Merritt Centennials
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The Cents haven’t been able to get a win on home ice through three games in the young season, so will look for their first win on the road as they head to West Kelowna tonight to do battle with the Warriors.

The Centennials sit at 0-3, their most recent loss coming last night at the hands of the Vernon Vipers who got two timely goals from Niko Karamanis, and despite solid goaltending from Jacob Berger, fell 2-0.

West Kelowna hasn’t seen action since last weekend where they split a home at home series with the Trail Smoke Eaters. Each team won in the away barn as the Warriors won in Trail 4-3, but then faltered on home ice in a 4-0 shut out loss.

Nik Amundrud was in net for both games for the Warriors, and sports a .889 save percentage to go along with a 3.12 goals against average. Matt Kowalski has carried the offense so far for the Warriors as he had a hat trick and an assist in that 4-3 win over Trail. However, with a number of returning players, the new edition Warriors are a veteran group that are very deep on forward and defense. In contrast to the Centennials, they only have seven rookies on the roster where the Cents only have 10 returning players.

The Cents and Warriors have some history behind them as the season series last year favored the Warriors. The Cents won 3 of 7 games during the regular season, with two of those wins coming late in 2016-17. They won by scores of 6-2 and 8-3 and that helped set the stage for a historic playoff sweep over the Warriors. The Cents went on to become the only team in BCHL history to sweep a defending RBC cup champion.

More recently these teams met in the preseason for a home at home series, and it was the Warriors who got the better of the Cents in both games. They came back to win at home, 4-3, in the series opener, and then came into Merritt and pummelled the Cents 5-1.

Head Coach Joe Martin said that the Cents will have to earn a win against the Warriors.

“A lot of things need to go our way, but it’s not by luck, it’s not by hope. You have to earn it, and that’s what our guys are learning. It takes 20 guys to earn a hockey game.”

The Cents will look to earn that win when they hit the ice at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna tonight.

PreGame at 6:45, Puck Drop at 7:00. Listen live on 101.1 FM, stream at http://streamdb5web.securenetsystems.net/v5/CKMQ, or download the Q101 Merritt App.

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The Centennials got stand up play from their starting goaltender who did everything but score for the home side, and fell to the Vernon Vipers 2-0. 

The teams traded chances throughout the first period, as they felt eachother out. It looked like it may have gone all the way to the first break in play with no score, but the Vipers were able to convert late in the frame off a weak point shot. After holding it in at the line, Jack Judson was able to get it across to Jordan Sanhu who let go a weak shot from the right point. The puck made it's way towards the net and was deflected on by Niko Karamanis and got behind Berger for the first goal of the game at 17:20 of the first period.

During the second period, the score remained the same due in large part to some spectacular goaltending from Berger. The Cents had four chances on the powerplay in the second to try and convert, and get back into the hockey game, but were unable to get the puck past Ty Taylor of the Vipers. After the second, the goalies were the stories. Berger had 20 stops on 21 shots, while Taylor stopped all 19 he faced. 

The third period saw the Cents waver in their disciplined play. They went to the box for three penalties, two in quick succession to go down to three men. They managed to kill that off, and had more solid play from Berger, but when Sam Miller took a minor for unsportsmanlike conduct, the Vipers finally pounced. Karamanis got the goal again, this time he got the puck off the end boards off an errant shot by Michael Young, and as Berger was searching for the puck, Karamanis banked it off Berger's back and into the net. 

That would be the final, 2-0 for the Vernon Vipers. After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said that his team showed discipline in not taking too many penalties, but that discipline takes many forms.

"There's discipline on getting pucks deep, there's discipline on finishing your checks, there's discipline on playing hard for your teammates."

The Cents will see if they can muster all of their discipline tomorrow night as they hit the road for the first time this season and face the West Kelowna Warriors. Pre Game at 6:45, Puck Drop at 7pm on Q101, Q101.ca, and the Q101 Merritt app. 

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The Cents are looking for their first win of their 45th annual campaign as the Vernon Vipers come to town. So far the Centennials haven’t been able to overcome the Penticton Vees or the Wenatchee Wild, losing 4-2 and 5-3 respectively.

Discipline has been the biggest obstacle through two games for the Cents, as they’ve racked up a league leading amount of penalty minutes with 34. Head Coach Joe Martin says that his team needs to be better at recognizing what the referees are calling on the ice, and adjusting accordingly.

“A lot of that is in our hands to fix, they’re calling the right call, but we don’t have to put ourselves in those situations.”

Offensively the Cents have gotten contributions from some old and new players. Zach Zorn has had a goal in each game, Zach Court, and Tyrell Buckley are names you may recognize from returning players, but they’ve been helped out by newcomers: Jack Vincent, Alex Bourhas, Matthieu Gosselin, Brendan Schneider, and Ashton Stockie through two games.

The Vernon Vipers come into Merritt as the Interior Division leaders early in the season. They won both their games over last weekend in a double header against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and lead the division with 4 points. They posted 5-1 and 6-5 wins over the ‘Backs, and were led offensively by Jagger Williamson and Jesse Landsdell in game one. Williamson had a goal and two assists, while linemate Landsdell had two goals and one assist. In their second game, Jimmy Lambert put the team on his back tallying 5 points on 6 goals for the Vipers, 2 goals and 3 assists respectively, on his way to being named the BCHL Player of the Week. The offense for the Vipers is already humming, and the Cents will need to be at their tight checking best to mitigate the number of quality chances on their goaltender.

Coach Martin expects the Vipers to present the same challenge as the Vees and the Wild.

“They have a deep forward group, some veteran defenseman returning, and quality goaltending. They’re no different than the other two teams we’ve seen.”

In the season series last year, the Cents bested the Vipers by getting wins in four of the matches they played, with a tie, and one loss. If not for a game seven loss to the Penticton Vees in the playoffs last season, we could have been talking about a Cents & Vipers 3rd round series a year ago.

The Centennials didn’t drop a game on home ice to the Vipers last season, winning 4-1, 3-0, and a 3-3 tie. Jake Berger played phenomenal in all three contests stopping 114 of 118 shots for a sparkling .966 save percentage. If Berger is able to replicate that kind of success for tonight’s game, it will go a long way to the Cents earning their first win of the season.

Puck drop will be at 7pm at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena for the first of six contests between these two clubs. Remember if you can’t make it to the game, you can listen on the radio, online at Q101.ca, or on your mobile device with the Q101 Merritt app.

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For the second time in two nights, the Merritt Centennials were in action, this time against the newcomers to the Interior Division and last years league leaders, the Wenatchee Wild. 

The Cents appeared to learn their lesson from the night before against the Vees where they got down two goals early. They were skating with pace, and actually had the speedy Wenatchee Wild on their heels for the first 5 minutes of the game. 

On a play that started in their own end, Mike Van Unen was able to collect the puck behind goaltender Jacob Berger, skate up the left side to his own blue line then laced a nice cross ice pass to new forward Mathieu Gosselin. Gosselin then blew passed his man at the Wild blue line, pulled the puck to his backhand and saucered a beauty centering feed right on to the stick of a streaking Jack Vincent who collected on his forehand made a quick move to the backhand and slid it five hole to make it 1-0 within the first 3 minutes. 

Just a minute later at the 3:52 mark, Ashton Stockie gained the zone, and after a battle in the far side corner was able to slide it down the boards to winger Brendan Schneider. Schneider then started to skate behind the net, then threw out a nifty pass into the slot onto a waiting Zach Zorn's stick who sniped it from the left hashmark past an out strecthed Seth Eisele's left toe to make it 2-0. 

Then just as in the game against the Vees, the penalty troubles began, and the Wild were able to crawl back into the game. The Cents went unscathed on the first minor penalty to Mike Van Unen, but when Jack Vincent went to the box for hooking at the 8:57 mark, Sam Morton of the Wild converted on the powerplay. 

The woes continued when Mike Van Unen went back to the box for interference, and captain of the wild AJ Vanderbeck was able to score unassisted to tie the game up. Vanderbeck scored later in the period on a 5-on-3 powerplay with Court and Buckley in the box to put the Wild in the lead, and that's how the first would end. 3-2 for the Wenatchee Wild. 

The second period of play saw some good chances for both sides. The Cents had some opportunities on the powerplay, but again were unable to convert. They ended up going 0/3 on the powerplay. Eisele made some key saves in the Wenatchee Wild net, and Berger stood tall through the full 20 minutes of the second. 

The third started with the lone penalty going to the Wild, and the Cents had a glowing opportunity to tie the game, but couldn't make good on the powerplay. Then in the final ten minutes of play at the 13:56 mark, Jack Weatherby was able to convert on a turnover at the Cents blue line. He was fed in tight by Brady Bjork, and made a good move to get his stick around a sprawled out Berger, and that was the eventual game winner. 

The Wild got an empty net goal in the final minute of play to make it 5-2, but with 20 seconds left the captain, Tyrell Buckley, ripped a shot from the line and it had eyes, finding it's way through traffic and through Eisele to make it the 5-3 final. 

Eisele ended the game with 25 saves on 28 shots while Berger made 34 saves on 39 shots. 

The next team to come to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena will be the Vernon Vipers on Friday, and then the Cents will go on the road for the first time this season to West Kelowna on Saturday. 

 

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The Merritt Centennials embarked on their 45th anniversary season by honoring one of the best Cents over the course of their history: Eddie Beers. 

Despite the emotional raising of Beers' number 16 to the rafters, the Cents couldn't draw inspiration and came out in the first period flat footed. 

It didn't take long for the Vees to capitalize as Rylan Van Unen had his pocket picked defensively by Cassidy Bowes who found a streaking Owen Sillinger on the partial 2-on-1, and Silinger was able to put the puck past an outstretched Berger to make it 1-0 at the 1:40 mark of the 1st. 

Just 7 seconds later it was Sillinger's younger brother, Lukas who converted on a strange scramble in front of the net after an off angle shot from Ben Allen. 

That prompted Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin to burn his time out, and give his team a tongue lashing. The Cents managed to steady the ship from there, but slowly started the march to the penalty box. Over the remainder of the first, the Cents went to the box 3 times without suffering any ill effects.

The Cents started the second period a lot better than the first and it was the current Centennial who wears Eddie Bears' number 16, Zach Court, who started the scoring. He got a feed from Joey Berkopec, and managed to snipe it top corner glove side on Nolan Hildebrand at the 2:09.

6 minutes later it was the other Zach on the team, that being Zach Zorn, who got the Cents back to even ground with the Vees, working up the short side he ripped a shot top corner blockerside, annihilating the water bottle over Hildebrand's shoulder. 

After the Zorn goal, Ashton Stockie and a Sillinger marched off with coincidental minors for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the parade to the penalty box continued for the Cents. It was Court who was in the box when Jonny Tychonik wired in a point shot unassisted past Jacob Berger to restore the 1 goal lead. 

The Vees rode that one goal lead all the way into the final minute of the 3rd period, where they got some late insurance on another bizarre goal, this time by Taylor Ward. 

They ended up winning the game 4-2. The Cents were a little undisciplined in the game as they were shorthanded 8 times, but managed to kill 7 of them. However, they couldn't convert on the powerplay where they went 0/5. Berger played decently stopping 34/38 shots, and looked sharp throughout the contest. 

Coach Martin said that discipline will be the name of the game come tomorrow night against Wenatchee. 

"A lot of that is in our hands to fix, there's a lot of calls that don't have to be called." 

The Cents will see if they can channel some discipline come Saturday night against the Wenatchee Wild. Puck drop at 7pm. 

 

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