The Merritt Centennials (6-5) finish their road trip on Thanksgiving Sunday with a matinee matchup against the Surrey Eagles .
The Cents are coming off a loss to the last place Cowichan Valley Capitals, and learned that no team can be underestimated. The Capitals were able to use the strength of 3 powerplay goals to power past the Cents, and 3 goals were deflections in front leaving Austin Roden hopeless. The Cents tied the game at twos with goals from Mathieu Gosselin and Nick Granowicz, but weren't able to push for more as the Capitals used a late powerplay to gain the lead, and then added some insurance in the third period.
The Surrey Eagles aren't a team that should be underestimated as they've already proven to be a tough test against the Centennials this season. Back at the NVMA in the third game of the season, the Cents looked to be in the driver seat heading into the third period with a 5-1 lead, but the Eagles soared back in the third period and the final score was a barn burning 7-6. The game saw goals from Mathieu Gosselin, Rylan Van Unen, and Brendan Schneider who all had two while Daniel Tkac added his first of the season. The Cents will need to learn from their most recent loss, and their most recent matchup against the Eagles to get past a tough test in Surrey.
The Eagles have been making changes following a late in the off-season coaching change from Brandon West to Peter Schaeffer. Head Coach Schaeffer has been making personnel changes throughout the early goings of the season, and the Cents will face a very different looking Eagles team than the last time out. The Eagles started the season 0-5 before picking up their first win against the Vernon Vipers. They've also won games against the Prince George Spruce Kings and the surprising Coquitlam Express so they've proven they can beat top teams.
The Centennials have slipped to second in the Interior Division and with only two points seperating the top from the bottom of the division, the pressure is on to keep on winning. Once again, the Cents will be playing a team that is at the bottom of their respective division as the Eagles are 3-6, and are coming off a tight one goal loss. The Cents are 2nd in the league in goals for, and will face the only team in the league that's allowed more goals in the Surrey Eagles with 46. Goaltending continues to be an issue for the Cents as they haven't had one of their netminders really steal a game this year.
Brad Cocca still leads the Cents in scoring despite being held off the scoresheet last night, he has 14 points. Nick Granowicz has been the most consistent Cent on this road trip and is now up to 13 points. Nick Wicks, Brendan Schneider, and Mathieu Gosselin are all right behind with 11 points.
The Eagles have the highest flying goal scorer in the league in Ty Westgard with 18 points, and they traded their second highest scorer Eric Linell to the Penticton Vees this week, leaving Chase Stevenson as the other top threat with 10 points.
The special teams battle sees the Cents continue to struggle as well coming off a 1/7 performance, they've now slipped to 15.9% but remain in 10th spot league wide. The Eagles are last in the league with the man advantage with a 9.6% conversion rate, however, they have the top ranked penalty kill in the league at 88.9%. The Cents at the opposite end of the spectrum with the worst ranked penalty kill in the league at 73%
In net the Cents will hope for a better performance this afternoon as Vincent Duplessis could get the tap on the shoulder. Now 2-2 with a 3.13 GAA and an .888 SV% he has the better numbers. Austin Roden slips to 4-3 with a 4.14 GAA and a .877 SV%. The Eagles have made some moves in net acquiring Cayden Bailey who is 2-4 wtih a 3.43 GAA and a .908 SV%. Daniel Davidson is the other option with a 1-2 record, a 4.66 GAA, and an .879 SV%.
Head Coach Joe Martin understands that this is an Eagles team that continues to improve.
"This team gave us a run for our money the last time out, and they've been making changes to make their team better, so we have to be better against them."
Puck Drop 4pm. Pre-Game 3:45 on Q101.1FM and online at q101.ca with Jared Thomas.