The Centennials look for their first win of the season tonight as they host the Surrey Eagles.
The opening weekend didn't go to plan as the Cents saw two strong first period efforts undone by poor stretches of play that allowed the opposing team to take control of the game. In Salmon Arm, it was a 5 minute stretch of the second period where the 'Backs were able to use the powerplay to pull themselves out of a 2-0 deficit and into a 3-2 lead. At home against the Vernon Vipers, it was just a couple minor mistakes that were fully taken advantage of. However, neither game resulted in what the Cents were looking for - a win. Special teams played a factor in the result of both games with the Cents going 0/7 against the 'Backs and 1/6 against the Vipers with the man advantage while surrendering a total of 4 goals on the penalty kill throughout the weekend. The Cents lost 4-2 in Salmon Arm, and 5-2 at home at the hands of the Vernon Vipers. Bright spots throughout the weekend were newly minted Captain, Nick Wicks, line mate Rylan Van Unen, former affiliate Frazer Dodd and some encouraging play from rookies Daniel Tkac, Brett Roloson and Talon Zakall.
The Surrey Eagles find themselves in the same boat as the Merritt Centennials after the first weekend of the BCHL season. Despite out shooting the Coquitlam Express in their home-opener the Eagles also couldn't take advantage of the powerplay going 0/6 and falling 4-2. Similarly to the Cents, the Eagles also faced a much stiffer test in game 2 of the weekend when the Wenatchee Wild came to town. The Eagles led heading into the second period, but the Wild exploded for 5 goals to put themselves in the drivers seat. The Wild didn't look back in a 6-3 win. Much like the Cents, the Eagles are hungry for their first win of the season.
The Centennials and Eagles only meet 2 times during the regular season. Last year, the Cents took both matchups, including their first win of the year after starting 0-6 - a 2-1 victory with former Eagle, Colten Gerlib, providing the game winning goal. The Cents also took the game on the coast by a 5-3 final during an Island road trip that saw them kick start their season. Needless to say, the Centennials cemented some key victories over the Eagles last year, and hope to get another one tonight.
Special teams may be where the game is won and lost. Neither team has been spectacular so far, the Centennials have the worst percentage in the BCHL in terms of teams that have scored on the powerplay with 6.3%, and this comes despite having the most opportunities with the extra man with 16. The Eagles have yet to score a powerplay goal, and despite 6 opportunities against the Express in game 1 of their season, the clean-checking Wild only supplied them with one opportunity. On the penalty kill, the Cents and Eagles are tied at 71.4% over their two games, but once again the Centennials have also been the team with the most time spent in the box with 14 minors called against them.
Both goaltenders have seen the crease for the Centennials on opening weekend. Vincent Duplessis got the start in the season opener against Salmon Arm, but was pulled after allowing 3 goals in quick succession, however, it was a move made to stem momentum not necessarily because of poor play. He made 20 saves on 23 shots for .913 SV%, but because of his half game in net has a bloated 4.01 GAA. Austin Roden came into the season opener half way through the game and allowed one goal, but had 5 get past him in the home opener against Vernon and sits with an 0-1 record a 4.66 GAA and a .868 SV%. The Surrey Eagles have only had one goaltender suit up for them so far, former Wenatchee Wild puckstopper, Seth Eisele. He is 0-2 with a 4.05 GAA and a .871 SV%. Whichever team gets the better goaltending may get the better result.
After the game against the Vipers, Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin said that he needs the full 60 minute effort from the full lineup.
"We are getting a solid effort from some of the guys at the top of our line up, and we're getting a solid effort from some of the guys trying to make a name for themselves, but we haven't seen a full team effort yet, and we haven't seen a full game effort yet."
The Centennials will hope that after the full 60 minutes of play tonight, they're victorious over the Surrey Eagles.
Puck drop 7pm at the NVMA, Pre-Game at 6:45 on Q101.1FM and online at Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.