The 2nd in the Interior Division Merritt Centennials (28-13-4-2) take on their rival and 3rd in the Interior Wenatchee Wild (26-17-2-3) tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a week that saw them pick of 5 of a possible 6 points, and now have points in 11 straight games. The team their facing tonight is the team they kicked the week off against last Wednesday, and a strong start saw them through the game. Getting goals from Brad Cocca, Joey Berkopec, and Mathieu Gosselin in the first plus some solid goaltending from Austin Roden helped give the Cents a 3-0 lead after 1. They were able to coast on the merits of that first period while cashing in a two-on-one from Payton Matsui in the 2nd, a PP goal from Mike Van Unen in the third, and an empty netter by Matt Kopperud to keep the Wild at bay 6-3. That win was the first in regulation for the Centennials in 2019.
Merritt wasn't able to continue the regulations win streak on Friday against the Chiefs, but they did pick up an ever-valuable point in an OT loss. Despite never trailing the Chiefs until the final buzzer, the Cents managed two OT losses in the past two weeks. This time it was a much more defensive affair, as the Cents lost 3-2. Gosselin scored a highlight reel goal for the Cents in the 2nd period, but the Chiefs pushed hard early in the third, and the game was tied at 2's after the first 5 minutes. In extra time, the Chiefs were able to score on a 4-on-3 PP to pick up the win.
The Cents finished out the week against the Langley Rivermen, and despite the game having a hard edge, the Cents persevered. They went 3/11 on the powerplay, and were able to control the majority of the game simply by staying out of the box. Nick Wicks tallied two goals in the first period, Kopperud added one in the third, and Mattias Dal Monte registered a blast from the point as well as dropping the gloves in a late tussle. The 4-1 win was just the second regulation win for the Cents this new year.
The Wild come in on a bit of a skid. They looked human against the Centennials last week in the 6-3 loss. The usual fleet of foot Wild didn't apply the forecheck quite as heavily as in games passed, and didn't look as dangerous on the rush. A big part of that was the goaltending of Austin Roden however. Wenatchee have lost 4 of their last 5, and in two of those games they were the victim of the shootout. The Wild still represent a very skilled hockey club that is poised for a bounce back game, and the Cents need to have the effort required to make sure the bounce back doesn't come tonight.
The Cents continue to be led by Brad Cocca with 54 points which is 7th in the league, and Nick Granowicz has 49 points for 15th, but with his stellar play of late Captain Nick Wicks is up to 49 points, and Mathieu Gosselin is into the top 20 with 47 points. Matt Kopperud is also over the 40 point plateau with 42 points. All of these players are operating at over a point per game clip for the Cents.
The Wild are led by forward Matt Gosiewski with 45 points, Captain Lucas Sowder has 42, and Murphy Stratton has 40 points.
The special teams battle sees the Cents with a rare edge on the powerplay.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 18.7% (14th) Cents - 76.1% (14th)
Wild - 18.4% (16th) Wild - 82.1% (6th)
The goaltending duel sees both Cents netminders starting to heat up at the right time. Vincent Duplessis is coming off a first star performance against the Langley Rivermen and is 9-5-3 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA. Austin Roden is riding a point streak that hasn't seen him lose a game in regulation since mid-December. Roden is 19-7-2 with a .902 SV%, a 3.16 GAA, and 1 shutout.
Cal Sandquist has the slightly better stats than his counterpart Austin Park. Sandquist is 11-8 with a .883 SV% and a 2.56 GAA. Park is 15-11 with a .878 SV% and a 2.94 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin says the Wild still present a big challenge for the Cents.
"They're on a bit of a slump right now, but their team speed and skill can carry them through games. Our start will be key on Wednesday."
The Cents will hope to be up for the challenge tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.