The Merritt Centennials are looking for to string their first winning streak of the season together as they hit the road to take on the Salmon Arm Silverbacks tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a clutch performance against the reigning BCHL Champion Wenatchee Wild. Despite giving up 3 goals on the powerplay in the first, the Cents kept pace with 3 goals at even strength from Rylan Van Unen, Mathieu Gosselin, and the first in the BCHL from Brett Roloson. In the second, the Cents capitalized on a powerplay courtesy Brendan Schneider, then the Wild tied it at 4 before Matt Kopperud helped the Cents pull away with 2 goals of his own. In the third, Nic Granowicz added his first of the year by popping one off the backside of Cal Sandquist who came into the game in relief for starter Austin Park. The Wild pulled within two, but thanks to some tenacious penalty killing from the Centennials late they hung on for the 7-5 victory.
These teams met in the first game of the year, and despite a strong start by the Centennials, the Silverbacks found a way back into the game. Rylan Van Unen had the first goal of the year, and he leads the Centennials in goals with 4, and Frazer Dodd added his first goal in the BCHL as well in a first period that was all Cents. However, in the second the Centennials ran into penalty trouble and the Silverbacks used the powerplay to tie the game up at 2, and used the residual momentum to take the lead on a play on the rush. That spelled the end of the night for Vincent Duplessis who hasn't seen the crease since, but may be poised for a return tonight. In the final frame, the Silverbacks added another on the powerplay past Austin Roden to take the game by a 4-2 final.
During those first two games of the season the Centennials were having trouble finding the back of the net, and finding it past the first period of play, but the last two wins have been a completely different story as they've put up 14 goals and early in the season have scored the most goals in the league with 18. Goals against continues to be something the Cents are working on, and as the team defense starts to come together with a little more confidence at the goaltending position that should take care of itself. After four games this year, the team finds itself at the .500 mark, something they seemed to be chasing all year long last season and never really managed to hang on to. To get ahead in the win column early would take a weight off the minds of players, coaches, and fans alike.
The Salmon Arm Silverbacks have had a lighter schedule than the Centennials so far to begin the season as they've only seen action in two games. Their second game of the year came last night against the Trail Smoke Eaters in Trail so they will be operating on short rest for tonight's match. Special teams loomed large as the 'Backs had both a powerplay and a shorthanded goal, however the Smokies had 3 powerplay markers and 1 shorthanded goal to outshine the 'Backs 6-3. Devin Chapman took the loss for the 'Backs making 22 saves on 28 shots while Adam Marcoux got the win for Trail.
The Centennials continue to struggle on special teams despite having some good looks with the man advantage are sitting at 8%, the lowest of any team that has scored a powerplay goal. The penalty kill seemed to turn a page last night against the Wild and looks to improve from a 72.7% which is 12th in the league. The Silverbacks are doing well on special teams in the small sample size. 5th on the powerplay with 30.8%, and 8th on the penalty kill with an 80.3% kill rate.
In net the Cents have been outscoring their opponents to capture victories so far. Austin Roden is 2-1 with a with an .855 SV% and a 4.55 GAA. Vincent Duplessis is 0-1 with a 5.98 GAA and a .875 SV%. The Silverbacks got a great performance from rookie Ethan Langennegger against the Cents who is 1-0 with a .931 SV% and a 2.00 GAA. Devin Chapman got shelled against the Smoke Eaters and is 0-1 with a .786 SV% and a 6.00 GAA.
After the game last night Head Coach Joe Martin said the teams will need to switch gears a little bit for the visit to Salmon Arm.
"We've had a good run at home here, and we've come away with a couple wins, but it's been a while since we've been on the road and we have to play a solid road style game against the Silverbacks to keep this streak going."
The Cents will aim to keep that win streak alive when they face off against the Silverbacks in Salmon Arm tonight.
Puck drop from the Shaw Centre 7pm. Pre-Game at 6:45 on Q101.1FM, or online at Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.