The 2nd in the Interior Merritt Centennials (27-13-3-2) head down to the Fraser Valley to take on the BCHL leading Chilliwack Chiefs (32-12-1-0).
The Cents are coming off their first game in 2019 that didn't require overtime. On the road in Wenatchee, the Cents mustered their best 1st period of 2019 and matched their best game on the powerplay in 2019 to get past the Wild 6-3. Brad Cocca sniped a PP goal early, Berkopec banged one home in the blue paint, and Gosselin batted the puck out of mid-air on the powerplay to make it 3-0 Cents after 1. The second period saw Payton Matsui convert on a 2on1 with Daniel Tkac to make it 4-1. The third saw the Wild begin to mount a come back, but goals from Mike Van Unen on the powerplay and an empty netter from Matt Kopperud put an end to that. Austin Roden was spectacular in net again for the Cents stopping 27/30 shots in a first star performance.
The Chiefs are coming off a 4-3 loss to the Coquitlam Express on home ice. It was the first time the Express had won in Chilliwack since the 2014 season. The Cents were able to win their last year by a score of 5-2.
You don't have to have a long memory to recall the last meeting between these two clubs. It happened just last Thursday, and was a heart breaking loss in OT. Ben Ward, Frazer Dodd, and Brendan Schneider all tallied for the Cents, but the Chiefs were able to tie it in the final minute of play to force extra time. In overtime, it was a dreaded own-goal that made the loss extra tough to swallow with the puck going in off a Merritt defender in the 4-3 loss.
The Cents are starting to regain their offensive stride after a 6-3 victory. Brad Cocca has 2 goals in his last 2 games and is up to 54 points - 5th in the BCHL. Nick Granowicz has been held off the score sheet for a couple games, but his linemates are scoring. He has 48 points for 13th in the league. Captain Nick Wicks continues to set up his team mates and now has 47 points for 17th in the BCHL.
The Chilliwack Chiefs have 3 players in the top-20 as well. Matt Holmes has 55 points for 4th league-wide. Harrison Blaisdell has reached 50 and is 10th, and Kevin Wall has 48 points and is 14th in scoring.
The special teams battle sees the Cents coming off one of their best efforts of the season, but the Chiefs are one of the best teams in the BCHL.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Chiefs - 21.7% (4th) Chiefs - 83.7% (4th)
Cents - 18.7% (13th) Cents - 75.9% (15th)
The goaltending match up sees Austin Roden coming off a pair of impressive starts. He's now 19-6-2 with a .903 SV%, a 3.17 GAA, and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis is 8-5-3 witha .904 SV% and a 3.34 GAA. Daniel Chenard got the start the last time these two teams met and he's 4-4 with a .863 SV% and a 3.94 GAA. Nolan Hildebrand is 10-2 with a .884 SV% and a 3.25 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin knows the strength of Chilliwack is their forward group.
"You look at their group from top to bottom and it's one of the best in the league. They like to hurt you with nifty drop passes, and hitting players that are coming onto the puck with speed. We have to tighten our gaps and be ready."
The Cents will try and prove their forward group are no slouches either tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV and Q101 Merritt with Jared Thomas.