The Merritt Centennials (9-6) welcome their division rivals the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (6-5-1) to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena for a midweek matchup tonight.
The Cents are coming off an impressive weekend that saw them score 17 goals over 2 games. They stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to down the West Kelowna Warriors 8-4, and they stormed out to a 3-0 lead in the first 3 minutes against the Cowichan Valley Capitals and didn't look back winning 9-1. Brad Cocca and Mathieu Gosselin earned honorable mentions in the BCHL's Player of the Week honors. Cocca had 4 goals and 3 assists and has moved into 1st place in scoring league-wide with 22 points. Mathieu Gosselin had 1 goal and 5 assists during a stellar offensive week for the Cents. A number of rookie Centennials also got on the scoresheet for the first time: Brady Ziemer scored his first goal in the BCHL on Friday, Vincent Guy had a goal and an assist as well. On Sunday, Mattias Dal Monte had his first goal of the season, and rookie Ben Ward got two primary assists for his first points of the year. With all the scoring on the weekend, everyone who doesn't man the crease now has a point on the roster.
The Salmon Arm Silverbacks have gone 3-2 in their last 5 games, but last weekend they went 1-1. They defeated the Penticton Vees in a shootout on home ice 3-2, but got soundly thumped by the Prince George Spruce Kings 5-0 the following night. The Silverbacks have proven they can beat top clubs this season, but haven't been able to get on a roll as they haven't won more or lost more than 2 games in a row this season.
The Cents and Silverbacks have already clashed twice this season. The Cents lost the season opener in Salmon Arm 4-2 before getting some revenge the following weekend in a 5-2 victory. This game will be the first to be played at the NVMA, and for a much younger Silverbacks squad it may prove to be a difficult place to play as we saw with the West Kelowna Warriors and the Cowichan Valley Capitals this weekend.
The Cents now have 3 players in the top ten in BCHL scoring: Brad Cocca sits in first with 22 points, Mathieu Gosselin is 6th with 18 points and Nick Granowicz is in the 10 spot with 16 points.
The Silverbacks are led by rookie Matthew Verboon and veteran Justin Wilson who each have 12 points, followed by Noah Wakeford who has 10.
The special teams battle sees the Cents starting to make up some ground, but the edge will still go to the Silverbacks. The 'Backs are 6th in the league with a 20% conversion rate on the powerplay,and are 8th in the league on the penalty kill at 84.1%. The Cents improve to 11th on the powerplay with a 16.5% conversion rate, but have gotten out of the basement in regards to the penalty kill at 73.2% edging the West Kelowna Warriors.
In net the Cents are starting to get some solid performances from both goaltenders. Austin Roden has rattled off two wins in a row and is now 6-3 with an .880 SV% and a 3.74 GAA. Vincent Duplessis is 3-3 with a .885 SV% and a 3.57 GAA. The Silverbacks have really leaned on rookie Ethan Langenegger in net as he's 5-5 with a 2.96GAA and a .917 SV%. Devin Chapman has only seen the net in two games going 1-1 with a .875 SV% and a 3.75 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin says the Cents will have to be ready for the size of the Silverbacks and the youth they have in the line up.
"The Silverbacks definitely have the size to play a solid game here at the NVMA, and they've got a lot of younger guys that are just excited to play so they'll make for a hard game."
Tonight is Fortis BC night at the arena, and their events team will be on hand giving out free swag to attendees who come visit their booth in the Mezzanine.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM or online at Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.