Merritt Centennials
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The 2nd in the Interior Merritt Centennials (27-13-4-2) take on the 4th in the Mainland Langley Rivermen (24-21-1-0) this afternoon.

The Cents are coming off another trip to overtime, and another loss in overtime. After starting out 2019 with 3 straight overtime wins, the tide has turned against the Cents in extra time in the most recent string of games. In their last 4 trips to OT they've lost, including twice to the Chilliwack Chiefs despite never trailing in those games until the final buzzer. On Friday, the Chiefs and Cents started out slow with no scoring in the first period, but in the second Mathieu Gosselin broke the goose egg to make it 1-0. The third started off with a flurry with the Chiefs scoring just after the first minute, Rylan Van Unen restored the 2-1 lead on the very next shift, but the Chiefs tied the game up again all within the first 5 minutes. That would be the end of the scoring in regulation, and in OT the Chiefs would convert on a PP to make it a 3-2 final. A night after going 3/5 with the extra man, the Cents went 0/6 against the Chiefs.

The Langley Rivermen are coming into the game hot. They've won their last 6 games including a 6-2 win over the Wenatchee Wild in Wenatchee on Friday. However, not all of their wins have come in big offensive displays. They've won with defense as well with a pair of 2-1 victories in the mix during the win streak as well.

The Rivermen and Cents have met just once before this season at the BCHL Showcase, and the Rivermen were able to top the Cents 4-2. Braedon Flemming, the Rivermen goalie, was a big part of the victory as he stopped 28/30 shots and the Cents went 1/10 on the PP. The Rivermen also won two of the three meetings last season, however, Merritt did win the lone game at home 4-1.

The Cents now have 4 of their top guns in the top 20 of BCHL scoring. Cocca leads the way with 54 points (6th), Granowicz has 48 (15th), Wicks has 47 (17th), and Mathieu Gosselin has 46 (20th).

The Rivermen have scored 30 less goals than the Centennials, and don't have a scorer who's broken then 40 point plateau yet. Ethan Leyh leads the way with 38 points, Trevor Ayre has 34, and Josh Livingstone has 32 points.

The special teams battle sees the Cents run into another of the leagues top penalty kills.

Powerplay:                                      Penalty Kill:

Langley - 19.9% (8th)                Langley - 84.7% (2nd)

Cents - 18.3% (16th)                 Cents - 75.7% (15th)

The goaltending duel could see Vincent Duplessis get another chance between the pipes with Austin Roden coming off a loss. Duplessis is 8-5-3 with a .904 SV% and a 3.34 GAA. Roden is 19-7-2 with a .902 SV%, a 3.16 GAA, and 1 shutout. Braedon Flemming has anchored the Rivermen this year. He's 17-16 with a .906 SV%, a 2.78 GAA, and 3 shutouts. Shayne Battler is 7-3 with a .913 SV%, a 2.28 GAA, and 1 shutout.

Head Coach Joe Martin says the Rivermen are a different team than the Cents have faced in the new year.

"Lately we've played a lot of teams that have the same makeup as the Cents - fast, smaller, skilled. The Rivermen are bigger team, that plays heavy, but still has some higher end skill in the lineup."

The Cents will hope for a different result against the Rivermen this afternoon.

Puck Drop 2pm. Pre-Game 1:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.

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The Merritt Centennials had their fair share of chances, but didn’t make enough of them count as the Chilliwack Chiefs came back to beat the Cents in OT for the 2nd time this season 3-2.

The first period saw a lot of skating end to end, but not a lot of time spent in the offensive zone. The Cents would get chances on the PP early, but went 0/3 in the first. Austin Roden didn’t have a very bust first as shots after 1 were 9-7 Cents.

The Cents really ran the table in the second period, out shooting the Chiefs 12-6, but only got rewarded once. Mathieu Gosselin scored a goal of the year candidate. Skating 4on4 the Cents forward protected the puck to the outside along the left wing, then danced behind the net, stopped up in the right corner, saw an opening, and cut out along the goal-line, pulling the puck to his forehand and sniping blocker side on Daniel Chenard to make it 1-0 on what counted as a shorthanded goal. Through 2 periods, Roden was perfect stopping 13 shots.

In the third, the Chiefs got on the powerplay just 40 seconds in, and converted just 1:22 in. Harrison Blaisdell found a soft spot in the high slot to make it 1-1. The Cents quickly answered on a rush. Brett Roloson drove wide on the right side and threw a shot on, Rylan Van Unen found the rebound and from the goal line was able to bank one off the back-side of Chenard and in to restore the one-goal lead 2-1. The Chiefs restored the tie 2 minutes later on a deflection and despite multiple opportunities to get the go ahead goal, the Cents couldn’t break the deadlock before the end of the third.

Overtime was evenly matched until Rylan Van Unen hauled down Skylar Brindamour going to the net. The Chiefs would score on the PP.

The Cents went 0/5 on the PP tonight, while Chilliwack went 2/6.

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said it was another learning lesson for the Cents.

“It’s tough when you out chance the other team, feel like your playing better, but don’t come out on top. We need to get back to finding ways to win.”

With the loss in OT, the Cents have now picked up points in 10 straight games.

Next up the Langley Rivermen Sunday at the NVMA 2pm.

ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Brett Willits 1G 0A

3RD STAR: Daniel Chenard 31/33

2ND STAR: Rylan Van Unen 1G 0A

1st STAR: Marcus Tesink 0G 1A

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The 2nd in the Interior Merritt Centennials (27-13-3-2) head down to the Fraser Valley to take on the BCHL leading Chilliwack Chiefs (32-12-1-0). 

The Cents are coming off their first game in 2019 that didn't require overtime. On the road in Wenatchee, the Cents mustered their best 1st period of 2019 and matched their best game on the powerplay in 2019 to get past the Wild 6-3. Brad Cocca sniped a PP goal early, Berkopec banged one home in the blue paint, and Gosselin batted the puck out of mid-air on the powerplay to make it 3-0 Cents after 1. The second period saw Payton Matsui convert on a 2on1 with Daniel Tkac to make it 4-1. The third saw the Wild begin to mount a come back, but goals from Mike Van Unen on the powerplay and an empty netter from Matt Kopperud put an end to that. Austin Roden was spectacular in net again for the Cents stopping 27/30 shots in a first star performance. 

The Chiefs are coming off a 4-3 loss to the Coquitlam Express on home ice. It was the first time the Express had won in Chilliwack since the 2014 season. The Cents were able to win their last year by a score of 5-2. 

You don't have to have a long memory to recall the last meeting between these two clubs. It happened just last Thursday, and was a heart breaking loss in OT. Ben Ward, Frazer Dodd, and Brendan Schneider all tallied for the Cents, but the Chiefs were able to tie it in the final minute of play to force extra time. In overtime, it was a dreaded own-goal that made the loss extra tough to swallow with the puck going in off a Merritt defender in the 4-3 loss. 

The Cents are starting to regain their offensive stride after a 6-3 victory. Brad Cocca has 2 goals in his last 2 games and is up to 54 points - 5th in the BCHL. Nick Granowicz has been held off the score sheet for a couple games, but his linemates are scoring. He has 48 points for 13th in the league. Captain Nick Wicks continues to set up his team mates and now has 47 points for 17th in the BCHL. 

The Chilliwack Chiefs have 3 players in the top-20 as well. Matt Holmes has 55 points for 4th league-wide. Harrison Blaisdell has reached 50 and is 10th, and Kevin Wall has 48 points and is 14th in scoring. 

The special teams battle sees the Cents coming off one of their best efforts of the season, but the Chiefs are one of the best teams in the BCHL. 

Powerplay:                                     Penalty Kill: 

Chiefs - 21.7% (4th)                  Chiefs - 83.7% (4th)

Cents - 18.7% (13th)                Cents - 75.9% (15th) 

The goaltending match up sees Austin Roden coming off a pair of impressive starts. He's now 19-6-2 with a .903 SV%, a 3.17 GAA, and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis is 8-5-3 witha .904 SV% and a 3.34 GAA. Daniel Chenard got the start the last time these two teams met and he's 4-4 with a .863 SV% and a 3.94 GAA. Nolan Hildebrand is 10-2 with a .884 SV% and a 3.25 GAA. 

Head Coach Joe Martin knows the strength of Chilliwack is their forward group. 

"You look at their group from top to bottom and it's one of the best in the league. They like to hurt you with nifty drop passes, and hitting players that are coming onto the puck with speed. We have to tighten our gaps and be ready."

The Cents will try and prove their forward group are no slouches either tonight. 

Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV and Q101 Merritt with Jared Thomas. 

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The Merritt Centennials had their best first period of 2019 on route to their first win that didn’t require overtime against the Wenatchee Wild 6-3.

The powerplay was a big question mark coming in going 0/13 the week previous, but the Cents silenced the critics early in that regard. Scoring on their first opportunity just 1:29 in from leading scorer Brad Cocca. Cocca netted the goal off a Nick Wicks feed, and toe-dragged to the slot and sniped it top corner blocker-side to give the Cents the early lead 1-0. They’d keep up the pace with a pretty passing play between Matt Kopperud, Mathieu Gosselin, and Joey Berkopec. Berkopec went to the net with his stick on the ice and finished the play to make it 2-0 8:22 into the frame. The Cents got another PP opportunity, and seized the opportunity at the 12:29 mark. Matt Kopperud loaded up for a point shot that deflected off a defender but Gosselin batted it out of mid-air and past Austin Park to make it 3-0. Austin Roden held the fort in the first, turning aside 12 shots while the Cents had 8.

The second period saw the Cents weather storm on the defensive side of the puck. Wenatchee would score on a PP to make it 3-1, but Daniel Tkac and Payton Matsui teamed up on a two-on-one to restore the 3 goal lead 4-1. Matsui finished off the perfect dish from Tkac. Roden stopped 23/24 through two periods of play.

The Cents were spared the intensity of the ‘minute to win it’ in Wenatchee as they started the period on the powerplay. They wouldn’t convert on that attempt, but when they got another chance after an early Wild penalty in the 3rd they would. Mike Van Unen unleashed a boomer from the point to give the Cents a 5-1 lead. The Wild would cut it down to 5-3 with goals from Murphy Stratton, but with just over two-minutes remaining Kopperud used his speed to beat out an icing call and took the rebound off the end-boards into the net with a quick shot to ice the game 6-3. Roden finished with 27 saves on 30 shots while Park was beaten 5 times on 25 shots.

A week after going 0/13, the powerplay went 3/5 and looked impressive with new units. Head Coach Joe Martin said after the game it was something they put work into.

“Coming into the game, and going down the stretch we know that the powerplay needs to get going. We put the last 2 days into it, with a couple different looks, and got some reps in and it paid off tonight.”

With the win the Cents are now 3 points clear of the Wenatchee Wild, but still trail the Vees by 4 points.

ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Murphy Stratton 2G 0A

3RD STAR: Mathieu Gosselin 1G 2A

2ND STAR: Matt Kopperud 1G 2A

1st STAR: Austin Roden 27/30

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The 2nd in the Interior Division Merritt Centennials (26-13-3-2) face off in a rivalry match up against the team chasing them in the standings, the Wenatchee Wild (26-15-2-2) tonight.

***PUCK DROP 6PM***

The Centennials are looking to pick up points for a 9th game straight, but are looking to snap their first 3 game slide of the season with all losses coming in heart breaking OT fashion. Last week they fell to the Chilliwack Chiefs 4-3 in overtime. Ben Ward, Frazer Dodd, and Brendan Schneider tallied for Merritt, but the Chiefs tied the game in the final minute and then got a Cents own-goal to win it in extra time. The heart break continued on Sunday night with the Penticton Vees in town. The goaltender duel saw Austin Roden and Jack LaFonataine go toe to toe each making huge saves throughout. Brad Cocca scored his first goal of 2019, but once again the opposition tied things up in the final minute to send it to OT. Both goalies made sure nothing would be solved 3-on-3 and the shootout went 10 rounds before the Vees finally persevered on a shootout goal by Jack Barnes. Roden made 38 saves, plus 8 denials in the shootout in a second star performance. 

The Cents and Wild have been evenly matched this season with both teams splitting the season series 2-2, and both teams picking up a wins on home ice and away. The first game of the season saw the offense erupt for a 7-5 final, then the Cents won a 4-3 thriller in OT, the Wild took the 2nd game of the back-to-back 6-1, and the most recent contest at the NVMA on Nov. 14th saw the Wild win 3-2 in regulation. 

The Wild are a team that relies on their team speed, and team depth to win them hockey games. They're tied with the Centennials in the goals-for department with 167, but there offense is a little more spread out as 15 players have more than 20 points. Comparatively, the Cents have 10 players with over 20 points. The Wild have played their last 5 games at home, and are 2-1-2 over that span, dropping 2 games in the shootout including their most recent against the Trail Smoke Eaters 4-3. 

The Cents are still waiting to break out offensively in 2019, as they haven't scored more than 5 goals in a game. Brad Cocca busted his mini-slump on Sunday vs the Vees and is 7th in the league with 53 points. Nick Granowicz has been silent since the 2nd game of 2019 and is 12th league-wide with 48 points, and Captain Nick Wicks has been chipping in with regularity and is now 20th with 45 points. 

The Wild only have one scorer in the top 20, but have a deep lineup that comes at your in waves with 15 skaters recording more than 20 points. Matt Gosiewski has 45 points and is 18th in league scoring, Captain Lucas Sowder has 41 points, and Murphy Stratton has 37 points. 

The special teams battle sees both teams struggling with the extra man, but the Cents are coming off a week where they went 0/13. 

Powerplay:                                         Penalty Kill: 

Wild - 18% (15th)                          Wild - 84% (4th)

Cents - 17.9% (16th)                   Cents - 76.2% (15th)

In net both goaltenders are coming off overtime losses, but Austin Roden was an absolute beast in the Cents latest effort against the Vees. Roden is now 18-6-2 with a .903 SV%, a 3.17 GAA and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis is 8-5-3 with a .904 SV% and a 3.34 GAA. Austin Park and Cal Sandquist both split the net pretty evenly for the Wild. Park has more wins at 15-9 with a .883 SV%, a 2.81 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Sandquist is 11-8 with a .884 SV%, and a 2.56 GAA. 

Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw says that the Cents have seen Wenatchee enough times to know the strength of their game. 

"We know what they like to do offensively especially in their own building, we have to be ready to make quick decisions with the puck, and match their pace."

The Cents will look to put the strength of their game on display tonight. 

Puck Drop 6pm. Pre-Game 5:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.  

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