The Merritt Centennials (34-15-4-3) square off with the Mainland's Langley Rivermen (26-26-2-1) tonight.
The Cents are coming off a tidy win against the West Kelowna Warriors. They gained the lead just 43 seconds in thanks to some work in front by Mathieu Gosselin and Nick Granowicz. Granowicz was able to find the rebound off a Goose shot to open the scoring. Gosselin would add to the lead midway through the first period after Talon Zakall made a well timed pinch at the right point, spotted Granowicz back door, and he found Gosselin in front for the tap in between the legs to make it 2-0. The Cents got a little undisciplined in the first and gave up a powerplay goal to the Warriors to bring them within one. After a scoreless second period, the Cents came to life in the third. Brad Cocca joined his linemates on the goal front by chipping one up and over Hopkins from inside the blue paint, and Gosselin added his 2nd of the night on a powerplay sniping short-side high to make it 4-1. Gosselin picked up 2 goals and 2 assists for the first star nod, while Austin Roden stopped 38/39 shots in net.
The Rivermen are on a bit of a slide of late. Since losing to the Cents on January 27th 4-1, they went on an 8 game losing skid before finally righting the ship against the Vernon Vipers with a 4-2 victory in their most recent contest. Despite the losing streak, the Rivermen are a team that's to be respected as they also have the size and grit to try and grind down opponents. Merritt will have to be careful to play clean, take advantage on the powerplay, and keep their heads up to avoid injury.
The season series between the two clubs sits a 1-1. The Rivermen won way back at the BCHL showcase 4-2, but in the most recent contest the Cents won 4-1. Wicks scored two goals late in the 1st period just over a minute apart, and Kopperud and Dal Monte added powerplay goals early in the third for the Cents to secure the victory. The Cents got 11 powerplay opportunities in the game, and converted on 3.
The Cents now have 5 players that have eclipsed the 50 point plateau, and have 4 players in the top 20 in scoring, the only team in the BCHL that can boast that stat. Brad Cocca leads the way with 66 points for 6th in league scoring. Nick Granowicz is 13th in the BCHL with 59 points. Mathieu Gosselin made a surge after a 4 point night on Tuesday to get to 58 points and 16th, while Nick Wicks has 57 points for 19th. Matt Kopperud is the other Cents scorer above 50 points with 51.
By comparison the Rivermen only have 4 skaters with over 30 points. Ethan Leyh leads the way with 39, defender Jake Livingstone has 36, and Trevor Ayre and Daneel Lategan are tied with 33 points.
The teams split the special teams battle as the Rivermen are a Jekyll and Hyde team depending on which unit is out there.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 18.8% (12th) LAN - 83.5% (3rd)
LAN - 17% (16th) Cents - 77.3% (12th)
Between the pipes, the Cents have been getting a string of stellar performances from Austin Roden. Roden is now 25-8-3 with a .910 SV%, a 2.96 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Liam McGarva was the backup on Tuesday as the Cents continue to miss Vincent Duplessis.
The Rivermen's Braedon Flemming is 18-19 with a .903 SV%, 2.82 GAA, and 4 shutouts. New back up Shayne Battler is 8-6 with a .906SV%, a 2.63 GAA, and 1 shutout.
Head Coach Joe Martin knows the Rivermen won't be an easy out.
"This is a team that makes life hard for opponents with their size and grit, we need to focus on our game of speed and skill."
The Cents will try and make it look easy tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101,1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.