Merritt Centennials
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The Centennials continue their quest after Christmas to find a win, and tonight they'll face the tall task of beating the league leaders, and a team that's had their number so far this season, the Vernon Vipers.

After going 5-2 before Christmas, the Cents have dropped two in a row to the Coquitlam Express. The Vipers went 5-2 through December with one of those wins coming over the Cents, a 4-2 victory at Kal Tire Place, but it's interesting to note that their two losses in December came against Coquitlam, and Salmon Arm. Salmon Arm will be the next team on tap, tomorrow at home. 

The Cents have yet to win a game against the Vipers this season despite being in every match up. They lost 2-0 early in the season, 3-2 in November, and 4-2 in December. That 4-2 game on December 15th, saw the Centennials as the ones causing puck drop delays as the bus had electrical issues and the team had to wait for a new bus. However, when the puck did drop at 7:55 it was the Centennials who had the giddy up in the first and jumped out to the 2-0 lead. The second and third belonged to the Vipers, and they were able to strike 4 times over the two periods to complete the comeback. Jagger Williamson and Josh Prokop each had 3 point nights. 

Since that mid-December clash, the Vipers have made some changes to their lineup, adding Cameron Trott after he spent the first half of the season with Alaska Anchorage in the NCAA. A big defender at 6'3 205 pounds, he's played over 110 games in the BCHL and has already slid right back in with the snakes. They also pulled off a deal to bring even more skill into the lineup by acquiring Josh Latta from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in exchange for Brandon Whistle. Latta has 35 points in 64 career BCHL games including 11 points in 18 games this year with the 'Backs. 

On the Vipers he's just another depth piece as they're led in points by Jimmy Lambert (44), Brett Stapley (39), Jagger Williamson (39), Jesse Landsdell (34), and Josh Prokop (31). That's 6 skaters over 30 points, 10 over 20, and 13 with over 10. The Cents by comparison have Zach Zorn and Henry Cleghorn over 30, 7 skaters over 20, and 14 over 10 points on the year, and prove that depth wise they matchup well against the Vipers.The Cents will feel like they've acquired a new player, as Rylan Van Unen will make his return to the lineup for the first time since late November, after getting selected to and winning a gold medal with Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge. 

Vernon is now 7th in the league with the man advantage at 19.9%, the Cents have been snake bitten since Christmas going 0-for in their last two games, and have fallen to 10th at 18.2%. On the penalty kill, the Cents still looking for a perfect game since Christmas as they've surrendered 3 powerplay goals in two games and sit at 10th with 81.6%, the Vipers in 6th with 83%. 

In net, the Vipers boast the top tandem in the league with Anthony Yamnitsky and Ty Taylor. Taylor has now unseated Penticton's Adam Scheel as the top goalie in the BCHL with a record of 15-2-0-3, a 92.3 SV%, a 1.94 GAA, and 4 shutouts. Yamnitsky is 11-7-0-1 with a 91.8%, a 2.15 GAA, and 2 shutouts. A tall task no matter who is in net. The Cents likely to go back to Jake Berger after Austin Roden got the start against the Express on Wednesday. Berger now 10-14-2-0 with a 90.8 SV% a 3.31 GAA and 2 shutouts. Roden 4-2-0-1 in a Cents uniform, 93.4 SV% and a 2.66 GAA. 

In preparing for the Vipers, Head Coach Joe Martin says that all the games coming up count. 

"It's not just against the Vipers, these games against Coquitlam were big, Salmon Arm is big. All these games coming up are big." 

The Cents will need to come up big to top the top team in the league tonight. 

Listen live on Q101.1FM, 7pm puck drop, 6:45 pre game with Jared Thomas, or online at Q101.ca. 

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