Merritt Centennials
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The Cents have won their first game of the season, after defeating the Surrey Eagles 2-1 on wednesday night, courtesy some late game heroics and a powerplay goal from former Surrey Eagle Colten Gerlib. However, this matchup is a battle of two teams who are still in the basement of their respective divisions. The Cents are looking to continue their trend upward, and the Capitals have their only win against the lowly Coquitlam Express who, after the Cents win the other night, are now the only team in the BCHL without a win.

There will be a familiar face on the other side of the ice for one Centennial, as the Capitals acquired Raphael Gosselin from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, if that name sounds familiar it’s because his younger brother Matthieu is playing for the Centennials. Both played for the Champlain St. Lawrence Lions before moving to Junior A hockey this year, but it was younger brother and Centennial Matthieu who led the team in scoring, followed by his brother.

Cowichan is coming off their biggest loss of the season, 11-1 at the hands of the Wenatchee Wild, while the Cents are coming off their first win. The Capitals have scored 5 more goals than the Centennials over the season, but their defensive play isn’t nearly as good as 3 times already this season they’ve allowed over 8 goals or more. By comparison the Centennials have only allowed 5 goals once, and their biggest losses on the year have only been by 2 goals.

Cowichan is also 0-2 on the road to start the year, with only 2 goals scored in each game, and while the Centennial home record isn’t sparkling they’ve been competitive in every game in front of the fans at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. It’s a great opportunity for the Cents to continue their momentum, and Coach Joe Martin hopes that the Cents learnt from their last game.

“We shortened the bench late in the game to hang on, and I hope that the players learnt from watching and when we have a similar situation down the road we can use more of our bench.”

Puck Drop is at 7pm tonight, and the Pre Game Show starts at 6:45 with Jared Thomas. You listen to 101.1 FM, stream us online, or get the Q101 Merritt App.

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For the first time since game 6 of the playoffs last spring, the Cents can call themselves winners in a game that matters. 

The win came over the struggling Surrey Eagles, whose losing streak extends to 5 games. In a game that saw a lot of ups and downs, the Cents came out on top by a score of 2-1. Offense was hard to come by, but the Cents managed to get one more than their opponent in the lone game on a wednesday night on the BCHL schedule. 

The first period started with a powerplay goal for the Eagles. At the 8:15 mark just as a penalty was about to expire to Joey Berkopec, the captain for the Eagles Jordan Robert got a puck past Vincent Duplessis after he kicked out a rebound to the slot. For Duplessis, it was his second start of the season, and first at home, as he last saw action against the West Kelowna Warriors in a 3-1 loss. 

It didn't take long for the Centennials to answer, as 3 minutes later Sam Miller came out of the far side corner and threaded a beautiful outlet saucer pass over the sticks of a couple Eagles' players on to the tape of Matthieu Gosselin on the right wing, who gained the line, and fed a streaking Chase Bell on the left side who ripped his second goal of the season low glove on Alex Horawski who got the start for the Eagles. 

That's how the teams would skate into the second period, where there wasn't much to report except an early injury to the starting goaltender Duplessis for the Cents. He ended up falling awkwardly after a centering feed from the Eagles came into the goal mouth and an Eagles forward made contact with him. Jake Berger would come into the game in relief, and didn't allow a goal for the remainder of the second period, but neither did the Eagles netminder as it went to the 3rd period in a 1-1 draw. 

In the third, the Cents killed off two penalties of their own before they finally got a chance on the powerplay at 14:13 with Jeffrey Stewart in the box for boarding after a dangerous hit on Jack Vincent behind the Eagles net. The Centennials had yet to convert on a powerplay so far this season, but Colten Gerlib, who played for the Eagles last season, provided the first powerplay goal of the season, and more importantly the first game winning goal of the season. Tyrell Buckley worked it up to Henry Cleghorn found Gerlib on the right side with a bit of room, and Gerlib fired a quick wrister upstairs over the shoulder of Horawski to make it 2-1 the eventual final. 

After the game, Coach Joe Martin said of the game winning powerplay goal, 

"As long as it was the game winner, I don't care if it was on the powerplay, shorthanded. We could go 0 for 100, as long as we get the win."

They'll hope the next win comes as early as this saturday night when the Cowichan Valley Capitals visit the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena for a 7pm puck drop.  

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The BCHL Showcase is in the rearview mirror, and both teams had aspects to their games that improved, but both would like to forget the week that was as neither team was able to come away with a win. The Cents still search for their first win of the season, and the Eagles are looking for their first win since their first game of the season. They haven’t managed to be on the right side of the scoreboard since an overtime win against the Langley Rivermen 5-4 on opening night. The next matchup the Eagles skated to a tie, but since then have only known defeat. Four times in a row to be exact, but they have company in that regard as the Cents are one of two teams in the league who haven’t known the taste of victory.

However, looking a little deeper at the numbers, these teams are pretty similar. Both Surrey and Merritt have the same goals for through 6 games that being 12, and Merritt actually holds the edge in goals against over Surrey. The Cents have surrendered 22 goals over 6 games while the Eagles have allowed 25. 

Special teams remain a factor as the Eagles have drawn 41 penalties over 6 games which leads the league, and for a Centennials team that has had it’s share of penalty trouble they will need to be at their clean checking best. Surrey has only converted on 5 of those opportunities or 12.2%, but along with searching for a win the Cents will be searching for their first powerplay goal.

Last season Merritt swept the season series taking both games. An early season matchup in November at home 6-3, and then a late season thriller 3-2 in South Surrey.

One thing the Cents can feel good about is that they finally found the offensive side to their game. After only scoring one goal in week 2 against the Vipers and the Warriors, the Centennials were able to score 3 goals in each game against the Rivermen and the Spruce Kings. Now they just need to score one more than their opponent.

Pre Game starts at 6:45 and Puck drop is at 7 with Jared Thomas at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. If you can't make it to the game, you can always listen at 101.1 on the FM dial, stream from the website, or download the Q101 Merritt App. 

 

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The BCHL Showcase goes on, but the Merritt Centennials participation in it is over. They played two of their best games of the season in front of hundreds of scouts from all levels of hockey, but couldn't manage to get a win as they fell 4-3 to the Prince George Spruce Kings. 

The first period started with the all too familiar refrain, an early penalty against the Cents that put the Spruce Kings on the man advantage. However, it was Henry Cleghorn who ended up lighting the lamp shorthanded. After a pinch by the Spruce Kings D to keep the play alive, Cleghorn was able to get a couple steps, and Tyrell Buckley found him with a beautiful outlet pass to spring him for the short handed breakaway. Cleghorn came in with a head of speed, and went forehand, backhand, forehand, to put the puck past Bradley Cooper, the starting net minder for PG. That's how the first period finished. The teams traded a couple of powerplay opportunities towards the end of the period, with neither able to convert. The Cents had their first lead after 20 minutes of play this season. 

It didn't last long. Just a minute and a half into the second period the Spruce Kings were able to score with Ethan De Jong and Ben Poisson combining for their first goal on the night.

The Cents didn't hang their heads as less than 40 second later they were able to execute a nice break out. Nick Wicks worked it up the right side to Zach Court, who took the puck in stride and came in with a head of steam, defenseman Joey Berkopec saw an opportunity and jumped up in the play on the left wing, Court then turn on the breaks at the right face off dot and laced a perfect pass to Berkopec who got his first BCHL goal by outstretching his stick and poking it past Cooper to restore the one goal lead. 

Later in the frame, at the 5:47 mark, Christian Sabin went to the box for cross-checking, and with Sabin in the box the Spruce Kings converted on the powerplay with some good puck movement. Manz played it to the right point, who went cross ice to the left point, and then Manz floated to the high slot, and got a pass from Shawn Kennedy and sniped a shot past Berger. 

After trading powerplays, and neither team converting again, at the 14 minute mark of the second Chase Bell found himself streaking down the left wing. He took a long shot on from outside the left circle, almost on the wall, and his shot was able to fool Cooper as it got through his glove hand. It was Bell's first goal of the year. 

The offense wasn't over there as later in the period, Ethan de Jong returned the favour to Ben Poisson. This time the puck came in behind the Cents net, Berger went out to play it, he passed it to the left side corner to Buckley who was stripped of the puck by De Jong, and the puck floated out to the right circle and the only one there was Poisson who wired one past Berger after he couldn't quite get set in his net to tie it 3-3. That would be how the 3rd period would begin. 

Once again, it wasn't the start to a period the Centennials were looking for as just under two minutes in Jared Hovde was able to find the puck loose at the side of the net after a shot from the point to put it past Berger. The Spruce Kings got their first lead of the game, and didn't look back as the Cents couldn't manage to tie the game up to force OT. 

The Showcase really did show that the Centennials have what it takes to win a hockey game against some of the best teams in the BCHL, they just need to put a full game together. 

The Cents will look for that win when the Surrey Eagles visit the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena at 7pm on Wednesday night. 

 

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The Cents are still searching for that elusive first win of the season, yesterday was the closest they’ve come as they were leading after 40 minutes of play. So far this season, the Cents have only lead a game during the majority of the first period against the Wenatchee Wild, and for a brief 3 minutes of game time from the end of the second period and the beginning of the 3rd yesterday. There were a lot of positives, but the team will need to put together a full 60 minute effort against the Mainland Division leading Prince George Spruce Kings to come away with a win today.

Since a 5-5 tie against the Chilliwack Chiefs to start the season, the Spruce Kings have rattled off 3 straight wins. In all their games, PG hasn’t managed to score less than 4 goals, by contrast the Centennials have yet to score 4 goals in a game this season.

Last season Prince George went unbeaten against the Centennials winning twice, once at the showcase, 7-2, once late in the season at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, 3-1, and the season opener last season skated to a 2-2 tie in Spruce King territory.

Early in the season, the Spruce Kings have 4 players in the top 20 in scoring, two in the top ten, each with 7 points a piece. Prince George is led by rookie forward Patrick Cozzi, and returning forward Ben Brar. Comparatively, the Cents don’t have a player among the league leaders until number 65. That being Zach Zorn with his 3 goals on the year. Needless to say, the Cents don’t want to try and go toe to toe offensively with Prince George.

On special teams, the Cents still remain snakebitten with no goals, and now one short handed goal against after yesterday’s game against the Rivermen. They’ve gone 0 for 21 to start the year, and are last in the league in that regard. Prince George is 4 for 23 through four games, ranked 12th in the league. The Cents may have trouble getting their first powerplay goal of the year, as the Spruce Kings are 3rd in the league with an 88.2% penalty kill, while Merritt sits at 12th with 73.9%

One thing stat that’s flying under the radar a bit for the Spruce Kings is that they haven’t yet left their perch from up north, and this will be their first official road game of the season. Will the travel have an effect on Prince George? Will the Cents have legs playing this early in the morning, and so close to their last game time?

We’ll find out when they hit the ice at 10am for puck drop. Pre game as always on Q101 at 9:45am.

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