The Merritt Centennials outlasted the Trail Smoke Eaters in the lone Tuesday night matchup in the BCHL in large part due to early offense.
The first period saw the Cents converting early and often. 8:22 into the game, Brendan Schneider got the Cents started when he finished off a feed after a deke to the side of the net by Zach Court on the first powerplay opportunity.
Christian Sabin fired one from the half wall as he streaked across the right wing that was called off, then reviewed, and called in to make it 2-0.
Zach Zorn tallied the final goal of the frame on the Cents second powerplay opportunity to make it 3-0 by working hard in front and finishing off a rebound after a Nick Wicks shot.
The middle stanza saw the Cents add more offense. Matt Kopperud made his presence felt in his return to the lineup with a patient move to the backhand, out waiting Tanner Marshall and roofing it, following a feed in front by Chase Bell.
Spencer McLean had the only answer of the second for the Smoke Eaters, before Zach Risteau righted the ship just 22 seconds later with a sharp angle, short side snipe up top on Marshall to make it 5-1.
The Cents added one more in the second from Zorn to be comfortably in the driver’s seat 6-1. Maybe a little too comfortable.
To start the third, the Smoke Eaters converted on their first shift. Blaine Caton sneaking one past Berger with a shot from the slot.
The Cents would hold off the attack until the final 5 minutes, Braeden Tuck and Tyler Ghirardosi made things interesting at 6-4.
Head Coach Joe Martin called a time out to calm down his troops, and the message was received as the following shift saw the Cents get some insurance. Ashton Stockie had his 8th of the year from Nick Wicks, the pair dished behind the net until Marshall didn’t know which way to go and Stockie caught him looking the wrong way.
After the game, Coach Martin said that the third will leave a bad taste in their mouths.
“You’re not thinking about things you want to be thinking about after a win. You’re thinking about bad habits we had in the third period… it will be the staffs job to pick apart that third and find things we didn’t like and share them with the guys tomorrow.”
The win sets up another huge Interior Division clash against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Thursday night.
The Merritt Centennials head into the final week of the regular season on a bit of hot streak unbeaten in their last 4, while the Trail Smoke Eaters have faced a tough schedule and come in losers of 5 of their last 6 games.
The Cents had their win streak snapped at 3, but hope they can carry their unbeaten streak through the end of the season. The Smoke Eaters, despite dropping their last few games have still played the Cents strong in every contest they’ve had against each other, and there’s always plenty of offense. Cents are leading the season series 3-2: a 5-4 loss in October, a 3-2 OT win in November, a 4-0 and 5-3 win in December, and a 5-4 loss in January. A combined score of 20-15, and when you consider that Trail is one of the top offensive teams in the league, it gives the Cents confidence to know they can skate with the best.
The Cents are coming off a hard fought tie against the Victoria Grizzlies, who play a similar style to Trail. Both have deep offensive lineups, and have a couple gamebreakers in the ranks. The Cents only allowed Jamie Rome and TJ Friedman to find the scoresheet, while getting goals from Tyrell Buckley and Brendan Schneider who are red hot going into the final week. Despite chances in OT, it was the goaltenders who prevailed with both teams skating away with a tie 2-2 game.
The last games these two teams faced, saw some of the gamebreakers for the Smoke Eaters find the scoreboard. The first period saw a lot of scoring: Matt Kopperud had 2 and Zach Court added another for the Cents, while Trail got goals from Carter Jones and Kale Howarth. Howarth tied things up in the 2nd, and Trail pulled away in the 3rd with a shorthanded goal by Captain Troy Ring, another from Braeden Tuck, before a late goal on the powerplay from Nick Wicks.
Ross Armour and Kale Howarth are the two main threats for the Smoke Eaters. Armour 10th in league scoring with 60 points, Howarth 12th with 59, but if you focus in too much on those two they also have two great rookies in Levi Glasman (47) and Carter Jones (43) who can provide supplemental scoring. With 16 skaters chipping in at least 10 points can come from anywhere.
While the Cents don’t have the runaway scorers that Trail boasts, they do have the depth in scoring to matchup well. 19 skaters now have over 10 points, and 10 of them have over 20. Tyrell Buckley is fresh off an honourable mention in the BCHL’s Player of the Week award with 3 goals and 2 assists over his last three games and 7 points on this unbeaten streak.
A big reason for the Cents’ surge in points has been the improvement of the powerplay which is now 8th at 19.3%, but Trail is a few rungs higher in 5th with a 20.4% conversion rate. On the penalty kill, Merritt is 7th at 82.8% while Trail is 13th at 80.6%.
In net, the Smoke Eaters have relied heavily on Adam Marcoux since acquiring him and have Tanner Marshall in reserve. Marcoux, who spent the beginning of the season with Cowichan Valley is now 13-29-0-3 with a 90.3 SV%, a 3.59 GAA and 1 shutout. Marshall is 9-4 with an 88.5 SV% and a 4.06 GAA, in the last game against the Cents Marshall was pulled in favour of Marcoux for the beginning of the second period.
The Cents will go back to splitting duties this week. Jacob Berger could see a return to the crease, he’s 12-21-2-0 with a 90.6 SV%, a 3.41 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Austin Roden guided the Cents on the 4 games unbeaten streak and is 11-10-0-3 with a 93 SV%, a 2.47 GAA and 2 shutouts.
The Cents will look to keep the streak alive, and stay hot in the final week of the regular season.
Puck drop at 7pm at the NVMA, Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca
The Merritt Centennials are heating up as they head into the post season.
Unbeaten in their last 4 games, a big reason why has been the play of Captain Tyrell Buckley - who's heating up as well.
He earned an honorable mention in the BCHL's Player of the Week award with 3 goals and 2 assists over 3 games last week.
Buckley is 5th on the team in scoring overall with 11 goals and 26 points, and he's 7th in the league in scoring by defensemen with 37 points.
The final week starts tonight against the Trail Smoke Eaters, a makeup game Thursday against Salmon Arm, the home finale against West Kelowna, before the season finale on the road in Langley.
The game went the distance, and neither the Merritt Centennials nor the Victoria Grizzlies had the edge. The Cents were on their heels when the chants of ‘Go Cents Go’ began heading into overtime, and that helped the team push the pace in sudden death despite the game skating to a tie.
In the first frame, Zach Court was set loose on the left side, and as he gained the line found Brendan Schneider who deked towards the net before letting the shot go, Kurtis Chapman got a big piece of it with his glove, but the puck carried on and crossed the goal line to give the Cents the only goal of the first.
The middle stanza saw the Grizzlies tie it up just 3 minutes in. BCHL Player of the Week Jamie Rome cut across the line, and from the high slot wristed one past Austin Roden blocker side. Roden was making his 5th straight start with the Cents searching for their 4th straight win.
4 minutes later with the Cents on their first powerplay, Tyrell Buckley got a deflection off a Grizzlies defenseman to restore the one goal lead after a feed from Nick Wicks and Schneider.
The third period saw the Cents play with fire and get burned by the Grizzlies powerplay, the top unit in the league. TJ Friedman had the marker on the powerplay, after Ethan Nother faked a shot in the high slot and dished it off for a one timer.
The game went to OT where the Cents had the first glorious opportunity. After both teams playing cautious through sudden death, Joey Berkopec went for a skate down the left side, behind the net, out the right side, to the point before he dished to Zach Court who ripped one off the post.
In double OT, it was Roden who robbed Victoria’s Carter Berger after he went for a skate, and after coming back to the point, lost the Cents defenders and was in all alone, and despite his deke Roden stuck with him to keep it tied at 2’s, and that would be how it would end.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said that the fans helped the Cents.
“I thought that towards the end of the game we were tired, but when the fans started up the Go Cents Go chant, that really ignited the team and helped us get back in the game.”
Cents will next play on Tuesday night against the Trail Smoke Eaters at the NVMA.
The Merritt Centennials got an unexpected game off last night, and hope the extra rest can help them prepare for the Victoria Grizzlies who are in town for a matinee contest.
The Grizzlies did the Cents a favour on Friday night, topping the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-0, but last night they fell to the West Kelowna Warriors 6-3.
The Grizzlies win, paired with the Cents win over the Chilliwack Chiefs on Friday, set up a collision course with Salmon Arm that was delayed due to weather. But the game against the Chiefs saw both the goaltender and the team show their resilience. Bouncing back from an early goal from the Chiefs just 9 seconds into the game, the Cents scored 2 in the second frame from Wicks and Rylan Van Unen, and despite an early goal in the third to tie the game at twos, Zach Risteau had the game breaker with 7 minutes to go in the 3rd and the Cents added two empty netters to pull out the 5-2 win.
In the only other meeting this season, the Cents rolled over the Grizzlies early with a 4-goal first period on route to a 6-0 win. Chasing starter Zachary Rose, and facing a team without their rookie sensation Alex Newhook who for a time was leading the league in scoring.
The Grizzlies come into this contest on a bit of a roll, in February they were 5-0 before the 6-3 loss against the Warriors, but once again they will be without Newhook who was injured last week against Cowichan Valley. However, Jamie Rome is coming off player of the week honors and has 65 points, Ethan Nother has 54, TJ Friedmann has 52, and Justin Michaelian has 44 points.
The Cents have rallied off 3 straight wins and hope that streak continues. All the big guns have been picking up points lately for the Cents. Nick Wicks now has 41 points, Brendan Schneider has 31, Zach Court has 37, and Zach Risteau has 18 points in the 16 games since rejoining the club.
In special teams the Grizzlies own the top powerplay in the league at 22.3%, while the Cents are now 8th at 19.3%. On the penalty kill, the Cents have the slimmest of margins as they are 6th at 83% and the Grizzlies are 7th at 82.9%.
Austin Roden has been between the pipes for the last three Cents wins, and the coaching staff are riding the hot hand in net, and with the lineups. Expect Roden to start, now 11-10-0-2 with a 92.8 SV%, a 2.50 GAA and 2 shutouts. Roden has the 6th best GAA, and 2nd best SV% in the league.
The Grizzlies rely upon Zachary Rose and Kurtis Chapman in net. Rose is 16-13-0-1 with a 91.8 SV%, a 3.16 GAA and 2 shutouts. Chapman is 10-3-0-2 with a 92.5 SV% and a 2.88 GAA with 2 shutouts.
The Grizzlies are in a battle for first place in the Island Division, the Cents are looking to stay hot as they head into the playoffs.
Puck Drop 2pm, Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.