The Merritt Centennials (42-15-4-3) get set for another Interior Division Showdown against the Trail Smoke Eaters (22-23-7-3) tonight.
The Centennials are riding high after picking up their first win against the Penticton Vees in nearly two years last night. The Cents got a first period goal from Daniel Tkac after he stripped a defender and then ripped a wrist shot blocker-side on Jack LaFontaine to make it 1-0. The Cents would add some offense in the second on the rare penalty shot. Rylan Van Unen was hauled down as he went to the net, and took the defender, himself, and LaFontaine for a ride into the end boards. LaFontaine looked hurt on the play, but elected to stay in for the penalty shot. Van Unen showed him no mercy coming in with speed on the right side before making quick moves across the crease, finishing forehand and putting it over the blocker of LaFontaine for the 2-0 lead. LaFontaine would be replaced by Derek Krall shortly thereafter. The Vees got on the board off a lucky bounce, but Nick Granowicz regained the two goal lead before the end of the period with a nifty move in tight to make it 3-1 after 2. The Cents tallied early in the third period on the powerplay as Matt Kopperud and Jackson Munro played give and go before Kopperud deked backhand and upstairs to make it 4-1. The Vees then came at the Cents hard throwing 30 shots on net in the third period alone, but Austin Roden with the help of the defense, and some timely posts was able to hold the Vees to just one goal and the Cents hung on for the 4-2 win. Roden made 53/55 saves in the first star effort.
The Trail Smoke Eaters are riding a bit of a high themselves, coming in on a three game win streak that included an overtime victory against Penticton on Wednesday. Trails most recent win came against the Langley Rivermen last night 4-2, young gun Kent Johnson scored two goals in the first period to set the Smokies up well moving forward. Dafoe and Jones added goals for Trail as they overcame some rough stuff against the Rivermen to win.
The season series between the two clubs sits at 3-0-2 for the Cents with both losses coming in overtime, one in the shootout. The most recent game in Trail saw the teams get early goals in the first with Brendan Schneider and Brett Roloson scoring for the Cents to make it 2-2 after one. Then the teams were starved for offense all the way until the final horn, when OT solved nothing the teams went to the shootout and it was Kent Johnson who sealed the victory for Trail with a deadly move to give them the 3-2 edge.
Brad Cocca should have gotten an assist last night on the Granowicz goal, but has yet to get credit so remains at 62 points. Nick Granowicz is now on the precipice of the 30 goal plateau with 29, and 55 points for 17th league-wide, and Nick Wicks is tied for 20th at 54 points.
The Smoke Eaters are led by Carter Jones with 51 points, Chase Stevenson has 49 points, and rookie Kent Johnson has 44 points.
The special teams battle sees Trail with one of the top powerplays.
Powerplay Penalty Kill:
Trail - 22.2% (4th) Trail - 78.3% (11th)
Cents - 18.6% (13th) Cents - 77.5% (12th)
In net Austin Roden is coming off a first star performance with 53/55 saves. He's now 23-8-3 with a .909 SV%, a 3.01 GAA, and 2 shutouts. AP Jackson Glassford continues to serve as back up in the absence of Vincent Duplessis.
Adam Marcoux has been the guy in Trail this year and is 16-22 with a .893 SV% and a 3.13 GAA. Donovan Buskey came in at the trade deadline from the WHL and is 4-2 with a .884 SV%, and a 3.67 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin knows that the Smoke Eaters are a dangerous team.
"They've got a good mixture of speed, size, and skill and can hurt you on the rush. They're on a bit of a run right now, and we need to be ready at home."
The Cents will try and prove how dangerous they can be tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.