The Merritt Centennials look to continue to defend home ice in game 2 of the BCHL playoffs against the Trail Smoke Eaters tonight.
Last night the Cents were able to use the strengths of their game to their advantage: their speed, skill and depth up front were difference makers, and with the slate being wiped to zero their special teams have got a fresh look.
It was all Cents in the first 5 minutes of the game, but Trail bode their time and waited to strike on the counterattack and their first official shot on the night beat Austin Roden. Rookie Kent Johnson got a feed from behind the goal line and quickly put it upstairs blocker side to make it 1-0. The Cents had two powerplay opportunities late in the first, but couldn't make good and would have to settle for being down by one after period one.
The Cents regrouped and came out with fire in the second period, and this time they struck pay dirt early. Nick Wicks found Matt Kopperud at the top of the left circle and Kopperud unleashed a wrister that had enough mustard on it to roll over the glove of Buskey and into the net. Merritt wasn't done there as they'd convert with a Smoke Eater in the box when Mike Van Unen ripped a snap shot from the line that went top corner glove-side as well to give the Cents their first lead 2-1. Kopperud would score gain, in the same fashion, from almost the same spot with just under a minute to go in the 2nd to give the Cents the two goal edge, but Trail would pull back within one before the second was done with a deflection goal from Ghirardosi tome make it 3-2 after 2.
Despite playing with the lead, the Cents did a great job of staying on the attack for the majority of the period, and just like he's done all season when the Cents needed a big goal 'Game On' Nick Granowicz was there. Before Trail could even think of pulling the goalie to mount a comeback, Granowicz picked the pocket of Trevor Zins, skated in on Buskey, and made a tight move, backhand forehand up high to give the Cents a two-goal lead. From there the Cents would hang on for the victory.
The game plan for game 1 was pretty well a map for how the Centennials want to, and have to play moving forward. However, there were some lapses in their game that they will be looking to shore up. In talking to Head Coach Joe Martin after the game, he said that he'd like to see the Cents do better in the faceoff dot, and be a little tidier in their own zone, making the simple play to get out of danger. Losing a faceoff in the offensive or defensive zone means, working twice as hard to win the puck back, but there aren't too many teams better at it than the Merritt Centennials.
After having the slate wiped clean, the Cents special teams get a chance to be revitalized.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 33.3% (4th) Cents - 100% (3rd)
Trail - 0% (14th) Trail - 66.7% (11th)
With two goals in game 1 Matt Kopperud leads the charge for the Centennials, Brendan Schneider provided two assists, while Nick Granowicz, and Mike Van Unen provided the other offense on the night.
Trail got goals from Kent Johnson and Tyler Ghirardosi while Diarmad Dimurro set them both up with two helpers.
The goaltending battle will be much the same again tonight with Austin Roden and Donovan Buskey going toe to toe.
Roden is fresh off a commitment to Nebraska Omaha and is 1-0 in the playoffs with a .935 SV% and a 2.00 GAA.
Buskey is 0-1 with an .892 SV% and a 4.00 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin felt the pace was key in game 1.
"We definitely were playing the right way, but now we have to be ready for a team who's going to want it a little more tonight."
The Cents will hope to set the pace in game 2.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
Tonight is an Xplornet Game Day, fans can enter to win a 100 GC simply for checking out their booth, prizes and incentives if you spin their wheel!
Fans can pick up tickets for tonight's game from 3pm to 6pm at the NVMA box office. Get your tickets early, and pack the barn!