The Merritt Centennials dug themselves a hole that was too deep to escape from on Wednesday against the Spruce Kings as they fell behind by three after the opening frame and lost 3-1.
All the Spruce Kings offense came in the first period. It started with a goal line stuff play just 2 minutes into the game, Chong Min Lee took the puck from the side of the net out front, and Tyler Schleppe was able to crash it home past Vincent Duplessis for the first goal of the game. Ben Brar would add one on the powerplay, and Sean Donaldson would be sprung on a partial breakaway with 5 minutes left in the 1st and beat Duplessis with an off-speed backhander. That would spell the end of the night for Duplessis as Austin Roden came in from then on. Duplessis stopped 12/15 during his time in the net. Shots after 1 were 17-6.
The second saw the Cents stop the bleeding, but they weren’t able to inflict any damage on the scoreboard. The teams traded chances on the powerplay, and the Cents struggles with the extra man continue as they’d finish the game 0/3, and have now gone 1/29 in their last 6 games. Shots after 2 were 29-13 in favour of Prince George.
The Cents came out with some jump to start the third, and were rewarded when Mathieu Gosselin made two defenders miss before sliding the puck five-hole on Logan Neaton to spoil his shutout bid. The goal game just 3 minutes into the 3rd, but the Cents couldn’t muster any more offense in the game. They had trouble breaking through the neutral zone, and more trouble having extended zone time when they got to the offensive zone. With the Cents pushing for the comeback, Austin Roden had to stand on his head in the third making numerous highlight reel saves. The final shot total was 44-20 in favour of PG, and Austin Roden stopped all 29 shots he faced in relief. Vincent Duplessis will shoulder the loss.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said the Cents were caught off guard.
“Give credit to the Spruce Kings, they came out fighting in the first period, and we dug ourselves too deep a hole. They, much like us at home, can win a game in the first period, and that’s what happened tonight.”
The Cents will look to regroup on the road when they face the Vernon Vipers on Friday night before returning home to face the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Saturday.
The Merritt Centennials (18-9-1-1) have another long road trip to Prince George to take on the Spruce Kings (19-7-1-2).
The Centennials are coming off a week where they went 1-0-1-0 for an overtime split against the Trail Smoke Eaters and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Against the Smoke Eaters the Cents had trouble getting the offense going as they weren't quite getting passes tape to tape, in a game that was filled with neutral zone hockey. The Smoke Eaters scored on their first powerplay, and first shot of the game, but no other offense was found until the 3rd when Brad Cocca tied things up to send it to overtime. The Cents and Vincent Duplessis fell by way of a controversial goal call in overtime, as Duplessis made the save as he was falling into the net, but he was ruled to have crossed that line. The Cents would return home on Saturday night to take on the Silverbacks and after a flurry of offense in the first period which included Payton Matsui not only scoring his first, but his second goal in the BCHL, and Brad Cocca adding a shorthanded goal, the 'Backs crawled back to tie it with 5 minutes remaining in the third. The Cents would prevail thanks to Jackson Munro in overtime, scoring his first goal of the season after returning from injury the week before.
The Spruce Kings are coming off a double-header against the league-leading Chilliwack Chiefs where they split action. In both games they led, but on Friday the Chiefs stormed back to win it in a shootout 3-2, and the Kings crowned the Chiefs the following night by a score of 6-3.
This will be the first match up of the year against the out of division opponent, and last season the Cents went 1-1-1 against the Spruce Kings. They lost the season series opener in the BCHL Showcase 4-3, won at home 5-2, and lost on the road 3-2 in overtime. The game will see a battle of two opposing coaching philosophies as the Cents represent one of the leagues best offenses with 113 goals for while PG represents the leagues best defense with only 63 goals allowed.
The Cents attack is led by Brad Cocca who picked up 2 goals over the weekend to improve his total to 41 points on the year which is 3rd in the league. Nick Granowicz has 38 points for 5th league-wide while Mathieu Gosselin is 12th in league scoring with 33 points.
The Spruce Kings are led by Ben Brar with 32 points, Dustin Manz with 31, and Captain Ben Poisson and Patrick Cozzi each have 25 points.
The special teams battle sees the Spruce Kings with the edge.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
PG - 20.4% (5th) PG - 78.8% (12th)
Cents - 16.9% (14th) Cents - 76.4% (15th)
In net the Cents goalies split the weekend, and split the decisions. Vincent Duplessis fell in overtime and is now 6-3-2 with a .908 SV% and a 3.13 GAA. Austin Roden prevailed in overtime and is 12-5 with a .896 SV%, 3.47 GAA, and 1 shutout. The Spruce Kings have relied on Logan Neaton throughout the season and he's managed the workload well going 16-3 with a .913 SV%, a 1.98 GAA, and 1 shutout. Prince George announced in a trade yesterday with Vernon that they have moved back up Bradley Cooper to the Cents Interior Division rival.
Head Coach Joe Martin knows this game will be a test of patience.
"They're one of the few teams in this league that employs a purely defensive style of neutral zone play. We will have to wait for our opportunities and make those opportunities count if we want to come out on top."
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
Team Canada West released it's try out roster for the upcoming World Junior A Challenge today and two Centennials will battle for a spot on the team.
Brad Cocca and Mathieu Gosselin have both been named to the try out camp, and have both impressed this season. The Mississauga native, Cocca leads the Centennials in points this season and is third in the BCHL with 40 through 29 games while Gosselin, hailing from Quebec City, has scored 13 goals and added 20 assists.
Head Coach Joe Martin will be a part of the decision making process as he will once again serve as an Assistant Coach for Team Canada West. He says to make this team you have to have a different mentality.
"You have to come in with almost a 3rd line mentality. You have to be willing to grind it out, play a full 200 ft game, and work your butt off. Everyone who comes to camp is the best on their respective team, so you can't take any shortcuts."
Martin added that working against both of the Centennials will be there 1999 birth year as the team will only be allowed to carry 5 players in that bracket.
Team Canada West is looking for back-to-back Gold Medals at the tournament and time will tell if a Cent will join Martin for that defense.
The Merritt Centennials are proud to announce that defenseman and local product Mike Van Unen has committed to play for Northern Michigan University for 2019-20.
In his 3rd year of BCHL action, Van Unen has taken a big step forward this season in terms of minutes played, match ups, and points totals. His 3 goals and 12 assists through 29 games already surpasses his previous high of 13 points in 57 games last season, and his rookie season of 6 points in 31 games.
Van Unen says that it's his puck moving ability that caught the programs eye.
"They like my skating, moving the puck and said it would fit in well with the culture they're trying to build there."
Head Coach Joe Martin adds that there's a bright future ahead for Mike.
"It's what he can do with his feet, he can shoot the puck at the next level, he can do a lot of things that we can only see glimpses of that the next level gets really excited about."
The move will see the twin brothers split up for the first time in their hockey careers, but Van Unen says they both did what felt right.
"It was more about finding the best fit for ourselves than going as a package."
Van Unen and the Cents have a busy week of hockey ahead with away games against Prince George and Vernon before returning home to conclude the season series against Salmon Arm.
The Merritt Centennials have announced the commitment of forward and Merritt local Rylan Van Unen to the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Now in his 3rd year with the Merritt Centennials Van Unen has already matched his career high in BCHL points with 18 this season through 29 games. He won a gold medal last season with Head Coach Joe Martin and Team Canada West in the World Junior A Challenge while putting up 16 points in 43 games. In his rookie season he tallied 5 goals and 13 assists in 53 games.
Van Unen says it was his speed and tenacity that the program likes.
"They liked how I played hard on the forecheck, that 200 foot, North, South game."
Head Coach Joe Martin adds that it's special to see a player that's been a part of the team for three seasons move on.
"Extremely excited for his Rylan and his family. The Nanooks have had their eye on Rylan even all the way back to their former coaching staff so they have a lot of notes on him, did their homework, made three trips to see him play, and he's really happy with the opportunity he'll get there."
Van Unen will join a Division 1 program, and suit up for the blue and yellow of the Nanooks in the WCHA division. As a member of the Nanooks, Van Unen will suit up against some familiar faces including: Zach Court and Nick Wicks (University of Alaska Anchorage), Former Captain Tyrell Buckley (Michigan Tech University), brother Michael Van Unen (Northern Michigan University) and Jacob Berger (Minnesota State University, Monkato).
With the commitment, the Cents now have 8 players on the roster who will move on to NCAA hockey.