Merritt Centennials
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The Cents have had almost a full week to rest and prepare for the 3rd place team in the Interior Division the Trail Smoke Eaters who have a 10-4-1-0 record throughout the first two months of the season including an October in which they've gone 4-3-0-0. The Cents have improved in October and own a 3-3-2-0 record.However, Trail is coming off their most lopsided loss of the season to the Vernon Vipers, a game in which they fell 9-0. The Cents are coming off a Double OT 5-4 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, so the teams are at opposite extremes of the emotional spectrum. 

 This will be the first matchup of the season between these Interior Division rivals. Last season the Cents won the season series 5-2, but this Trail team is a much improved club that has added some key youngsters to their team without losing many players to aging out. 

The Smoke Eaters boast the top scoring tandem in the league in Kale Howarth and Ross Armour with a combined 44 points. They also have 5 more players who have more than 10 points so far in the season. The Cents now have 3 players above the 10 point plateau: Nick Wicks, Zack Zorn, and Henry Cleghorn. 

The Special Teams battle sees the Centennials numbers continue to improve. They now sport a 17.8% conversion rate on the powerplay, good enough for 11th in the league, and are killing penalties 81.5% of the time, also 11th in the league. The Cents have also spent the 3rd most time in the league on the penalty kill. The Smoke Eaters are 6th best in the league currently on the powerplay with a 20.3% conversion rate, and an 80.7% rate on the penalty kill. 

In net, the Cents' rookie Jared Breitkruz got the win last saturday against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, but we'll most likely see a return to the goalie who has seen the most time in the crease out of any goalie in the BCHL with 809 minutes played, Jacob Berger. Berger sports a 4-8-2-0 record with a .911 save percentage and a 3.09 goals against average. 

The Smoke Eaters have used both their goaltenders this year and Tanner Marshall or Brandon Wells could come into the crease tonight. Marshall has been the more successful goaltender despite fewer starts with a 5-0-0-0 record, .916 save percentage, and a 3.12 goals against average. Wells is 5-5-0-0 with a .890 save percentage, 3.20 goals against average. 

Head Coach Joe Martin says the Cents will have to be wary of the Smoke Eaters skaters. 

"Their top group is very patient with the puck and they excel when there's a lot of space, and can create offense out of nothing."

The Cents will hope to create a win tonight when they host Trail at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. Puck Drop 7pm, Pre Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas. On air at 101.1FM or stream us online from your desktop or device at q101.ca. 

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The refs had the whistles out in full force as the Cents took on the Silverbacks at the Shaw Centre for the second time this season. There were 17 minor penalties called throughout the game with 11 being called against the Cents, but they were able to win it in double OT 5-4. The Cents got 2 goals on the powerplay, 1 goal short handed, 1 goal 4 on 4, and 1 goal 3 on 3. 

The first period set the tone for the game on the penalty front, but it wasn’t until the 9:08 mark when Sam Miller went off for interference, and just 3 seconds later Henry Cleghorn went off for high sticking off the following faceoff. The Silverbacks’ Josh Latta was able to convert on the 5-on-3 after a point shot went off his chest and to the ice and he backhanded the puck into the net past Jared Breitkruz who was making his first start in the BCHL to make it 1-0.

At the 13:06 mark Jack Vincent went off for cross checking, and on the penalty kill the cents were able to find the back of the net short handed. Zach Zorn checked the D-man up high and was able to break away, he lost control of the puck on the deke and couldn’t get a decent shot away, but Cleghorn was there to clean up the garbage and tie the game up 1-1.

The Silverbacks regained the lead on the same powerplay as Latta struck again to make it 2-1, and that’s how the teams would skate into the second period. The Silverbacks had 5 chances on the powerplay, and coming into the game had the best powerplay in the league at 23%.

The Cents started the second period on the penalty kill, but were able to kill it off, and were able to convert on a powerplay of their own at the 6:48 mark. Matthieu Gosselin had the puck behind the net, and threw it out front and Zorn willed it passed the line outworking three Silverbacks in front to bang home the puck to tie it 2-2.

After Colten Gerlib went off for a double minor half way through the second, and a Silverbacks player took a penalty, the teams skated 4 on 4 for a full two minutes. Skating 4 on 4, Tyrell Buckley worked it up the right side to Nick Wicks and the Cents went to the attack. Wicks had Court open on the farside, but opted to wait for the trailer, Sam Miller, and Miller went mid-blocker side on Didur to give the Cents their first lead in the game 3-2.

In the third, Nic Unruh was the first on the board on the PP, getting to a lose puck that was caught in some skates in the slot, and he found it first and beat Breitkruz just over the right pad to tie things up at 3.

Late in the game, after a hit up high on Brad Cocca, the Cents went to the powerplay, and Henry Cleghorn gave the Cents the late lead 4-3. However, moments later Tyrell Buckley took a very soft slashing call, and on the PP the Silverbacks managed to tie it up to send it to overtime 4-4.

The first OT saw teams taking chances, and Breitkruz saved his best for the extra frames as he stoned the leading goal scorer for the Silverbacks, Rhett Kingston, in tight with a right pad save with 2 second left in the first OT.

In the second OT, Breitkruz came up huge again with an even more miraculous save on Kingston this time with the back heel of his skate when he was down and out to kick it away. Later on in the 3 on 3 frame, Zorn broke down the right wing and threw a shot on that was partially blocked, and it went to Nick Wicks who was able to roof it over Didur for the 5-4 double OT win.

After the game, Joe Martin was proud of how his team overcame adversity despite the numerous penalties.

“There were some calls made in the game that by the rulebook were calls. I disagreed with calls on both sides… but we got the win.”

The Cents end the weekend on a high note before welcoming Trail and West Kelowna next Friday and Sunday.

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A night after losing to the Penticton Vees after a 5 minute lapse of judgement early in the 3rd period. The Cents go right back on the road to take on the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. 

The last time these two teams played on October 6th before the Thanksgiving Day longweekend, the Backs ended up beating the Cents by a final score of 7-4. However, the scoreline was a lot more flattering than the game itself as the Silverbacks were leading 7-1 before the Cents managed to score 3 goals in the final 5 minutes including 2 in the final minute of play. 

The Cents will continue to adhere to their mantra this season, which is play a strong 60 minutes. It hasn't come as easy as saying it in the last week, off of matching 4-2 losses to the Chilliwack Chiefs and the Vees. Against Chilliwack at home, the Cents took off the second period and were chasing, and last night the Vees only needed 5 minutes to explode for enough offense. 

There were some bright spots in last nights game as Brad Cocca, the newest Centennial, scored his first goal in the BCHL and on the season, and now has 3 points in 4 games since joining the team last Friday from the St. Michael's Buzzers. His point per game rate is actually second on the team behind leading goal scorer Nick Wicks at .75. 

The Cents will have to be wary of a couple big offensive weapons for the Silverbacks, as they have 5 players who are converting above .75 points per game. Leading goal scorer Rhett Kingston has 13 points this season, and he's followed by Tanner Campbell with 12, and Justin Wilson with 11.

However, it was the pressure of the defense that Head Coach Joe Martin wants to focus on tonight. 

"If we're late to pucks or we're not skating with the team tomorrow we'll be in our end, and we'll get outshot again, and they'll have a lot of chances on net. They're an agressive hockey team... they're really focused on pushing you back towards your end."

The Cents will look to get a little more offensive zone time as they only managed 20 shots last night compared to Penticton's 43. 

The special team numbers continue to improve for the Cents who scored both their goals with the man advantage last night on 5 attempts, and managed to kill off all of Penticton's powerplays, but they did allow a shorthanded goal. The PK is now up to 84% while the PP is up to 16.4%, the Salmon Arm Silverbacks now find themselves with the best powerplay in the league at 23% however they now have the third worst penalty kill at 75.3%. Last night in the 6-1 loss against the Chiefs, the Silverbacks allowed 3 shorthanded goals, all to the same player as Regan Kimens had a shorthanded hat trick. The Cents have two short handed goals already this season. As always, special teams will be a factor. 

The Cents will look for win number 5 tonight and win number one against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks this year at the Shaw Centre. Puck drop at 7pm, Pre Game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on 101.1FM, q101.ca, or the Q101 Merritt App. 

 

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The setting was different, but the story line and the score line were eerily similar as the Vees topped the Cents for the third time this season by a score of 4-2. 

The first period belonged to the goaltenders Jacob Berger and Nolan Hildebrand. Neither allowed one past them, and neither team converted on their powerplay chances. The Vees went 0/2 while the Cents went 0/1. Berger made 13 stops while Hildebrand made 6. 

The second period was a goaltending clinic by Berger as he stopped 16 shots in the frame to keep his team in it while Brad Cocca got his first in the BCHL, first of the season, and first of the game for either side. He skated off the half wall, dished to Munro at the point, got the return pass, and put a shot low glove on Hildebrand that got through. Despite the Cents only putting another 6 shots on net, they came out of the second with the crucial one goal lead. 

The Vees came to life in the third period. After killing off a penalty that carried over from the second, they went to the powerplay, but when Jackson Munro made a pinch at the right point, Owen Sillinger banked it off the boards, streaked past him and was off to the races on a 2-on-0 with Grant Cruikshank, and dished across to get one short handed. The Cents still had a minte and a half of powerplay time, and were able to get back on the board after a weak shot from Joey Berkopec made it's way through, and Rylan Van Uned got the rebound to go, regaining the one goal lead 2-1. It didn't last long as not even a minute later, Jonny Tychonik led a rush down the right wing, dished to the middle, and Massimo Rizzo took a shot, and batted in his own rebound. Then at the 5 minute mark of the third, Ryan Sandelin wristed a shot by Berger from the left dot over the glove side giving the Vees their first lead of the game, and they hung on until the final minute of the third when Dakota Boutin got the empty netter. 

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said the team lost it's focus. 

"We had a great first two periods, but to begin that third we lost our focus and against a team like this you just can't do that."

The Cents will look to regain their focus on Saturday night when they visit the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at the Shaw Centre. Puck Drop at 7pm, Pre Game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1 FM, q101.ca, or the Q101 Merritt App. 

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The Cents hit the road once again for a two game swing this weekend, and the first stop on the tour is the South Okanagan Events Centre where they'll face the now defeated Vees. 

The Vees are coming off their first loss of the season, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Langley Rivermen on Wednesday night. The Cents are coming off a loss of their own as they were doubled up by the Chiefs on Wednesday 4-2. Both teams will be looking to get back to the winning ways. 

This will be the third matchup of the season between these two clubs, with Penticton sweeping the season series so far. They won the season opener 4-2, and won by the skin of their teeth last Friday at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena 3-2 in overtime. The Cents led for a large portion of that game, after going scoreless in the first period, the Cents got a goal midway through the second, and added another midway through the third before the Vees got two late to tie it, and the dagger in overtime to win it. Both teams will be using that game as motivation, the Cents for hanging onto a lead, and the Vees to not allow it to get that late in a game before coming back. 

The Vees are only 3 points out of top spot in the Interior Division and the league with 17 points despite playing 4 fewer games than the division leading Warriors and Vipers. The Cents are 4 points back of Salmon Arm for 6th in the Interior Division, and would love to get a win to get back in the race of the standings. The Cents currently sit 15th in the league, remembering that the top 16 teams in the league make the playoffs. 

The Cents couldn't convert on the powerplay against the Chiefs, but their penalty kill numbers continue to improve and are now above 82% on the season. The Vees hold one of the best powerplays in the league at 21.6%, and got the key tying goal last friday on the powerplay. 

Head Coach Joe Martin said that despite the Vees losing against the Rivermen it won't be an easy outing. 

"They may have lost, but they're still a good team and they'll want to get right back at it. We have to focus on our game." 

The Cents will focus on getting the win tonight at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Puck drop at 7 and Pre Game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1 FM, q101.ca, or the Q101 Merritt App. 

 

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