Merritt Centennials
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GAME-OVER---Vernon.jpg

The Merritt Centennials may not have finished at the top of the division, but they brought the fans to their feet in a thrilling OT victory 4-3 over the Vernon Vipers.

The first period started off all Merritt, but by the end they had nothing to show for it. Despite out shooting the Vipers 17-7 in the first, Bradley Cooper made some show stopping saves to keep it at zero's.

In the second period, the Vipers found the net first and it happened on a bit of a lucky play. Teddy Wooding cut in with an open wing, and he fired one off the shoulder of Austin Roden, the puck went flying up into the air, then fell off Roden's back and in to make it 1-0. Payton Matsui tied the game with a quick cut out of the corner, and pulled to the slot and fired one up high on Cooper to make it 1-1. The Vipers came back on the shot clock after 2 period of play to make it 28-23 in favour of the Cents.

The final frame saw the Cents get out to a two goal edge. Brad Cocca scored on the powerplay to make it 2-1, and then Nick Wicks broke in on the right wing and sniped up high short-side to make it 3-1. The Cents thought they had the game in the bag, but the Vipers got a goal from Logan Cash with just under 2 minutes to go, and Elan Bar Lev Wise scored with under a second to go to tie the game at 3-3.

In overtime the teams traded chances until Jesse Landsdell hauled down Nick Granowicz to give the Cents a powerplay in the final minute of OT. With 4 forwards on Nick Wicks and Mathieu Gosselin played give and go before 'The Goose' launched one top corner to send the home town crowd into a frenzy for the 4-3 victory.

The only sad note on the night was that the Penticton Vees won their game against Salmon Arm and secured top spot in the Interior Division, but the Centennials head to the post season to play the Trail Smoke Eaters. The first playoff games will be on Friday March 1st and 2nd at home before travelling to Trail. Pick up your playoff tickets from the Cents marketing office at 2001 C Voght St or call Jared at 378-3604.

Energy Player of the Game: Nick Granowicz 0G 0A

3RD STAR: Austin Roden 33/36

2ND STAR: Bradley Cooper 45/49

1ST STAR: Mathieu Gosselin 1G 0A

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The Merritt Centennials (35-15-4-3) will sport their new 3rd jerseys tonight against the Vernon Vipers (26-21-7-3).

The Cents are coming off a gutsy win in Langley to keep their hopes of finishing first in the division alive. The Rivermen scored on the powerplay before Frazer Dodd poked in a Joey Berkopec shot from centre that squeaked past the netminder to tie things at 1. In the second period, Mathieu Gosselin got the Cents their first lead of the game when he converted on a drop feed from Brad Cocca with a shot low glove to make it 2-1. The Rivermen tied it up 3 minutes later, and the tie held up through 60 minutes and overtime to take the game to a shootout. Fortunately for Austin Roden after making 44 saves on 46 shots throughout the game he didn't have to make one in the shootout as the Rivermen missed the net on both their chances. Matthieu Gosselin and Matt Kopperud made good on both of theirs to ensure a 3-2 shootout victory for the Cents.

Vernon are 3-2 in their last 5 and are coming off a 4-1 win vs the Coquitlam Express. Coleton Bilodeau, Teddy Wooding, Trey Taylor, and Logan Cash all cashed in for the Vipers who have had an amazing turnaround to their season. Early on in the year they were on the wrong side of one-goal games and overtime losses, but still managed to pick up points along the way. They've managed to barter that into a 4th place finish in the Interior Division regardless of tonight's outcome.

The Cents will need a favour from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks if they expect to finish first place in the division. The Penticton Vees will need to lose in regulation or overtime, and the Cents would need to win in regulation or go to overtime to secure first place. The Vees just hold the tie breaker with a 1 win edge, and the edge in the season series. Whoever finishes first goes on to play the Cowichan Valley Capitals, whoever finishes 2nd will travel to Trail.

Merritt has the slight edge in the season series 3-2. The teams traded 5-2 wins early in the year. The Cents won 4-3 at home before being topped 3-2 in November. In early January the Cents won a thriller 3-2 in overtime with just 8 seconds to go that kicked off a stellar second half for the Cents. The Cents will look to secure the season series with a victory tonight.

The Centennials will need all hands on deck for the final game of the year. Brad Cocca leads the way with 67 points - still 6th in the league. Nick Granowicz and Mathieu Gosselin are tied with 59 points on the year, and after a crazy night in the BCHL Nick Wicks is no longer in the top 20.

The Vernon Vipers have just 3 players with over 40 points on the season. Matt Kowalski has 42 points, Josh Latta has 40 and Connor Marritt has 40 as well.

The special teams battle sees the Vipers with the more dominant penalty kill.

Powerplay:                                    Penalty Kill:

Vipers - 18% (15th)                  Vipers - 81.6% (6th)

Cents - 18.6% (12th)               Cents - 77.4% (13th)

The Cents continue to ride red hot Austin Roden who has now won 4 in a row, and will play his 100th BCHL game tonight. Roden is 26-8-3 with a .911 SV%, a 2.95 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Vincent Duplessis is back behind Roden and is 9-5-3 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA.

Aiden Porter leads the way for the Vernon Vipers and is 19-17 with a .908 SV%, a 2.59 GAA, and 4 shutouts. Bradley Cooper has giving the Vipers a solid second option and is 7-13 with a .906 SV%, a 2.73 GAA, and 3 shutouts.

Head Coach Joe Martin knows that the Vernon Vipers will play with pride.

"The Vipers won't have much to play for in the standings tonight, but they're a well coached team, and a team that puts the sweater on and tries to win every night. We will have to push hard for the win."

The Cents will hope to make Merritt proud tonight.

Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.

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The Merritt Centennials pulled off a gutsy win to keep their dreams of a first place finish alive with a 3-2 win over the Langley Rivermen.

The Cents had to kill off 3 penalties in the first ten minutes, and succeeded on the first 2 but couldn’t kill off the third as Daneel Lategan scored on a backhand past Austin Roden to open the scoring.

Joey Berkopec helped the Cents even the score when he let go a shot from centre that trickled past Shayne Battler towards the net, and Frazer Dodd crashed the net hard to poke it past the line to tie the game 1-1.

Austin Roden stopped 16/17 shots in the first period.

The second period saw the Cents capture their first lead of the game when Brad Cocca gained the line on the left side, dropped for Mathieu Gosselin who ripped a shot just over the pad, glove side to make it 2-1. After the goal, the Rivermen replaced Battler with Braedon Flemming.

The Rivermen leveled the score just 3 minutes later on a low shot from Devin Leduc.

After 2 the shots were 25-17 in favour of the Rivermen.

The third period would solve nothing despite chances for both sides, and in overtime it was Roden who held the Cents in the game with 7 saves in the extra frame.

In the shootout, Roden didn’t need to make a save as both shots from the Rivermen went wide or high.

The Cents first shooter was Mathieu Gosselin who streaked up the middle with speed, deked hard to the backhand, got Flemming to bite, and then pulled it back forehand and in to give the Cents the edge.

Matt Kopperud sealed the victory with a move where he veered wide right, cut in, faked forehand, then went backhand past Flemming to win it.

The Penticton Vees won which means with the win the Cents keep pace, and keep the dream of a first place finish alive, but they need a Vees loss, paired with a Cents win or a trip to OT to seal the division title.

ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Riley Wallack 2 PIM

3RD STAR: Austin Roden 44/46

2nd STAR: Braedon Fleming 17/17

1st STAR: Matt Kopperud SO Winner

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For the first time in his career Head Coach Joe Martin has been nominated for the BCHL's Coach of the Year.

Martin took over as head coach of the Cents in 2015-16 and has steadily lead the team to point totals of 50 or higher. His previous high water mark was a 23-25-2-8 season in 2016-17 that netted the team 56 points and a round 2 playoff exit against the Penticton Vees. The most wins the Cents managed under Martin before this season was 24 achieved last year.

This season, with the help of a strong returning core of players, Martin has achieved career high in wins, points, win percentage, and goals for with 2 games left to play in the regular season. The Cents have 34 wins, 75 points, a win percentage of 67%, and 213 goals for this year, a huge turnaround from the 24 wins, 55 points, win percentage of 47.4%, and 185 goals for of a season ago.

Martin also served as an Assistant Coach on Team Canada West this year and captured a Bronze Medal with Centennials forward Mathieu Gosselin. Away from the ice, Martin has also helped 10 players move on to NCAA Division 1 scholarships this season which is also a team record. He also picked up his 100th career BCHL win this year against the Powell River Kings.

He is up against Brian Maloney of the Chilliwack Chiefs, and Tyler Kuntz of the Powell River Kings for the award.

The Cents still have an opportunity to put another feather in Martin's cap this season - their first Interior Division title in over 40 years, but the 2 games remaining will decide that.

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The Merritt Centennials (34-15-4-3) square off with the Mainland's Langley Rivermen (26-26-2-1) tonight.

The Cents are coming off a tidy win against the West Kelowna Warriors. They gained the lead just 43 seconds in thanks to some work in front by Mathieu Gosselin and Nick Granowicz. Granowicz was able to find the rebound off a Goose shot to open the scoring. Gosselin would add to the lead midway through the first period after Talon Zakall made a well timed pinch at the right point, spotted Granowicz back door, and he found Gosselin in front for the tap in between the legs to make it 2-0. The Cents got a little undisciplined in the first and gave up a powerplay goal to the Warriors to bring them within one. After a scoreless second period, the Cents came to life in the third. Brad Cocca joined his linemates on the goal front by chipping one up and over Hopkins from inside the blue paint, and Gosselin added his 2nd of the night on a powerplay sniping short-side high to make it 4-1. Gosselin picked up 2 goals and 2 assists for the first star nod, while Austin Roden stopped 38/39 shots in net.

The Rivermen are on a bit of a slide of late. Since losing to the Cents on January 27th 4-1, they went on an 8 game losing skid before finally righting the ship against the Vernon Vipers with a 4-2 victory in their most recent contest. Despite the losing streak, the Rivermen are a team that's to be respected as they also have the size and grit to try and grind down opponents. Merritt will have to be careful to play clean, take advantage on the powerplay, and keep their heads up to avoid injury.

The season series between the two clubs sits a 1-1. The Rivermen won way back at the BCHL showcase 4-2, but in the most recent contest the Cents won 4-1. Wicks scored two goals late in the 1st period just over a minute apart, and Kopperud and Dal Monte added powerplay goals early in the third for the Cents to secure the victory. The Cents got 11 powerplay opportunities in the game, and converted on 3.

The Cents now have 5 players that have eclipsed the 50 point plateau, and have 4 players in the top 20 in scoring, the only team in the BCHL that can boast that stat. Brad Cocca leads the way with 66 points for 6th in league scoring. Nick Granowicz is 13th in the BCHL with 59 points. Mathieu Gosselin made a surge after a 4 point night on Tuesday to get to 58 points and 16th, while Nick Wicks has 57 points for 19th. Matt Kopperud is the other Cents scorer above 50 points with 51.

By comparison the Rivermen only have 4 skaters with over 30 points. Ethan Leyh leads the way with 39, defender Jake Livingstone has 36, and Trevor Ayre and Daneel Lategan are tied with 33 points.

The teams split the special teams battle as the Rivermen are a Jekyll and Hyde team depending on which unit is out there.

Powerplay:                                  Penalty Kill:

Cents - 18.8% (12th)                   LAN - 83.5% (3rd)

LAN - 17% (16th)                        Cents - 77.3% (12th)

Between the pipes, the Cents have been getting a string of stellar performances from Austin Roden. Roden is now 25-8-3 with a .910 SV%, a 2.96 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Liam McGarva was the backup on Tuesday as the Cents continue to miss Vincent Duplessis.

The Rivermen's Braedon Flemming is 18-19 with a .903 SV%, 2.82 GAA, and 4 shutouts. New back up Shayne Battler is 8-6 with a .906SV%, a 2.63 GAA, and 1 shutout.

Head Coach Joe Martin knows the Rivermen won't be an easy out.

"This is a team that makes life hard for opponents with their size and grit, we need to focus on our game of speed and skill."

The Cents will try and make it look easy tonight.

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

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