Merritt Centennials
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The Cents had difficulties on the powerplay, the Vipers didn’t. That was the coles notes version of the game as Vernon topped Merritt 4-1 to conclude the season series.

The first period was pretty even. Both teams had ten shots, Ty Taylor and Jacob Berger were good in net, except for a deflection of a skate in front on a powerplay that fluttered over Berger to make it 1-0 for the Vipers late.

The Vipers added another early in the second, on what was the only even-strength goal of the game. Josh Latta got three attempts in front, with Berger denying him twice, but not thrice for the 2-0 lead.

Late in the second, the Snakes would add a second with Jesse Landsdell getting to a rebound on the 5-on-3 advantage.

The third saw more goals on the powerplay. Brett Stapley got a deflection up and over Berger for the fourth of the game.

With Ty Taylor chasing a BCHL record for most shutouts in a season with 8, the Cents avoided being a footnote in the record books when Jackson Munro walked in off the left point and roofed one glove side on Taylor to break the shutout bid. It was his second goal of the season.

The Cents ended the game 1 for 4 on the powerplay, while the Vipers went 3 for 5.

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said it came back to playing a full 60.

“I think you saw that we were strong in the first, and strong in the third, but we came out flat in the second, and that’s where the Vipers pulled away.”

Next game goes on Friday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena for the season series closer against the Vees.

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The Cents conclude a three game road stint and a season series tonight as they visit the Vernon Vipers for the  3rd time in January. It hasn’t been a kind month to the Centennials going 3-6-2, but Merritt has gone from going winless in 5, to picking up points in 3 straight including taking 3 of 4 points from the Wenatchee Wild last weekend.

The Vipers have had a slower month by their standards as well going 5-5 with both teams exchanging shutouts this month. Vernon shutout the Cents 2-0 at Kal Tire Place in early January and the Cents returned the favour a couple weeks later with a big 5-0 win. That win came on the heels of the death of long time Vipers owner Duncan Wray. That game saw offense from all over the lineup. Colten Gerlib scored his 3rd of the year to get the party started a minute into the 1st. Mathieu Gosselin pounced on a turnover to make it 2-0, and after a penalty filled second which included defenseman Shane Kelly being thrown out for coming off the bench to go after Zach Court following goaltender contact, the Cents scored 3 more in the 3rd. Goals from Brad Cocca, Christian Sabin and Henry Cleghorn cemented the 5-0 lead. Zach Risteau also added 3 assists.

However, the last time the teams played at Kal Tire Place it was a neutral ice affair with both teams clogging up the middle and playing tight defensive hockey. The game tonight should see a better effort from the Vipers as they are now battling for top spot in the division. They are currently tied with Penticton for top spot with 67 points, but 3 more games played. The Cents are trailing the Salmon Arm Silverbacks by 5 points, as the Cents haven’t been able to make up any ground on the streaking ‘Backs. As of tonight, this would be you first round playoff matchup, so we will see some intensity in the building.

The Vipers continue to be led by sniper Jimmy Lambert who is tenth in league scoring with 50 points. Brett Stapley (45), Jagger Williamson (44), Michael Ufberg (42), and the hard hitting Jesse Landsdell (41) round out the top 5, but with 15 skaters with over 10 points there’s a number of threats to watch out for with the snakes.

The Cents continue to lean on veterans like Henry Cleghorn (42), Zach Zorn (36) Nick Wicks (34) and Tyrell Buckley (28) – all of whom got on the scoreboard over the weekend. But the rookie Mathieu Gosselin is the standout in the top 5 for scoring for Merritt, and is one of the better stories on the year. The Cents matchup well with their depth as they have 16 skaters now with over 10 points.

It will be a test to get the puck past the league’s top netminder in Ty Taylor: 20-4-0-3 with a 93.1 SV%, a 1.85 GAA, and tied for a BCHL Record with 7 shutouts on the year. Anthony Yamnitsky is no slouch either at 11-10-0-1 with a 91.2 SV%, a 2.31 GAA and 2 shutouts. With a busy week ahead, and both goaltenders performing well in Wenatchee it’s a pick em. Austin Roden is 8-9-0-2 with a 92.5 SV%, 2.70 GAA and 1 shutout. Jacob Berger finally got his 11th win of the season stopping over 50 shots in Wenatchee and is now 11-18-2-0 with a 91 SV%, 3.30 GAA, and 2 shutouts.

The Cents will look to harness the same intensity and steady effort that brought them 3 of 4 points against Wenatchee tonight.

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

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The Merritt Centennials got some third period insurance from Brendan Schneider that proved vital, as the late comeback bid by the Wild fell short by one goal and the Cents got their first win in 6 games 3-2.

The game waited until the third period last night for the first goal of the game, but fans would get a goal in the first from the Wenatchee Wild. On a lengthy double-minor with Joey Berkopec in the box for high sticking, the Cents killed off everything but the final 9 seconds when Slava Demin unloaded a shot from the line that was deflected past Jacob Berger to make it 1-0. That was the only goal of the frame in large part due to the spectacular play of Jacob Berger. He stopped 52 or 54 shots in the game.

In the second, the Cents came out with some fire and just 44 seconds in Nick Wicks banked a pass to himself on the right side and slipped the defenseman before breaking in on a partial 2-on-1 and Zorn finished off the cross-ice feed to draw the Cents level 1-1.

Not 2 minutes later, Merritt sent a long feed ahead and Brendan Schneider tracked it down, then dropped a pass back for Colten Gerlib who threaded a pass across to Henry Cleghorn who rifled a shot past Seth Eisele to make it 2-1.

The rest of the second was filled with fights and saves. Joey Berkopec got thrown out after a scuffle in front of Berger, he dropped the gloves with Murphy Stratton and after a brief tussle, both were tossed.

Rylan Van Unen dropped the gloves after throwing a heavy hit on Cooper Zech. Zach Galambos came after Van Unen and took exception, both dropped the gloves and were ushered off the ice.

Mid-way through the third the Cents got some insurance from Brendan Schneider. He came off a scrum on the half-wall walked the puck out to the slot, took the puck to his forehand, aimed and fired a shot top corner blocker side on Eisele to give the Cents the two goal lead 3-1.

The Wild pushed throughout the 3rd looking to tie things up, and threw more shots on in the third (23) than the Cents did in the game (22), but only got within one late on a goal by Slava Demin.

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said that the stage was a boost for the Cents.

“When you have 5000 plus fans, and only 20 on your bench it creates a bit of a David versus Goliath situation, and we used that tonight, it pushed us and we came out on top.”

Cents will look to carry the momentum forward when they visit the Vernon Vipers next Wednesday.  

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The Cents get set to hit reset against the Wenatchee Wild for game two of their double-header down under. 

Last night the game skated scoreless through two periods before finding some offense in the third. Murphy Stratton converted on a pass that got out through the slot, and Zach Court showed extreme patience to out wait Seth Eisele before tucking the puck away around the goaltender in the final minute of the third to force overtime. In the first overtime frame, the Cents weren't able to convert on a 4-on-3 powerplay, despite chances and let the game slide to double OT. For the second game in a row, the Cents fell victim to a counter-attack rush in 3-on-3 overtime as Lucas Sowder and Jasper Weatherby were unleashed with fresh legs and despite Austin Roden's stop of the initial breakaway by Sowder, Weatherby followed up the play and batted it just across the line. 

That sets the stage for a big rematch. The Cents did well to skate with the league's best offense and powerplay. They managed to shut out the Wild on three opportunities, including a lengthy 2-man advantage, and held the Wild to just two goals. The same team that scored 10 goals in their previous game! The Cents need to start picking up wins as they head into the homestretch of the season with 14 games left, they now trail the Salmon Arm Silverbacks by 5 points with 3 games in hand, but are winless in their last 5 (0-3-2) The top 5 teams in the Interior Division have booked their ticket to the playoffs, and 1 point still seperates the top 3 teams. As of right now, the Cents could see the Vernon Vipers, Penticton Vees, or the Wild in the postseason. 

The Cents will have to stare down the league's top powerplay once again, the Wild are now alone in first with a 23% conversion rate. The Cents went 0/4 on their powerplay last night and still sit in 9th with 18.5%. Wenatchee also relies on their penalty kill with an 85.1% kill rate, good enough for 3rd in the league. The Cents are also 9th on the penalty kill with a 82.1% kill rate. 

Jasper Weatherby continues to be the big threat on the Wild, leading the league with 64 points and has 2 game-winning goals in his last two games against the Cents. Cooper Zech is the big threat from the backend, leading defensemen with 53 points, and also 7th overall. However, last night the Wild displayed their depth with Murphy Stratton getting the first goal of the game, set up by the pesky Sam Hesler, and the speed and quick puck movement of the Wild was causing trouble for the Cents last night. 

The Cents got contributions from 3 of their veterans to score within the final minute last night: Tyrell Buckley (28), Nick Wicks (33), and Zach Court (27). Zach Zorn once again provided a spark to the bench when he went after Sam Morton after he charged goaltender Austin Roden after a key save. However, it left Zorn unavailable for the remainder of the third and overtime, and he's a player that the Cents coaching staff would lean on in those situations.

The game last night was exciting despite the lack of goals, perhaps tonight we will see some more offensive fireworks, but for the Cents the 2 points is paramount. 

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

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The Wild and Centennials skated toe to toe through 3 periods of regulation and one period of overtime, but ultimately it was Jasper Weatherby who provided the dagger in the heart for Cents fans once again with the game winner in Double-OT.

The first saw the Cents forced to play defense with a two-man advantage going to the Wenatchee Wild. To their credit they killed it off, and all other Wenatchee powerplays to shut out the league’s best unit with the man advantage.

In the second stanza there was no scoring, but a Nick Wicks chance went cross-bar and down for about as close a chance can be without going in.

The goal scoring came in the third and it was Murphy Stratton of the Wild who broke the goose egg at the 4:30 mark. After a failed clearing attempt, the puck came to Sam Hesler who threw it into the slot and the puck bounced on to the stick of Stratton who put it blocker side on Austin Roden who made his second consecutive start.

The Cents were pushing for the equalizer for the remainder of the period, and their prayers were answered by Zach Court in the final minute. After a good cycle in the offensive zone, Wicks fed Court to the right side of the net, and Court showed extreme patience protecting the puck on the backhand before tucking it in short side forehand past a sprawled out Seth Eisele.

The would force overtime, and in the first frame of OT the Cents couldn’t make good on a lengthy 4-on-3 powerplay, and would run out of time.

In final overtime frame it was a chance on a 2-on-1 with two tired Cents that didn’t convert that ended up coming back down the ice for Lucas Sowder. Sowder made the move to the backhand and was absolutely stoned by Roden, but Jasper Weatherby followed up the play and backhanded it past Roden who made a valiant dive to try and get back in position.

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin liked how his team kept pace with the Wild.

“We played well, and we proved that we can skate with the Wild. We kept their chances to a minimum, didn’t give them many second chances, and to be honest we probably out chanced them.”

The Cents will need to have more chances convert into goals tomorrow night when the teams will do it all over again. 7pm puck drop, 6:45 pre-game on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.  

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