The Merritt Centennials had their best effort of the season this afternoon in Chilliwack at the Prospera Centre in front of hundreds of scouts for the BCHL Bauer Showcase, however, it wasn't enough as they were still beaten by the Langley RIvermen 4-3.
The first goal of the game occured just four minutes into the game when Sean Gulka of the Rivermen was able to stop a clearance attempt, play it down low cross ice to his linemate Devin Leduc, who put the puck on a platter with a cross ice feed for Nicholas Ponak who found the net past Jacob Berger who got the start.
The teams would trade special teams chances before coincidental minors to Henry Cleghorn, and Trevor Ayre, late in the period. Both teams continued with their woes on the powerplay as the Rivermen had only converted 15% of their chances coming into the game, and couldn't get the puck past Berger with the man advantage.
In the second period, the Cents started with a bang as Nick Wicks got a beautiful feed from Zach Court after he batted a clearing attempt out of mid air, Wicks had time and space as he skated to the high slot and unloaded a wrister that beat Chad Cromar low glove. That tied things up at 1 just under a minute into the period.
However, four minutes later the Rivermen answered, and once again it was Gulka and Ponak connecting for the Rivermen, this time Gulka gained the line on the left side and then fed a saucer pass tape to tape to a streaking Ponak who received it in stride on the forehand, made the quick move to the backhand in tight and put it past a stationary Berger to restore the one goal lead at 2-1.
The Cents had another chance on the powerplay in the second period, but couldn't convert. Midway through the period, they would courtesy Zach Zorn after a hold at the line by Tyrell Buckley, and a low shot that had eyes, Zorn got the deflection to put it through the five hole of Cromar to tie the game back up at 2 a piece.
Then with just over a minute and a half to go in the second period, Christian Sabin was sprung on a breakaway, he got some seperation, but was held back by the Rivermen defensemen and was awarded a penalty shot. On the penalty shot, Sabin skated from center to his left as he crossed the blue line, as he started to come across the centre of the ice and had Cromar moving across the net, he shot against the grain and beat Cromar low glove for the Centennials first lead since early in game two of the season against Wenatchee.
For the first time this season, the Cents went into the third period with a lead, but the Rivermen spoiled the party just a minute and a half into the third. Brendan Budy, the captain of the Rivermen, found the back of the net off a feed from St. Jean to tie things back up at three.
Merritt had a glorious chance to win it late in the game as they went to the powerplay, but the Rivermen were the team that made good on the opportunity. After an ill fated drop pass by Brendan Schneider for a defenseman who wasn't there, Ponak stepped into a slap shot for his third goal of the game, and the game winner for Langley to take it 4-3.
The Cents will have to have short memories as their next game comes less that 24 hours later. The Cents will suit up to face the Prince George Spruce Kings at 10am tomorrow morning, pre game at 9:45 on Q101.
Entering the third week of the season, the Centennials are still searching for their first win. The first four teams they played may be some of the top contenders in the Interior Division, but now the Cents will look for some wins outside of the division as they take on the top two teams in the Mainland Division in the early season the Prince George Spruce Kings and the Langley Rivermen.
The first game will be against the Langley Rivermen. Last year the Rivermen swept the two game set against the Cents beating them 2-1 at the George Preston Arena in Langley, and then defeating the Centennials on home ice 5-4 in overtime.
Expect another close game in this one as the Rivermen's games have all come down to the wire with all of their games being decided by one goal, including two overtime losses. Despite the losses in OT, the Rivermen currently sit second in the Mainland Division behind the Cents next opponent the Prince George Spuce Kings. Langley comes into action sporting a 1-0-2-0 record while the Cents are the only team in the BCHL without at least one point in the standings with a 0-4-0-0 record.
Early in the season, the Rivermen have 5 players on the roster who are producing at a point per game rate or higher and are led by Captain Brendan Budy, and Trevor St. Jean who have 5 points through 3 games. The Centennials have 6 players who are producing at half a point per game, and are led offensively by the Zack Zorn - Ashton Stockie - Brendan Schneider line which has contributed 6 of the 17 points so far this year.
Discipline issues continue for the Cents and it means that not only has the team been playing a man short, but it also puts key players into tough situations. Top players like Stockie, Zorn, and Schneider have to spend their time on the penalty kill instead of saving their energy for offense 5 on 5. However, in the third period of the last game in West Kelowna, the Cents were able to stay out of the box, and ended up winning the period with a late goal from Jack Vincent.
The Cents have looked to address their offense, and their defense by bringing in a right handed defenseman in Colten Gerlib in time for the showcase. With a year of junior hockey experience, Coach Joe Martin feels that Gerlib can supply some solid skating, and puck movement to help the Cents work the puck up ice.
Martin added that despite players coming and going around the league, Merritt needs to continue to build their identity and their skills together.
"It's about coaching, We've got to focus on the ones that we have, not the one's that aren't with us, and make these guys a better hockey club, and a better team."
The Cents hope to be the better team for the first time this season when they take on the Langely Rivermen for a 1pm puck drop at the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack this afternoon.
In a move made late last night, the Merritt Centennials' General Manager Joe Martin confirmed the team had completed a trade that would bring in another right handed defensemen to the line up.
The Cents traded for Colten Gerlib who played for the Tri-City Americans and the Surrey Eagles last season, before having his rights dealt to the Maritimes this year. Gerlib had a goal and five assists over 30 games split between the two teams. Seeing the opportunity to bring in a player that can help bring some experience to the back end, and a player the Cents have had their eye on for a while, Martin decided to make the move.
"I've liked Colten for a couple years, I really like the way he skates, he's a puck moving defenseman, and he provides a year of experience of junior hockey and we felt we could use that."
The Cents parted with the rights to Ethan King, who played in 11 regular season, and 6 playoff games for the Centennials last season.
The move means that import player Jake Borgida has been released from the Centennials as well. Martin felt that with the acquisition of Gerlib, Borgida would no longer get the development required and both sides mutually agreed to part ways.
Gerlib could be in the lineup as early as this afternoon for the matinee game against the Langley Rivermen at the Bauer BCHL Showcase at 1pm.
The Merritt Centennials went on the road to Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna to face the Warriors, searching for their first win of the season. Through a tightly contested game, the Cents were unable to find the back of the net through much of it, but their counterparts in West Kelowna didn’t have the same problem and were able to pull out the win 3-1.
The first period began with some solid Centennials pressure, and the teams traded chances throughout the first ten minutes of the game. However, like much of the season discipline became an issue towards the middle of the frame, and the Centennials found themselves short a man with Henry Cleghorn in the box. Matt Kowalski scored a beautiful goal from behind the net, the likes you only see in all star games, as he cradled the puck in his stick brought it up to shoulder high and wrapped his stick around to put it over the shoulder of Vincent Duplessis for the first goal of the game, unassisted. The next goal came at even strength on a solid rush from the Warriors, a shot from Bennet Norlin wrang off the endboards, and Duplessis over corrected to shut down the post, and Cavin Tilsley was able to feed captain Jared Malino cross-ice to put it through the five-hole. The quick two goal lead, just a minute and half apart was how the first period would end. Cole Demers made sure that when the Centennials got chances, he was their as the last line of defense stopping all 11 shots he faced in the first. Duplessis was peppered with 17 shots stopping 15.
The second period was a bit quieter on the goal front, but a bit louder on the penalty front, as the Cents continued their march to the box visiting the sin bin 4 times in the frame. Despite plenty of good looks by the Warriors on the powerplay, they weren’t able to muster a goal. However, they did muster a goal on the rush yet again, this time Wyatt Head put a feed up to Chase Dubois who led the counter attach for the Warriors. He was able to put a shot low off the pads, and the rebound kicked right out to his streaking wingman Chase Stevenson to make it 3-0. The Cents would get more chances, but once again Demers would stand tall.
In the third, the Cents finally reigned in their penalty plagued play, and managed to stay out of the box. They were able to put some pressure on in the third, but linemates weren’t often on the same page and passes weren’t finding the tape on the stick; often times they’d find the stick of the opponent. However, late in the third period with about 1:30 to go Mike Van Unen carried the puck across the line, dropped off for Nic Wicks, Nick fed it back forward for Van Unen and he got a shot off before Jack Vincent jumped up and got the rebound to go past Demers for the only Cents goal. The Cents pulled the goalie late, but didn’t manage to get another, and it ended in a 3-1 final.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said that his team had to focus on the positives in this one.
“We played with discipline in the third, and we won ourselves a period. Now we need to focus on replicating that in games moving forward.”
The Cents will hope to do so when they head into the Bauer BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack next week. They will face the Langley Rivermen on Thursday at 1pm, and the Prince George Spruce Kings at 10am on Friday.
The Cents haven’t been able to get a win on home ice through three games in the young season, so will look for their first win on the road as they head to West Kelowna tonight to do battle with the Warriors.
The Centennials sit at 0-3, their most recent loss coming last night at the hands of the Vernon Vipers who got two timely goals from Niko Karamanis, and despite solid goaltending from Jacob Berger, fell 2-0.
West Kelowna hasn’t seen action since last weekend where they split a home at home series with the Trail Smoke Eaters. Each team won in the away barn as the Warriors won in Trail 4-3, but then faltered on home ice in a 4-0 shut out loss.
Nik Amundrud was in net for both games for the Warriors, and sports a .889 save percentage to go along with a 3.12 goals against average. Matt Kowalski has carried the offense so far for the Warriors as he had a hat trick and an assist in that 4-3 win over Trail. However, with a number of returning players, the new edition Warriors are a veteran group that are very deep on forward and defense. In contrast to the Centennials, they only have seven rookies on the roster where the Cents only have 10 returning players.
The Cents and Warriors have some history behind them as the season series last year favored the Warriors. The Cents won 3 of 7 games during the regular season, with two of those wins coming late in 2016-17. They won by scores of 6-2 and 8-3 and that helped set the stage for a historic playoff sweep over the Warriors. The Cents went on to become the only team in BCHL history to sweep a defending RBC cup champion.
More recently these teams met in the preseason for a home at home series, and it was the Warriors who got the better of the Cents in both games. They came back to win at home, 4-3, in the series opener, and then came into Merritt and pummelled the Cents 5-1.
Head Coach Joe Martin said that the Cents will have to earn a win against the Warriors.
“A lot of things need to go our way, but it’s not by luck, it’s not by hope. You have to earn it, and that’s what our guys are learning. It takes 20 guys to earn a hockey game.”
The Cents will look to earn that win when they hit the ice at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna tonight.
PreGame at 6:45, Puck Drop at 7:00. Listen live on 101.1 FM, stream at http://streamdb5web.securenetsystems.net/v5/CKMQ, or download the Q101 Merritt App.