The Merritt Centennials have their home finale tonight at the NVMA against the West Kelowna Warriors. The game is huge on the ice, and in the building the Cents will be celebrating the life of Ty Pozzobon while also having a Mental Health night in the arena.
The Cents still have an outside chance at catching the West Kelowna Warriors in the standings, but it starts with a win tonight. Combined with a win tomorrow night against Langley, and the Warriors losing their remaining game against the Silverbacks, the Cents could finish as high as 5th place in the Interior.
Merritt comes in red hot, unbeaten in their last 6, and the offense is coming to life as well fresh off a 7- 4 win on Tuesday, and a 6-1 win against the Silverbacks last night. Contributions are coming from everywhere and from unlikely sources: Mike Van Unen, who only had one goal on the year coming in, got two on the powerplay last night, Mathieu Gosselin, Jackson Munro, Brendan Scneider, and Matt Kopperud supplied the rest of the offense. Despite the huge win, the Cents had a big loss - a hit up high early to Captain Tyrell Buckley had him leave the game with the support of two team mates with concussion symptoms. Austin Roden continued his strong play stopping 25 of 26, continuing a 5 game unbeaten streak.
The Warriors are 3-4-1-0 in the month of February and are coming off a heart breaking 7-6 overtime loss to the Wenatchee Wild. The Warriors were leading 4-2 after two periods of play, before the Wild exploded for 4 goals in the 3rd. It was the Warriors who actually had to pull the goalie to tie the game late, and in overtime it was Matt Dorsey who beat Nic Amundrud to take it in the first overtime frame.
The Cents and Warriors last met in early February, where Merritt was victorious by a 6-3 score. It was the coming out party for what was then the newly minted line of Zach Risteau, Brendan Schneider and Zach Court - in the 9 games since, they've combined for 37 points. Rylan Van Unen and Risteau tallied in the first, Risteau added another in the second, as did Tyrell Buckley on the powerplay, and Brad Cocca and Brendan Schneider tallied in the third. RJ Murphy, Ryan Steele, and Chase Dubois had goals for the Warriors, Cole Demers took the loss, and Jacob Berger seized the win.
The Warriors are led by Chase Dubois with 57 points, Captain Jared Marino has 53, Ryan Steele has fit in well since coming over from the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and has 53 points, RJ Murphy as 44, and Mike Ryan is their leading defenseman with 42 points.
The Cents are getting contributions from up and down the line up, but the players that have shot up their point totals late in the season are Nick Wicks with 46, Zach Court with 41, Brendan Schneider with 36, and Zach Risteau is up to 20 poitns despite only playing in 19 games.
The special teams battle sees the Merritt Centennials also catching fire at the right time, now 4th on the powerplay at 21.3% while the Warriors are 6th with 20.4%. On the Penalty Kill, the Cents up to 6th at 83.2% while the Warriors are the worst team in the playoff picture at 16th with 76.7%.
In net, the Cents last saw Cole Demers of the Warriors, but with the game meaning so much we could see Nik Amundrud get the start. Amundrud is 16-16 with a 89.7 SV%, 3.44 GAA, and 1 shutout. Cole Demers is 10-10-0-1 with an 89.3 SV%, a 3.68 GAA, and 1 shutout. The Cents will have a similar decision to make between the pipes, as Austin Roden is red hot, but Jacob Berger also picked up a win his last time out. Roden 12-9-1-3 with a 93.1 SV%, a 2.41 GAA and 2 shutouts. Berger 13-21-2-0 with a 90.6 SV%, a 3.43 GAA, and 2 shutouts.
The Cents hope they can use the positive energy in the stands tonight to propel the to a W and stay hot heading into the post season.
Puck Drop 7pm at the NVMA, Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.