Merritt Centennials
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The Cents look to head into the Christmas break on a winning note when the Island Division's Nanaimo Clippers come to visit this afternoon, but they'll have to surpess the excitement of the upcoming break and take care of business. 

Nanaimo has looked excellent on the road on this swing. They went to Trail and beat them 7-3 on Friday night, then travelled to Penticton to spoil their Teddy Bear Toss Night and win 4-2. Brady Lynn had two goals against the Vees, as the Clippers overcame a one goal deficit in the first to upset one of the league's darlings. 

The Cents also won against Trail earlier this week, but fell to the Vernon Vipers on Friday night after bus troubles led to a delay in puck drop. Despite getting a 2 goal lead in the first period, the Vipers slowly got back into the game for a 4-2 win. Henry Cleghorn and Colten Gerlib had the goals. 

The Clippers are currently in a 3-way tie for top spot in the Island Division, while the Cents sit in 6th in the Interior. The Clippers and Cents are a lot closer when you break down the overall offense and defense. The Clippers hold the edge, but the teams seperated by only one goal offensively 109-108, and 2 goals defensively 101-103. The Clippers also own the top powerplay in the league at 23.1% while the Cents are in the middle of the pack at 9th with 19.4%. On the penalty kill, the Cents have the edge at 82.1% and 8th in the league, while Nanaimo is 13th with a 79.7% kill rate. 

Henry Cleghorn keeps pace in the league's top 20 goal scorers with 33 points, but Nanaimo has a player in 13th, Jake Harris, with 36 points. The Clippers have 6 skaters with over 20 points, and 12 with over 10, with some of their big threats including: Tristan Crozier (29), Jamie Collins (26), and Parker Colley (25). The Cents now have 13 players with over 10 points, and Matthieu Gosselin and Zach Court are knocking on the door of 20 with 19.

In net the Clippers rely on Taz Burnman and Noah Featherstongaugh-Gowe. Burman is 9-7-0-1 with a 92.9 SV%, a 2.29 GAA, and one shutout. Gowe is 7-4 with a 90.4 SV% and a 3.26 GAA. 

The Cents could deepen the storyline by playing former Clipper Austin Roden against his old club. Roden is 5-5-0-2 with a 92.9 SV% and a 2.98 GAA. Berger has started every game this week and is now 10-13-2-0, a 91.1 SV%, a 3.24 GAA and 2 shuthouts. 

Both teams looking to head into the break with a win, and the Cents look to get back to .500. 

Puck drop is 2pm, Pre Game at 1:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca 

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The Merritt Centennials rolled in hours late, and carried some of that adrenaline into the first period where they were able to get the early lead, but the Vipers lied in wait, maintained pressure and were eventually able to overcome with a 4-2 win. 

The first period ended up starting 55 minutes behind schedule due to a bus breakdown 10 minutes out of Kamloops. The Cents didn't show any rust in the first however, as on one of their initial forays into the offensive zone Matthieu Gosselin, Chase Bell, and Henry Cleghorn crashed the net, and it was Cleghorn who got credit for poking the puck past the line on Ty Taylor who got the start in net for the Vipers. 

Jacob Berger would stand tall throughout the first, and the Cents would reward him with another goal late on the powerplay. Chase Bell played the puck from the half wall cross ice to the left point for Colten Gerlib who wristed it bar down and in over the glove of Taylor for the goal to make it 2-0. Taylor allowed two goals on 7 shots, while Berger stopped all 11 he faced. 

In the second, the Vipers started to flex their depth as shift after shift the Cents were being hemmed into their own zone, and only getting brief looks in the offensive end. Berger held them in it until late in the period, on the powerplay, Michael Young unloaded a one timer that beat Berger to the blocker side. 

Just two minutes later, Berger would be victimized again, this one coming from an off speed shot by Josh Prokop that Berger easily handled, but kicked right onto the stick of Viper Captain Jagger Williamson who poked it across the line to tie the game late in the second period. Shots after two saw the Vipers leading 29-13. 

In the third period, the Vipers continued to carry the momentum. At the 8:51 mark, just after a brilliant rush by Zach Court to try and restore the Centennials lead Keyvan Mokhtari skated the other way for the Vipers, crossed the blue line, and left a drop pass for Sam Anzai who made no mistake picking the top corner on Berger for the Vipers to take the league. 

Later in the period, Berger would fall victim to another knuckle puck from Josh Prokop that would find it's way to Williamson in the slot who would get another easy one for the 4-2 lead. 

Despite a late powerplay, and push by the Centennials with the net empty, they couldn't get it any closer than that. 

The Cents have the day off today before facing the Nanaimo Clippers in their final game before the Christmas break tomorrow at 2pm at the NVMA. 

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

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The Cents are off to one of their best Decembers in years thanks to going 4-1, but the Vipers may be the only team in the league that's hotter as they've rallied of 5 straight wins in December. It all sets up a match up of two of the hottest teams in the Interior Division and the BCHL tonight. 

Merritt is still looking for their first win of the year over the Vipers in this their third matchup of the season. So far the Vipers have topped the Cents 2-0 and 3-2 throughout the season. The last matchup back on November 17th saw the Vipers hurl 53 shots on net, and if not for the stellar play of Austin Roden in net the scoreline could've been a lot less flattering than 3-2. The Cents did manage to stay in the game, but couldn't get the tie after Henry Cleghorn got on the board in the second and Brendan Schneider got a goal in the final frame.

The Cents are coming off a road win, and are looking to make it three in a row after winning 5-3 against the Trail Smoke Eaters on Tuesday. The Cents controlled play throughout the majority of the game, and without a number of regulars, were still able to pull off the win. Captain Tyrell Buckley, Jackson Munro, Mattias Dal Monte and Jack Vincent were all sidelined with a flu, and affiliate player's Frazer Dodd, Joel Patsey, and Jacob Bourchier drew into the line up. The AP's did more than just fill in, as two of them got on the scoresheet. Dodd was a big part of the Cents first goal, Patsey got his first in the BCHL in the second, and Bourchier flexed his physical muscle and was steady on the backend. 

The Vipers possess the leagues 3rd best offense with 125 goals for, and are equally responsible on defense with the 2nd best defense with 74 goals against. The Centennials are sitting with the 10th best offense in the league with 106 goals for, and are 7th best in the league defensively with 99 goals against. 

The players putting the puck in the net for Vernon include: Jimmy Lambert (43), Brett Stapley (38), Michael Ufberg (32), and Jagger Williamson (31). They also have 9 skaters with over 20 points, and 12 with over 10. 

The Cents now have a top 20 BCHL scorer in Henry Cleghorn with 32 points, Zach Zorn has 29, Nick Wicks 23, and Tyrell Buckley 22, and while they only have 4 skaters with over 20 points, they also have 12 scorers with over 10 points. 

The special teams battle will see the Vipers hold a slight advantage. On the powerplay they're 8th in the league at 20.1% while the Cents are 9th at 19.3%, and they hold the edge on the penalty kill as well at 4th and 83.3% while the Cents are 9th at 82.1%. It's also a battle of the most dangerous teams shorthanded as the Vipers have 11 goals with a man short, and the Centennials have 10. 

In net the Vipers have the top tandem in the league in Ty Taylor and Anthony Yamnistsky. Taylor is 13-2-0-3 with a 92.6 SV% a 2.04 GAA and 3 Shutouts. Yamnitsky is 10-6-0-1 with a 92.4%, a 2.04 GAA and 2 Shutouts. Needless to say the Cents will need to throw a lot of rubber on these goaltenders to test them. 

The Cents will turn once again to Jacob Berger who picked up the win against the Trail Smoke Eaters. He played great, like the rest of the team, through the first 58 minutes, but allowed 3 goals in the third period after the team let the foot off the pedal. Berger is now up to 10 wins on the year at 10-13-2-0 a 91.2 SV%, a 3.22 GAA and 2 shutouts on the year. 

Assistant Coach Matt Sampson says that he looks forward to have some extra room in Vernon. 

"They're one of the teams in the league that's best suited to play in the NVMA, so we're looking forward to having a bit of extra ice to use our speed."

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

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Trail has been good to the Merritt Centennials so far this season, as they collected another two points against the Smoke Eaters at the Cominco Arena with a 5-3 win. The Cents were without 4 of their regular players in Captain Tyrell Buckley, Jackson Munro, Mattias Dal Monte, and Jack Vincent (plus Rylan Van Unen was away with Team Canada West), and had 3 Affiliate Players in the line up: Frazer Dodd, Joel Patsey, and Jacob Bourchier.

The game wasn’t lacking in pace from the get go, as there were plenty of turnovers, and plenty of line rushes, but it was a turnover in the corner that led to the Cents first goal. At the 7:11 mark AP Call up  Frazer Dodd helped dig a puck loose in the corner, and played it behind the net to Christian Sabin who found Matt Kopperud in the high slot with a pass to get the Cents on the board 1-0. It would be the only goal of the period.  Jacob Berger turned aside 12 shots in the first, while recently acquired Adam Marcoux stopped 9/10.

In the second period the Cents widened the margin, and it started with an AP getting his first in the BCHL. Joel Patsey collected the puck after some Centennials Pressure in the Smoke Eaters end, and from the left point wired a wrister top left corner and in to make it 2-0 at the 7 minute mark.

The Cents converted on the powerplay late in the period to gain a three goal lead after a scramble in the slot led to Chase Bell feeding Matthieu Gosselin in tight, and he was able to maneuver his stick to get a shot away and beat Marcoux mid-blocker side.

The third period started with a whimper, but finished with a flurry. No goals were scored until the latter half of the period. Mack Byers scored at the 11:04 mark, his first in the BCHL as well.

In the final three minutes, four goals were exchanged and it started with Zach Zorn finding the puck out front after a strange turnover behind the net. Marcoux was caught out of his crease, and Zorn put it into the empty cage. Trail answered right back with a goal from Daine Dubois, but a minute later with the net actually empty, Brad Cocca got sprung and was able to put the puck in. Then just as play headed into the final minute Troy Ring got his second of the season, but it was Spencer McLean who did the leg work deking in trough the Cents defense to find Ring to the side of the net with a good look on Berger to make it 5-3.

After the game Coach Matt Sampson said you couldn’t ask for much more from the AP’s.

“It was a great game by them. You had Bourchier taking a ferry from Revelstoke to be here. You had Patsey playing solid on the back end, and getting a goal for us, and you had Frazer who was responsible and was able to get on the scoresheet as well. Definitely couldn’t have asked for much more.”

The Cents are next in action on Friday night against the league leading Vernon Vipers in Vernon. Puck drop 7pm, Pre Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.

 

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The Centennials start off a three game week with a stop in Trail to take on the Smoke Eaters tonight.

The Cents are coming off a weekend split, and the Smokies snapped their longest losing skid of the year at 6 games with a 5-3 win over the West Kelowna Warriors.

Merritt is coming off a big win over Interior Division rival Salmon Arm on Saturday night, where they were finally able to break out of the basement of the division with a 4-1 win. Henry Cleghorn tallied a hat trick, and Zach Zorn added a Gordie Howe Hat Trick in the victory.

The Centennials have been hit by a pre-Christmas bug, and will be without a couple regulars: Captain Tyrell Buckley, Mattias Dal Monte, Jackson Munro and Jack Vincent. It means that the Centshave recalled a coule affiliate players who will get into the lineup: Frazer Dodd and Joel Patsey.

The Smoke Eaters are no strangers to playing without regulars as they continue to struggle without their top guns in the lineup: Levi Glasman, Ross Armour, and Seth Barton are all away at the World Junior A Challenge. Kale Howarth has also been absent from a number of games for the Smokies recently. Those players represent over 100 points offenseively.

Both teams will have to make due with what they have. The Cents will look to the hot hands and team leaders up front Henry Cleghorn and Zach Zorn. Cleghorn now has 31 points, is producing at over a point per game rate, and is tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals with team mate Zach Zorn with 4.

Even without their big guns, Trail still has plenty of firepower. Jeremy Lucchini, Carter Jones, Andre Ghantous, and Tyler Ghirardosi all have over 20 points for the leagues highest powered offense.

Having the league’s top powerplay doesn’t hurt either. Trail now converting on 22.3% of their chances, while the Cents are 9th in the league at 19.4%. Trail’s penalty kill, not nearly as stellar as their powerplay: 14th in the league at 79.3%. The Cents statistically aren’t much better at 11th and a 81.6% conversion rate, but have the second most short handed goals with 10.

Trail made a move to shore up their goaltending by acquiring Adam Marcoux from the Cowichan Valley Capitals while releasing Brandon Wells. Tanner Marshall remains with the team. Marcoux Was 2-19-2 with a 88.8 SV% and a 4.58 GAA for a struggling Capital team this year, while Marshall is 8-3 with a 3.56 GAA and a 89,9 SV%.

Jacob Berger will get the start tonight. He was pulled in his last start after allowing 5 goals on 19 shots against the Wenatchee Wild, but was perfect in his game prior to that a 4-0 win over the Trail Smoke Eaters. Berger is 9-12-0-3 with a 3.23 GAA and a 91.2 SV% and will look to rebound tonight.

After the Centennials had their 3 game win streak snapped against the Wenatchee Wild they look to begin a new one, by stringing two together with a win over the Smoke Eaters.

Puck Drop 7pm, Pre Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online on your desktop or device at q101.ca.  

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