The Merritt Centennials and Victoria Grizzlies lock horns for the first time this season as they'll do battle at the BCHL Showcase.
A reminder for eager fans that despite being a 'home' game, the action will take place at the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack at 7pm.
The Cents and Grizzlies are rare opponents as they only see each other twice during the regular season, but last season the edge went to the Centennials. In game one of the season series in Victoria, the Centennials were able to explode in the first period for a 4-0 lead, and didn't look back from there as they ended up taking home one of their most lopsided wins of the season 6-0. The game was a coming out party for Matt Kopperud as he had his first BCHL goal, and first BCHL Gordie Howe Hat trick, registering a goal, an assist, and a fight. When the season series resumed in mid-February, the teams skated to a rare 2-2 tie. However, in both games last season the Centennials avoided facing Grizzlies phenom forward from St. John's, Newfoundland, Alex Newhook. In game one of the season series, Newhook was away at the World Junior A Challenge with Head Coach Joe Martin, and late in the season Newhook suffered an arm injury that kept him out of action. The Cents will have no such luck tonight, as Newhook is healthy and looking to impress the number of college and NHL scouts that will be in attendance. In recent draft rankings, Newhook is slated to go in the early to mid-first round of the NHL draft. Fellow teammate Riley Hughes is also a draft pick of the New York Rangers.
The Centennials come into the Showcase with plenty of momentum on their side and the reigning BCHL Player of the Week in the lineup, as Mathieu Gosselin and the Cents exploded for 19 goals over 3 games in last weeks action. The Cents won a 7-6 nail biter over the Surrey Eagles, a sound 7-5 victory over the Wenatchee Wild, and a resounding 5-2 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The Cents second line, which Gosselin centres, figured prominently in each victory as Gosselin and linemates Bradley Cocca and Brendan Schneider combined for 23 points over the 3 contests. Coming into the Showcase, the Centennials have 5 players featured in the top 10 in BCHL scoring with Gosselin and Cocca tied for first with 8 points, Schneider and Kopperud tied for second with 7 points, and Nick Wicks tied for 9th with 6 points. Despite the scoring punch, the Centennials have also started to have their defensive game round into form as the leagues highest scoring offense looks to shut the door with more frequency.
The Grizzlies have started the season 2-1. They lost their season opener 5-3 to the Powell River Kings, thumped the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 5-1, and then edged the Penticton Vees 4-3 in their home opener. Alex Campbell and Alex Newhook are tied for the team lead in points with 4, followed by Riley Hughes and Marty Westhaver with 3. The Grizzlies also had the benefit of a strong returning crop of players as they enjoy 11 returnees, and hope for a season that sees them advance farther than the Island Division Finals where they lost in 5 games to Powell River.
The special teams battle sees the Grizzlies with the edge. On the powerplay they sit 9th in the league with a 18.8% conversion rate with the Cents have improved to 13th with 13.3%. On the penalty kill the Grizzlies sit at 10th in the league with an 81.3% kill rate while the Cents are 14th with 74.3%
In net the Centennials will look for another strong performance as Austin Roden has rallied off 3 wins in a row and now sits at 3-1, but would like to see his underlying numbers improve as he sports a .868 SV% and a 4.22 GAA. However, in the last game against Salmon Arm after a shaky opening goal, Roden looked to return to the form Cents fans grew accustomed to last season and looked a lot more confident and comfortable in net. Vincent Duplessis should see some time at the Showcase as well, but hasn't seen time in the crease since the opening game of the year and sits at 0-1 with a .875 SV% and a 5.98 GAA. The Grizzlies have relied on goaltender Kurtis Chapman this year as they wait for Zachary Rose to recover from injury. Chapman is 2-1 with a .924 SV% and a 2.67 GAA.
This is has been voted the most anticipated matchup of the BCHL Bauer Showcase, and the Centennials hope they can live up to the hype, impress the scouts, but most importantly the hometown faithful who will be watching and listening for a 4th Cents win in a row.
Puck drop from the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack 7pm. Pre-Game on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca at 6:45 with Jared Thomas.
Merritt Centennials forward named BCHL Player of the Week.
Mathieu Gosselin was instrumental in the Cents success throughout the week as he netted 5 goals and added 3 assists. The 2nd year forward and his line mates finally broke their offensive silence in game 3 of the year against the Surrey Eagles during a 7-6 victory, a game in which Gosselin scored twice, including the game-winner, and added two assists. Against the defending champion Wenatchee Wild Gosselin chipped in with a goal and an assists as the Cents won 7-5, and the following night against Salmon Arm he added 2 more goals in a 5-2 win
Line mates Brad Cocca, and Brendan Schneider were among the leagues honorable mentions. Cocca is tied with Gosselin for 2nd in league scoring with 1 goal and 7 assists for 8 points, while Schneider is just behind his linemates output with 3 goals and 4 assists for 7 points.
The Centennials hope the offense continues this week at the BCHL Showcase against the Victoria Grizzlies on Thursday and the Langley Rivermen on Saturday.
Make it three in a row for the Merritt Centennials as they delivered their most complete effort of the season to date and pulled past the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 5-2.
To start the game, it took a while for the teams to find their flow. The game lacked intensity and consisted mostly of limited chances in the offensive end followed by clearing attempts the other way for both sides. That ended at the 6-minute mark when Mathieu Gosselin found Brady Ziemer’s rebound in front to put the Cents ahead by 1. The Silverbacks answered at the 12-minute mark with a goal on the rush from Trevor Adams, but the intensity seemed to build from there. Austin Roden and Ethan Langenegger both were exceptional in net, but Langenegger was the busier of the two throughout the game. Roden stopped 5/6 in the first while Langenegger stopped 14/15.
The middle frame saw the Cents start to exude their will on the game After starting the period with a string of penalties against, the Centennials finally got some opportunities of their own including a 5-on-3 once Gosselin joined his teammates from the box, and he scored his second of the game to make it 2-1. The Centennials expanded their lead in the second courtesy hometown boy Talon Zakall who slapped a knuckler from the line that fluttered up and down and in past the blocker side of Langenegger. The Cents continued to throw rubber on net outshooting the ‘Backs 17-11 in the second.
In the 3rd, the Silverbacks didn’t do themselves any favours taking a string of penalties that stretched from the 3-minute mark to the 8-minute mark, and Matt Kopperud was finally able to take advantage of the extra man finding the puck in the slot and putting it up over Langenegger and in to give the Cents the 4-1 lead. Brad Cocca was finally rewarded with a goal at the 14-minute mark after setting up his teammates for 9 leading up to that point, Gosselin found his linemate in the slot and he ripped it top corner to give the Cents a 5-1 lead. Austin Roden had to stop a penalty shot, and allowed a goal against late after an ill advised hit at the defensive blue line, but the Cents hung on for their 3rd win in a row 5-2. Roden stopped 19/21 shots while Langenegger saved 40/45.
After the game Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin said this was the best effort yet.
“There were times when we may have sagged during the game, but overall I felt it was the most complete effort of the year from our guys.”
With the win the Centennials move to 3rd in the Interior Division with a 3-2 record. The Centennials will travel to the BCHL Showcase with a lot of momentum on their side, but will need to have a good week of practice before they take on the Victoria Grizzlies and the Langley Rivermen in Chilliwack.
The next home game is September 28 against the Penticton Vees where the Cents will honor the Humboldt Broncos and First Responders before the game.
The Merritt Centennials are looking for to string their first winning streak of the season together as they hit the road to take on the Salmon Arm Silverbacks tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a clutch performance against the reigning BCHL Champion Wenatchee Wild. Despite giving up 3 goals on the powerplay in the first, the Cents kept pace with 3 goals at even strength from Rylan Van Unen, Mathieu Gosselin, and the first in the BCHL from Brett Roloson. In the second, the Cents capitalized on a powerplay courtesy Brendan Schneider, then the Wild tied it at 4 before Matt Kopperud helped the Cents pull away with 2 goals of his own. In the third, Nic Granowicz added his first of the year by popping one off the backside of Cal Sandquist who came into the game in relief for starter Austin Park. The Wild pulled within two, but thanks to some tenacious penalty killing from the Centennials late they hung on for the 7-5 victory.
These teams met in the first game of the year, and despite a strong start by the Centennials, the Silverbacks found a way back into the game. Rylan Van Unen had the first goal of the year, and he leads the Centennials in goals with 4, and Frazer Dodd added his first goal in the BCHL as well in a first period that was all Cents. However, in the second the Centennials ran into penalty trouble and the Silverbacks used the powerplay to tie the game up at 2, and used the residual momentum to take the lead on a play on the rush. That spelled the end of the night for Vincent Duplessis who hasn't seen the crease since, but may be poised for a return tonight. In the final frame, the Silverbacks added another on the powerplay past Austin Roden to take the game by a 4-2 final.
During those first two games of the season the Centennials were having trouble finding the back of the net, and finding it past the first period of play, but the last two wins have been a completely different story as they've put up 14 goals and early in the season have scored the most goals in the league with 18. Goals against continues to be something the Cents are working on, and as the team defense starts to come together with a little more confidence at the goaltending position that should take care of itself. After four games this year, the team finds itself at the .500 mark, something they seemed to be chasing all year long last season and never really managed to hang on to. To get ahead in the win column early would take a weight off the minds of players, coaches, and fans alike.
The Salmon Arm Silverbacks have had a lighter schedule than the Centennials so far to begin the season as they've only seen action in two games. Their second game of the year came last night against the Trail Smoke Eaters in Trail so they will be operating on short rest for tonight's match. Special teams loomed large as the 'Backs had both a powerplay and a shorthanded goal, however the Smokies had 3 powerplay markers and 1 shorthanded goal to outshine the 'Backs 6-3. Devin Chapman took the loss for the 'Backs making 22 saves on 28 shots while Adam Marcoux got the win for Trail.
The Centennials continue to struggle on special teams despite having some good looks with the man advantage are sitting at 8%, the lowest of any team that has scored a powerplay goal. The penalty kill seemed to turn a page last night against the Wild and looks to improve from a 72.7% which is 12th in the league. The Silverbacks are doing well on special teams in the small sample size. 5th on the powerplay with 30.8%, and 8th on the penalty kill with an 80.3% kill rate.
In net the Cents have been outscoring their opponents to capture victories so far. Austin Roden is 2-1 with a with an .855 SV% and a 4.55 GAA. Vincent Duplessis is 0-1 with a 5.98 GAA and a .875 SV%. The Silverbacks got a great performance from rookie Ethan Langennegger against the Cents who is 1-0 with a .931 SV% and a 2.00 GAA. Devin Chapman got shelled against the Smoke Eaters and is 0-1 with a .786 SV% and a 6.00 GAA.
After the game last night Head Coach Joe Martin said the teams will need to switch gears a little bit for the visit to Salmon Arm.
"We've had a good run at home here, and we've come away with a couple wins, but it's been a while since we've been on the road and we have to play a solid road style game against the Silverbacks to keep this streak going."
The Cents will aim to keep that win streak alive when they face off against the Silverbacks in Salmon Arm tonight.
Puck drop from the Shaw Centre 7pm. Pre-Game at 6:45 on Q101.1FM, or online at Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials offensive wheels continue to turn as they scored seven goals for the second game in a row, and used it to propel them to their second win in a row - this time over the defending BCHL Champion Wenatchee Wild.
The first period was a tale of two different teams. The Wild took full advantage of a 5-on-3 just over 6 minutes into the game. With Brendan Schneider and Joey Berkopec in the box the Wild punished the Cents early with two goals on the powerplay. The Cents managed to even things up 5-on-5 after goals from Rylan Van Unen and Mathieu Gosselin. Van Unen was the beneficiary of a Nic Granowicz fly by down the right wing that caught goaltender Austin Park committing to a post, and Granowicz was able to pull the quick wrap around and find Van Unen in the slot to get the Cents on the board. Gosselin continues to provide offense any way he can, and did so on a second opportunity in front. The Wild then answered with another goal, on their 3rd powerplay opportunity of the period, but were answered before the period expired by rookie Brett Roloson who got his first goal in the BCHL by way of a quick release from the slot. After 1, the Cents had 3 at even strength, and the Wild had 3 with the extra-man.
During the middle frame the Cents were the first ones to light the lamp, this time they took advantage of the powerplay and it was Schneider who found the rebound off the post from Brad Cocca, who found the rebound off the pad from Matt Kopperud to give the Cents their first lead 4-3. The Wild would tie things up at 7 minutes in with a goal from Avery Winslow, but under a minute later the Cents would regain the lead when Frazer Dodd protected the puck on a rush down the right side, went all the way around the net and the zone back to the top of the right circle before unloading a back hander that Kopperud was able to collect off a pad to bat in on a backhand of his own and make it 5-4. That would end starter Austin Park's night after making 10 saves on 15 shots, and give way to Cal Sandquist. However, Sandquist would be beaten by Kopperud as well, this time with him streaking down the right wing and ripping a wrister top corner, bar down to give the Cents a 6-4 lead into the third.
In the final stanza the Centennials weathered the early storm from the Wild and were rewarded when Granowicz was able to pot one off the back of Sanquist and in. On the goal, Talon Zakall, the Merritt native, got his first point in the BCHL. Christophe Tellier continued his fine play with a goal to pull the Wild within 2 at 7-5, but that would be the closest they'd get. Despite a late 5-on-3 advantage, Captain Nick Wicks and his penalty killing crew managed to stave off the final minutes spurred on by the home crowd chants of 'Go Cents Go' and the Cents hung on to win it 7-5.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin boiled the win down to one word.
"I really liked our compete out there, and if we can play every game like we played the final minutes tonight I like our chances."
The Cents will look to extend that compete, and their win streak, to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks when they clash tomorrow night at the Shaw Centre.
Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV, on Q101.1FM and online audio only at Q101.ca.