It's Official! The Merritt Centennials have qualified for the postseason.
With plenty of games remaining in the regular season, the only question remains is: who will they play?
The Cents currently hold down 7th in the Interior Division, if they don't manage to improve their seeding before the playoffs that would mean a first round match-up against the second seed.
Right now that match-up would be against the Wenatchee Wild, but with so much hockey left to play and the top 3 teams separated by 2 points that could change.
The Cents are 2-3-1 against Wenatchee this season.
The Cents got contributions from all over the lineup and got consistency all throughout the game to top the warriors 6-3.
The line that got on the board first last night against the Vees, did the same tonight, but this time it was the Rylan Van Unen who batted one home in the blue paint after Nick Wicks set up Matt Kopperud in front with a shot.
Zach Risteau got another goal in tight a minute later at the 13:23 mark off a feed from Zach Court, and roofed it on the backhand in tight to make it 2-0.
RJ Murphy answered for the Warriors on a breakaway and slid one five-hole on Jacob Berger to conclude the scoring in the first 2-1.
Early on in the second, Risteau rang one off the post and in after a shot from the line from Mattias Dal Monte, and he picked up his first point of the BCHL.
Tyrell Buckley added what would be the eventual game-winner on the powerplay, a shot from the line that found it’s way through the crowd.
Chase Dubois had the lone answer for the Warriors in the second to conclude the scoring 4-2.
In the third, the Warriors would cut the lead to one on a Ryan Steele shot to make it 4-3.
Brad Cocca answered for the Cents after peeling off the half-wall cutting to the slot and firing one low through the legs of Cole Demers.
Just over a minute later, Brendan Schneider added some insurance, after Zach Risteau turned the puck over and found him in front.
Jacob Berger stood tall in his 3rd straight game stopping 33 of 36 shots. Demers allowed 6 on 27, and the Cents took the win 6-3. Cents went 1/3 on the Powerplay while the Warriors went 0/6
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said he liked the consistency.
“We had contributions from up and down the line up, every line got in on the offense, and we had a solid effort from start to finish. Other than their powerplay, they weren’t able to generate much momentum, and they weren’t able to score.”
It gives the Cents some momentum as they prepare for a road trip on the Island next weekend starting Friday against Powell River.
The Merritt Centennials face their 3rd team of the week, against their 3rd Interior Division opponent: the West Kelowna Warriors. The Warriors sit in 5th in the Interior division at 24-23-1-1 while the Cents remain in 7th with a 18-24-4-1 record.
So far it's been the home teams who have taken each contest, with the Cents looking to buck that trend in the 5th contest of the season. The last game saw the Cents dominate at home exploding for 7 goals in a 7-4 win. Merritt had 7 different goal scorers: Joey Berkopec, Zach Court, Nick Wicks, Zach Zorn, Henry Cleghorn, Brendan Schneider and Rylan Van Unen all got on the scoresheet.
Both teams are coming off tight losses to Interior Division opponents. The Cents fell last night 3-2 against the Vees. Wicks and Colten Gerlib had goals in the first, but the Cents couldn't muster any more pucks across the goal line in the remaining 40 minutes, while the Vees scored 3 unanswered to take the game. The Warriors fell 5-4 against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks with both goaltenders seeing action, and RJ Murphy scoring a pair of goals. The 'Backs continue to pick up wins, and are now just two points behind the Warriors with 48 points, while the Cents are 7 points off the pace at 41.
RJ Murphy has been one of the hottest Warriors with points in his last 3 straight and 38 points, but the Warriors are led by Captain Jared Marino (50), Chase Dubois (43), and relative newcomer Ryan Steele (39) who they picked up at the trade deadline from the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
The Cents look for contributions from Nick Wicks who picked up two in the last game, but need that clutch goal from one of their other stars. Ashton Stockie has been silent since the start of the new year, but has shown flashes, and Mathieu Gosselin came oh so close to getting one last night if not for an Adam Scheel paddle off the goal line.
The Warriors are one of the strongest teams on home ice and are 6 games over .500 with 15 wins, and the Cents are 6 games below .500 on the road with 7 wins in 20 tries. The last game played at Royal LePage place saw the Warriors run away on the scoreboard 7-3, and Head Coach Joe Martin get thrown out of the game.
The special teams matchup sees the Warriors with the edge on the powerplay where they are 6th in the league at 20.3%, while the Cents are still in 10th at 18.2%, but haven't been able to find consistency on their powerplay. On the penalty kill, the Cents hold the edge with an 81.2% kill rate but have fallen to 11th in the league. The Warriors have fallen further now at 15th with 78.2%.
In net the Cents will turn to Jacob Berger for a third straight game. 11-19-2-0 with a 3.31 GAA, a 90.9 SV%, and 2 shutouts. The Warriors have a decision on their hands as both goalies saw action last night. Nic Amundrud is 13-14 with a 90 SV%, a 3.38 GAA, and 1 shutout. Cole Demers is 10-8 with a 90 SV%, a 3.49 GAA, and 1 shutout.
The Cents have brought the intensity in the last two games, but haven't come out with a win. In this game they'll look to buck the trend of the home team taking the contest, and take a win back to Merritt.
Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.
Merritt Centennials got the party started early in the NVMA with a goal 17 seconds in, but the Vees ended the part with 3:46 left in the third to win it 3-2.
It was Nick Wicks who tallied early in the first witch a quick slapper low and past Adam Scheel from Matt Kopperud and Rylan Van Unen to make it 1-0.
Halfway through the first, Colten Gerlib extended the lead after a feed from below the goal line by Zach Court that found him at the right point. Gerlib walked in took his time, and fired one top shelf glove side for the second goal of the game.
The Cents nearly escaped with the two goal lead, but the Vees got a goal with 34 seconds left to make it 2-1.
The second saw no scoring, but a couple good chances. The best one belonged to Matthieu Gosselin, he got a feed on a backdoor play from Mattias Dal Monte, but was robbed by Scheel as he swept it off the line with the paddle of his stick.
The third stanza started with Sam Miller going to the box for tripping, and the Cents killed off 1:59 of the penalty before Wyatt Sloboshan scored on the powerplay to tie it 2-2 3:25 in to the third.
The Cents pushed for the go ahead goal, but weren’t able to convert on their chances, and late in the game Michael Campoli threw a shot on net. Jacob Berger got a big piece of it with his glove before it trickled across the line.
After the game Head Coach Joe Martin said he liked a certain part of the Cents game.
“I liked the intensity, I feel like if we continue to play that way those chances are going to start going our way, and then we can make slight coaching changes. If you don’t have the intensity, you can’t get far.”
Cents will try to guide their game tomorrow night against the West Kelowna Warriors all the way to the end. Puck drop 7pm from Royal LePage Place on Q101.
The Merritt Centennials (18-22-4-1) welcome the Penticton Vees (31-10-2-3) tonight at home for the final time this regular season. The Cents are looking to leave behind a forgettable January and start fresh at the turn of the calendar month, they went 3-6-2-0 and need to get on a run to build momentum as the season winds down.
The Cents are coming off a loss to the Vernon Vipers 4-1. They skated a strong first, but surrendered a powerplay goal off a deflection in front. The second saw more seperation from the Snakes with an early goal even strength, where Berger made two huge stops before Josh Latta batted in the third attempt uncontested. The Vipers then added two more goals with the man advantage, and went 3/5 on the night. The lone goal from the Cents came late on a powerplay of their own where Jackson Munro was able to walk in from the left point and snipe his 2nd goal of the season to break what would have been a BCHL record 8th shutout for Ty Taylor.
The Vees are coming off their only loss in the month of January 6-3 against the Victoria Grizzlies. During the month they went 9-1-0-1 and nearly doubled their oponents in scoring. Two of those wins came over the Cents, the first a 4-3 win, where the Cents squandered a 3-1 lead in the second period. The more recent game saw the Cents fall 4-1. Tied after 40 minutes of play, the Vees captain Owen Sillinger did the damage in the final frame scoring two before an empty netter by Chris Klack.
To find the last game in the NVMA you have to travel back to October 13th where the Cents may have had their best chance to top the Vees this year. Leading 2-0 in the third period, the Cents allowed two goals in the final two minutes before falling in overtime 3-2.
The Vees are led offensively by their Captain Owen Sillinger, he and defenseman Johnny Tychonick have been the Cents kryptonite. Sillinger with 46 points, Tychonick with 38, and Dakota Boutin with 32. The Cents have been struggling for offense in the last few games and need more contributions from top scorer Henry Cleghorn (42), Zach Zorn (36) and Nick Wicks (34).
The special teams battle sees the Vees with the edge, now up to 5th on the powerplay converting on 20.3% of their chances, while the Cents slide to 10th with 18.4%. The Vees also own the best penalty kill in the league at 86.4% while the Cents remain in 10th with an 81.3% kill rate.
The battle in net will see the Cents run into another top netminder in the league if Adam Scheel gets the nod. He's 21-10-0-3 with a 92.8 SV%, 2.10 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Nolan Hildebrand is 10-2 with a 91.1SV% and a 2.48 GAA. Jacob Berger may be set to make his second start in a row with Austin Roden not making the trip to Vernon. Berger is 11-19-2-0 with a 90.9SV%, a 3.32 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Roden is 8-9-0-2 with a 92.5 SV%, a 2.70 GAA, and 1 shutout.
The Cents look to channel the same energy and intensity that came out after a huge hit by Zach Zorn in the third period the last time these two teams met.
Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca