The Centennials will look to rebound tonight after a heart breaking loss in OT to the only remaining undefeated team in the BCHL the Penticton Vees. It marks the 3rd loss in a row after their 3 game win streak, and their second straight overtime loss. So far the Cents haven’t found the magic formula to pick up the extra point in OT, but hope they won’t need to go to the extra frame tonight against the Wild.
The Cents have 2 wins and 3 losses in their last 5 while the Wild are 3 and 2 in their past 5, and on a 3 game win streak. The Wild sit 5th in the super competitive interior division with 15 points and a 7-3-0-1 record while the Cents sit last in the Interior with 8 points and a 3-7-2-0 record.
Once again special teams will be a factor with Wenatchee near the top of the league when it comes to the powerplay with a 24.7% conversion rate while the Cents have struggled in the last 3 games they haven’t managed to find the back of the net despite some good looks with the man advantage. If they can bump their powerplay slump, they may be able to bump their losing skid as well.
The Wild are coming off a win last night against the team that led the Interior Division coming into the weekend, the West Kelowna Warriors, 4-2. It was tighter than the score line shows as they hung onto a 3-2 lead late into the period before icing the game in the empty net as the Warriors were searching for the equalizer.
The Wild and Cents have met once before this season with the Wild coming out on top. Despite an early two goal lead in the third period, the Centennials got into penalty trouble and ended up surrendering 3 powerplay goals as the Wild went on to win 5-3. The Cents got a late marker from Tyrell Buckley after the Wild had iced the game into the empty net.
Head Coach Joe Martin says his team needs to forget last night and get some rest.
“The bus won’t leave until just before 11 o’clock, plenty of time to get some rest, forget about tonight and be ready to go for the Wild.”
Puck Drop is at 7pm from the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee. Pre Game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1 FM, online at q101.ca, or the Q101 Merritt app.
In a game that had a playoff atmosphere, the Merritt Centennials played their best 55 minutes of the year, before they fell into a defensive shell in the final 5 minutes and the Vees came back to win it 3-2.
The first period skated to a scoreless draw with the goaltenders stealing the show. Nolan Hildebrand stopped all 9 shots he faced, while Jacob Berger stopped all 12 he faced.
The second was very similar to the first until the 11:38 mark when Colten Gerlib held the puck at the right point by gloving it down, and wasted no time teeing up a blast that beat Hildebrand on the blocker side to make it 1-0. Despite penalties on both sides that remained the score after 40 minutes of play.
The Cents started the third behind on the shot clock, and that trend continued. However, they were able to find the back of the net first after Rylan Van Unen blocked a shot and went off to the races joined by Jackson Munro on a 2-on-1, Van Unen opted to keep and shoot and roofed it over the shoulder of Hildebrand to make it 2-0 halfway through the third. After the Cents scored they went into a defensive shell, and as Head Coach Martin would later say after the game, they looked "afraid to win." In the final 5 minutes with the Cents trying to buckle down offensively, Jonny Tychonik held the line, and unleashed a shot that deflected off a sprawling Henry Cleghorn who was attempting to block the shot, and in past Berger.
The turning point came late in the game after a Vees goal was dissallowed. It was ruled that Berger was interfered with, but there was no penalty to the Penticton Vees on the play. After the play, Berger squirted some water at a Vees player, and he ended up getting a penalty. On that powerplay, it was Tychonik who got his second of the game with another blast from the point. This time there was no deflection on the play, just a clean shot up high to tie things up at 2. The teams were content to skate 2-2 to the overtime frame.
In overtime, the Cents couldn't convert on their offensive rush, and on the counter attack Grant Cruikshank was able to roof it on Berger to get the OT winner.
After the game, Coach Martin said that he could stomach the loss a lot easier if his team played their game until the end.
"If we gave more, and played our game in the final five minutes I'd be talking about how we ran into a good team that found a way to win. It's stil a good opponent that found a way to win, but we didn't enough of what we should've in the last five minutes"
The Cents have now lost three straight, two in overtime to salvage points, but they'll look to get 2 points against the Wenatchee Wild with no strings attached tomorrow night at 7pm on Q101.
In a move ahead of the Penticton Vees game, the Centennials have acquired Brad Cocca, who is committed to Harvard University next season, from the OJHL's St. Michaels Buzzers for future considerations.
Cocca, who stands 5'9, 170 pounds, hails from Missisauga, and played for the Buzzers during the 2015-16 season acquiring 19 points in 54 games played. Last year he played hockey with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL recording 5 points in 34 games played.
He will be in the line up tonight as the Cents take on the Vees at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena at 7pm.
The Centennials return to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena after a one game road trip to Prince George where they had another great game, but unfortunately ended up on the wrong side of the scoresheet. The Spruce Kings ended up taking the game in overtime despite many chances from the Cents to take the lead before then. The Cents didn’t come home completely empty handed as they will get a point for the overtime loss and now have 7 on the year, but will need more if they want to advance past where they currently sit in the league standings, 15th place.
The Penticton Vees are coming off a hard fought two game set against the Vernon Vipers where they played two tight games. One ended in a 3-2 victory for the Vees, while the other skated all the way through extra time to a 2-2 draw. The Vees remain the only undefeated team in the BCHL as they are 6-0-1. Despite their undefeated record they’ve only had two games that they’ve won in convincing fashion with a 3 goal margin or more.
One of those tight games was the first game of the season when the Penticton Vees visited Merritt last. They were able to get out to a 2-0 lead early, but in the second the Cents bounced back to tie it, before the Vees scored on the powerplay and got a late goal to ice the game and win 4-2.
The Cents will have to stay disciplined as the Vees are tied for the league lead on the powerplay with a 25.7% conversion rate, and are also very strong on the penalty kill where they’re second in the league with a 87.9% kill rate. Comparitively, the Cents have the second worst powerplay in league with a 13.5% conversion rate, and 12th on the penalty kill with a 79.7% kill rate.
Head Coach Joe Martin says the Vees are often overlooked for their defensive play.
"They're a hard working team, and they've had some tight games, but they've found ways to win."
The Cents will have to find a way to win to avoid another 3 game losing streak, and they'll look to do so tonight at 7pm at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. Pre game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas: 101.1 on the radio, q101.ca online, or the Q101 Merritt app on your mobile device.
With both coaches looking for a 60 minute effort from their clubs, it’s Head Coach Joe Martin who wishes he had a 65 minute effort, as just 17 seconds into overtime the Spruce Kings stand out rookie defenseman Layton Ahac roofed a wrister over the blocker of Jake Berger to give the Spruce Kings the edge 3-2.
The first period started well for the Spruce Kings, as they got on the board just 1:37 into the contest after a turnover by Sam Miller at centre ice resulted in a one on one opportunity for Ethan De Jong against Mattias Dal Monte. De Jong managed to get around Dal Monte, and then was able to trickle a shot over the arm of Berger to make it 1-0.
Sam Miller more than made it up to his team mates as later in the period, with just 2 minutes to go he wristed a seeing-eye shot through the crowd from the left point that deflected off a Spruce Kings defender and in for his first in the BCHL. After one period of play it was tied 1-1.
The Cents came out a team possessed in the second period. Zach Court had a penalty shot opportunity just a minute into the frame, and was promptly denied by Evan De Brouwer, but moments later on the offensive zone face off, Jack Vincent won the puck back to Sam Miller who teed it up from the line, and Alex Bourhas found the rebound for his second in two games, and Miller’s second point on the night. The teams would trade powerplays and chances throughout the remainder of the second, but the goaltenders would keep it a 2-1 score.
In the third, Merritt killed off an early penalty before having two opportunities on the powerplay where De Brouwer was able to make some key saves. When the teams returned to 5 on 5, Patrick Cozzi streaked down the right wing and his centering found Nolan Welsh with his stick on the ice heading to the net, and he tapped it in to tie it up at 2. The Cents had golden opportunities from Nick Wicks in the slot all alone, and a solid power move by Rylan Van Unen to go to the net but De Brouwer managed to get the game to overtime where the Spruce Kings won it in just 17 seconds.
After the game, Coach Martin said the team played well and had plenty of chances to win.
“The team played hard, and we had our chances. Wicks in front with a great chance everyone thought was going in, Van Unen on a partial breakaway, Court with a penalty shot... I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing out there.”
The Cents will have 2 more games this weekend against two top teams. The Penticton Vees come to town on Friday night, and the Cents hit the road for Wenatchee to take on the wild on Saturday.