The Merritt Centennials will look to shake off some road rust as they take on the Vernon Vipers tonight.
The Cents are coming off a 3-1 loss in Prince George and their previous road trip was a long one to Trail where they fell 2-1 in overtime. Needless to say the offense has been hard to come by as teams are focusing in on the Cents top scoring threats in Brad Cocca, Nick Granowicz, and Mathieu Gosselin. Prince George was able to get out to an early start in the first scoring on a goal mouth scramble, a rush on the powerplay, and an off-speed back hand on a partial break away. After 1, Prince George was in the driver seat up 3-0 and they had chased Vincent Duplessis from the net after he allowed 3 goals on 15 shots. Austin Roden came into the net, and stood on his head in relief stopping all 29 shots he faced, making big stops when the Cents were pushing for the comeback. Mathieu Gosselin broke Logan Neaton's goose egg in the third, but the Cents couldn't muster any more offense.
The Cents get ready to take on the Vernon Vipers and lead the season series 2-1. The team's exchanged 5-2 wins in each other's barns early in the season, and the most recent match up came earlier in November where the Cents edged the Vipers 4-3 at home. The Cents never trailed in the game, but the Vipers were always quick to tie it. Matt Kopperud, Christian Sabin, Nick Wicks, and Nick Granowicz tallied for the Cents, and tonight will mark the return of Matt Kopperud from a 4-game suspension for a high hit against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
The Vipers are coming off a weekend split. They were shutout against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on home ice, but then shutout the Trail Smoke Eaters the following night. Jesse Landsdell had the lone goal for the Vipers on the weekend, as they continue to struggle to put pucks in the net. They have an even goal differential and have scored 79, while allowing 79. The 79 goals for ranks 13th in the league, but the 79 against is 3rd best. The Cents are at the other end of the spectrum, their 114 goals for is 2nd best in the league, but their 102 goals against has them in 13th position.
The Cents got contributions from Nick Wicks and Mathieu Gosselin on the scoreboard on Wednesday, but Brad Cocca still leads the way with 41 points. Nick Granowicz has fallen to 5th with 38 points, and Mathieu Gosselin is 13th with 34 points. The Cents could be in tough during December if both Brad Cocca and Mathieu Gosselin succeed in making it onto Team Canada West for the World Junior A Challenge. They have both been invited to camp next week.
The Vipers are defender Jack Judson with 21 points, then they have Josh Latta, Captain Jagger Williamson, and Matt Kowalski all tied with 19 points.
The special teams battle sees the Vipers with the edge, although in the last match the Cents went 3/5 and the Vipers went 0/4.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Vipers - 19.5% (6th) Vipers - 80.7% (11th)
Cents - 16.7% (15th) Cents - 76.5% (15th)
In net the Cents are coming off a game where both goalies saw action. Vincent Duplessis shouldered the loss and stopped 12/15. He is now 6-4-2 with a .904 SV% and a 3.30 GAA. Austin Roden saw relief duty and stopped 29/29 and is now 12-5 with a .901 SV%, a 3.32 GAA, and 1 shutout. The Vipers have been getting solid contributions from rookie Aiden Porter who is 7-12 with a .905 SV%, a 2.79 GAA and 3 shutouts. Vernon also acquired Bradley Cooper from the Prince George Spruce Kings earlier this week. He is 3-5 with a .914 SV%, a 2.28 GAA, and 2 shutouts.
Head Coach Joe Martin feels that the game in Prince George was a good precursor for the match against Vernon.
"These two teams play a similar style. Vernon will try and frustrate you as well. Our guys need to be patient, and realize that something special isn't going to happen every time you go down the ice."
The Cents will hope for a special effort to come away with the win tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.