The Centennials play their second game at home in as many nights as they welcome the Salmon Arm Silverbacks tonight to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena for a big Interior Division clash as these two teams tied in the standings with 27.
The two teams last played back on November 10th in Salmon Arm, and that's where all the games between these two clubs have been held so far this season. In that game, the Cents also had the chance to pass Salmon Arm in the standings, but the Silverbacks were able to deny them in that one winning 5-3. The Cents were leading 2-0 after one period, but slowly squandered the lead throughout the remainder of the game. However, this will be the Silverbacks first trip to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena this season, and the Cents should have a brief advantage in the confines of their own rink.
Since that game in mid-November the Silverbacks are 2-6, and have lost three in a row to Prince George, Penticton and Vernon. Against Vernon last night the Silverbacks opened the scoring with a goal from Hudson Schandor, but the Vipers were able to come back in the second with goals from Mokhtari and Jandric before Anzai iced the game with an empty netter.
The Cents meanwhile are 4-3 during that same stretch, and just had their three game win streak snapped by the Wenatchee Wild last night. It was a game that the Cents showed two sides to themselves. They trailed 2-0 early, but were able to come back in the span of 3 minutes at the end of the first period, and then started the second strong with another tally to make it 3-2. Unfortunately, that's when the wheels fell off as Wenatchee goaded the Cents into playing their style of hockey and the Cents were outgunned giving up 5 unanswered goals to fall 7-3. Nick Wicks, Ashton Stockie, and Zach Court were the goal scorers for the Cents.
In games against the Silverbacks, the Cents have been a victim of their high powered offense, but over the year, the Cents are the team with more goals for with 97 while the 'Backs have just 90, and the Cents are the stronger defensive team as they're the only club with a losing record, but a positive goal differential with +2. By comparison, Salmon arm has allowed 30 more goals than the Cents, but have made moves to try and shore up their goaltending as they have 2 different goalies than what they started the season with.
Rhett Kingston remains the top gun for the 'Backs with 29 points, but the players behind him are all below the 20 point plateau, however they do have 15 skaters on the roster with over 10 points. The Cents have 4 players over 20 points, 11 players over 10, and 4 knocking on the door with 9 points on the year.
The Cents will likely look to Austin Roden between the pipes after Jacob Berger squandered a start last night and allowed 5 goals on 19 shots. Roden is 2-1-1 in his time with the Centennials and has a 91.5 SV% and a 3.15 GAA.
In net the Silverbacks now turn to Kyle Dumba and Reid Cooper. Dumba is 4-10 with a 90.5 SV% and a 3.47 GAA while Cooper is 1-10-1 with a 90.4 SV% and a 3.82 GAA.
The Cents will try and exploit those new goaltenders, and treat the Silverbacks to a little Nicola Valley hospitality when they visit tonight as they try and cement their position in 6th in the Interior and head into the Christmas break on an upswing.
Puck Drop at 7pm at the NVMA, Pre Game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1 FM, or stream us online with your desktop or device at q101.ca
The Merritt Centennials got to level after one period of play, got the lead in the second, but then allowed 5 unanswered goals from the Wild, 4 coming in the second as Wenatchee topped the Cents 7-3.
It didn't take long for the game to get it's first goal as just 53 seconds in AJ Vanderbeck got on the board for the Wild on the first shot of the game, beating Jacob Berger on the glove side.
It took the Cents considerably longer to get their first shot of the game, as it didn't come until 9 minutes into the period, but they wouldn't score until after Lucas Sowder got his first of the game at the 11:07 mark.
St. Nicholas Wicks made Cristmas come early the NVMA on teddy bear toss night in the final 2:30 of the period with a play off the end boards Zorn threw it out front to Wicks who beat Seth Eisele to get the Cents within one.
Ashton Stockie got the equalizer with 33 seconds left in the period on a wrap around. Eisele went for a poke check, but it went right back onto Stockie's stick and he curled around the net and tucked it home. The period ended with the Cents scoring on 2 of their 4 shots in the first while the Wild score on 2 of their 11 shots.
The second began just as the Cents planned, Zach Court tapping home a lose puck in the slot past an outstretched Eisele gave the Cents the 3-2 lead.
However, it didn't last long Sam Hesler scored just a minute later, and then the Wild started to pull away. Lucas Sowder scored after a great run of play in the WIld end, a key stop, and was sprung on the break away, and beat Berger to regain the lead 4-3 at the 7:30 mark.
Berger was chased from the net when Josh Arnold got an odd goal two minutes later, and Arnold would add another on Austin Roden before the period was out for the Wild to lead 6-3 after 40 minutes of play.
The Cents couldn't mount a comeback in the third period, and Murphy Stratton got the only goal of the 3rd period to make it a 7-4 final.
The powerplay was toothless for the Centennials going 0-6, the Wild were 0 for 2.
Acting Head Coach Matt Sampson said that the Cents will need a better effort tomorrow night against Salmon Arm.
"We don't want to chalk it up to a battle of the bottom teams in a strong division, but it will be nice to play them at home. They're a team that's a lot like Wenatchee, lots of scoring up front, and they like to make you pay on the powerplay."
Puck Drop is tomorrow night against Salmon Arm at 7pm, Pre Game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas.
Former goaltender for the Merritt Centennials Cole Kehler has signed a 3 year entry level contract with the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL.
Playing for the Centennials back in 2015-16, Kehler got into 43 games had an 18-24-1 record with an 89.4 save percentage and a 3.84 Goals Against Average.
In 22 games with the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL this season, Kehler is second in goals-against average, save percentage, and wins.
The Centennials will look to bring the teddys to the ice early, and keep the goals coming often when they welcome the Wenatchee Wild to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena tonight on Teddy Bear Toss Night.
This will be the third matchup of the regular season between these two clubs. Merritt met Wenatchee on the first weekend of the year and suffered a 5-2 defeat here at home, but in mid-October were able to go on the road and return the favour against the Wild in their rink and squeak out a 3-2 victory.
Both teams are coming off wins against the Trail Smoke Eaters. The Wild defeated them 7-4 on Wednesday night. Wenatchee controlled the pace of play hurling 58 shots on net, and trailed 3-2 after 2, but were rewarded with a 5 goal 3rd period. The Cents shutout the Smokies 4-0 on Saturday night, and they were the team that was outshot, but Jacob Berger backstopped the team to a win when the Cents lagged in the second period, and Zach Zorn tallied 2 goals in the third period. Christian Sabin and Chase Bell had goals in the first.
In the last 5 games, the Centennials are the better club with wins in 4 of their last 5, while Wenatchee is 3-2. However, Wenatchee is now the third team in the league to 20 wins and are third in the Interior Division with 43 points on the year. The Cents are holding 6th spot in the Interior as they hold the tie breaker, and 3 games in hand on the Salmon Arm Silverbacks who they'll face tomorrow night.
The Wenatchee Wild are known as a team that pushes the pace, and they have a number of players with high offensive outputs. Jasper Weatherby is second in the league in points with 42, and second in the league in goals with 22. Their defenseman, Cooper Zech is 11th in the league in scoring and first among defensemen with 33 points, and Lucas Sowder is right behind him with 32 points. They also boast 8 players with over 20 points.
By Comparison the Cents have four players over the 20 point plateau, and are led by Henry Cleghorn (26), Zach Zorn (25), and Nick Wicks (23). Cents Captain Tyrell Buckley is the leading scorer amongst defeseman on the squad with 22 points.
The Wild have the 3rd best powerplay numbers in the league with a 21.7% conversion rate and on the kill they're 3rd as well at 84.6%. The Cents sit at 9th on the powerplay at 20.6% and 10th on the penalty kill with 81.4%, however the Cents now up to 9 shorthanded goals on the year.
In net the Wild will turn to Seth Eisele or Austin Park. Park is 13-5 with a 89.7 SV% and a 2.56 GAA while Eisele is 6-5 with a 88.2 SV% and a 2.67 GAA.
The Cents netminders are hot recently. Jacob Berger is coming off a shutout and is now 9-11-2 with a 91.6 SV% and a 3.07 GAA while Austin Roden has won two in a row and has a 91.7 SV% and a 3.11 GAA.
Puck drop 7pm, Pre Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or stream on your desktop or device at q101.ca.
With the World Junior A Challenge approaching, forward for the Merritt Centennials Rylan Van Unen has made it through selection camp in Calgary for Team Canada West and will be part of the main roster heading to Truro in Nova Scotia.
Head Coach of the Cents and Assistant Coach with Team Canada West Joe Martin says that Van Unen played his was onto the team.
"He played a simple game, finished a lot of body checks, scored a few goals on the second day of camp, his line was one of the best lines if not the best line that day, and that was impressive."
Through 26 games this season Van Unen has 12 points and is 3rd on the team in goals with 8.
Van Unen will get his next chance to impress when Team Canada West begins its quest for a 5th Gold medal against the Czech Republic on December 10.