The Merritt Centennials search for their first win in three tries as they take to the road to face the Vernon Vipers.
The Centennials look to rebound after dropping two in a row, the most recent loss coming last night to the Penticton Vees. A moving opening ceremony to the Humboldt Broncos, First Responders, and long-time bus driver Steve Rose kicked the game off, but it was the Vees who kicked into gear first. An early goal from Mason Snell got the Vees started, and they didn't look back scoring 4 in the first period. Goaltender Austin Roden gave way to Vincent Duplessis after stopping 13/17 shots. Duplessis was far less busy than his counterpart as he only faced 10 shots throughout the rest of the game as the Cents began to turn it on in the final 2 periods. However, Derek Krall, the goalie for the Vees, was able to keep the Cents attackers at bay for most of the second as only Brad Cocca managed to beat him on the rush. In the third, the Cents tried to turn up the heat, and managed to get within two with goals to make things interesting. Rylan Van Unen and Brendan Schneider had the markers in the third, but Andre Ghantous scored a late one on the powerplay to make it a 6-3 final.
The last time the Centennials had dropped two in a row this season was at the hand of the Vernon Vipers in their home opener. Captain Nick Wicks provided the offense for the Centennials as they only managed 2 goals and fell victim to some timely scoring from the Vipers 5-2.
Last season the Cents only managed one win in five attempts, and couldn't best the Vipers on their home ice. However, the Vipers are short manned, last night they dressed ten forwards and 8 defenseman, and have lost the services of standout forward Josh Prokop to the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. Despite that, the Snakes still managed to top the Wenatchee Wild at home last night 2-0.
Head Coach of the Vees, Fred Harbison, described the Interior Division as a dog fight this year, and the Cents and Vipers are in the midst of that fight as only 4 points separate the top of the division from the bottom. The Vipers at 3-2-2 have crept above the Centennials for 3rd in the division, while the Cents have slipped to 4th with a 4-4 record.
Brad Cocca continues to lead the way for the Centennials after adding a goal last night for 10 points. Nick Granowicz, Matt Kopperud, and Mathieu Gosselin are all doing their part to supply some offense with 9 points a piece. Josh Latta and Jack Judson are the leaders for the Vipers with 5 points followed by Alex Swetlikoff, Michael Young, and Elan Bar Lev Wise with 4 points.
The special teams battle saw the Centennials take a step back as they went 0/7 with the extra man last night and are now 15th in the league at 11.6% while the Vipers are 11th at 13.8%. The Cents tallied their first shorthanded goal last night, but gave up 2 goals on 5 opportunities, and are 15th in the league now at 76.5%. The Vipers penalty kill is good enough for 8th in the BCHL at 82.1%.
The goaltending battle sees the Cents looking to put aside the troubles of last night and move forward. Austin Roden is now 4-2 with a .874 SV% and a 4.12 GAA. Vincent Duplessis is 0-2 with a 3.71 GAA and a .871 SV%. The Vipers have two new goaltenders in the crease this season and rookie Aidan Porter is 2-3 with a .918 SV% and a 2.40 GAA. Aidan Hosein is 1-1 with a 3.48 GAA and a 833 SV%.
Head Coach Joe Martin says that the Vipers may have lost some pieces but are still a great team that will provide stiff competition.
"They've lost Josh Prokop to the WHL, but I think just like we saw with Talon Zakall, they have players in their organization who can step up when given the opportunity for more ice time."
The Cents will look to be on top after ice time concludes tonight against the Vipers.
Puck Drop 6pm, Pre-Game 5:45 on Hockey TV, Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.