totals of 7-4 over the Trail Smoke Eaters and 6-1 over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks couldn't translate, and the only goal the Cents scored was credited to Christian Sabin despite being an own goal by the Warriors. Jake Harrison had one on the powerplay in the second, no scoring in the third, and in overtime with the Cents fate sealed Parm Dhaliwal gave the Warriors the win.
Tonight the Cents will be trying to iron out whatever kinks are left in their game, but after an unbeaten in 6 stretch they're probably feeling pretty good about the X's and O's. These teams last met just last week, and the Centennials came away with a 4-1 victory. Tyrell Buckley had the lone goal of the first before Henry Cleghorn, Christian Sabin, and Zach Court added goals in the second, Langley got one back from Jayden Lee in the third to break the shutout bid for Austin Roden. Since then the Rivermen have gone unbeaten, including a 5-3 upset over the Penticton Vees, but they're coming off a 2-2 tie against the Coquitlam Express.
Langley's top guns are Brendan Budy with 53 points, Angus Crookshank with 44, John Wojciechowski with 32, and Colin Bernard is their leading defenseman with 29 points. The Cents offense went silent last night save for Christian Sabin who's had a good week since returning to the lineup with 3 goals in that time and now up to 15 points, Nick Wicks will have one final game to see if he can catch Henry Cleghorn for the team lead as they are at 46 and 48 points respectively. The rookie Jackson Munro is now the leading point getter amongst defenseman in the absence of Tyrell Buckley with 21 points.
The special teams battle sees the Cents with the advantage, still in 4th with the man advantage at 20.9%, while the Rivermen are 14th at 15.4%. On the penalty kill the Cents at 6th 83% and the Rivermen 9th at 82.1%.
In net, the Cents will give Jacob Berger the final start of the season, he's 13-21-2-0 with a 90.6 SV%, a 3.43 GAA, and 2 Shutouts. With the season still meaning something to the Rivermen and Chad Cromar going down with injury the last game out against the Cents, we will likely see Braedon Flemming. Flemming is 20-22-0-2 with a 90.5 SV% and a 2.84 GAA.
Cents look to finish the season strong, as they head into the Wolves Den in round 1.
Puck Drop 7pm from the Lodge in Langley, Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.
The Merritt Centennials had a full house on hand, honouring Ty Pozzobon, raising money and awareness for mental health, but the West Kelowna Warriors spoiled the party and took the game early in OT 2-1.
The first period went scoreless, with a few penalties exchanged by both sides, but neither team able to get the edge. Austin Roden stopped all 6 shots he faced, Nic Amundrud stopped all 10 he faced.
In the second stanza, the Warriors broke the goose egg on the powerplay 7:18 into the period. Jake Harrison unloaded a shot from the line that found it's way through the crowd and into the top corner glove side on Roden.
4 minutes later Christian Sabin got credit for a goal, after he worked the puck down the right wing, and from the half wall, the Warrior defender stripped him of the puck and threw it into the bottom of his own net underneath the right pad of Amundrud. The Cents and Warriors headed to the 3rd tied 1-1.
In the third no one could break the tie, despite Tilsley taking a late penalty for the Warriors, the Cents couldn't convert on the powerplay and the teams headed to overtime. With the game heading to extras, it also meant that the Warriors locked up the 5th seed, and with the point for getting to OT, the Cents did lock up the 6th seed.
That would be the only solace in this game as just 30 seconds into OT, Parm Dhaliwal struck the top corner off the right wing with a quick shot that beat Roden.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said he had to give the other team credit.
"They played well defensively, and Amundrud was good, he didn't have to stop too many grade A chances, but he did enough. They knew all they needed was to get to overtime and they did."
The Cents will finish the season tomorrow night against the Langley Rivermen.