The Merritt Centennials (1-4) look to return to the win column when they storm the Poirier Sports and Leisure Complex to take on the Coquitlam Express (4-1) tonight.
The Centennials are coming off an up and down weekend that saw them have their best game of the year against the West Kelowna Warriors, and follow that up with one of their worst efforts against the Wenatchee Wild. Against the Warriors, the Cents surrendered a goal early, but were able to battle back with a goal from Brett Roloson to make it 1-1. The Warriors regained the lead in the first, but from the 2nd period on it was all Centennials. A powerplay goal from Thomas Manty leveled the score at 2, and in the 3rd the Cents added two more - one from Daniel Tkac and the other from Payton Matsui to make it a 4-2 final. After the road trip to Wenatchee, the Cents came out of the gates a little flat they surrendered the opening tally 2:47 into the game, and were down by 3 before they answered the bell. Daniel Tkac sniped a centering feed from Brett Roloson up top to make it 3-1, and in the third converted on a penalty shot to bring the Cents within one. Despite being outshot by over 30, the Cents were in it with a chance to win. Unfortunately, Wenatchee would convert on a powerplay goal, and then ice the game with an empty netter to make it a 5-2 final.
The Coquitlam Express are off to a great start and are the current leaders of the Mainland Division. Head Coach Jason Fortier is into full year number two as bench boss of the Express, after he took over from the Centennials current coach Barry Wolff. Head Coach Wolff might have a little extra on the line against his former team. Last weekend the Express had a triple-header that saw them lose 6-1 in Langley, but follow it up with a 3-2 win over Chilliwack, and a 5-1 win over the defending Champion Spruce Kings. With the Spruce Kings and Chiefs in a slight rebuilding year, the Mainland Division is wide open for a surge from Coquitlam.
Last season the Cents went 2-0 against the Express. Winning the game in Coquitlam 5-4 in overtime, and 5-0 at home.
The Cents could get a first look at two of their newest acquisitions tonight in Jerzy Orchard and Tanner Marshall. Orchard a forward from the Kamloops Blazers system is eager to prove he is more than a grinder, and Marshall, who came over from the National Champion Brooks Bandits, is looking for his first taste of game action in a Cents uniform.
Daniel Tkac was a bright spot for the Centennials last weekend as he picked up 3 goals and 1 assist over the 2 games and was named an honorable mention in the BCHL's Player of the Week. He leads the team with 6 points now to start the year. Brett Roloson has 2 goals and 2 helpers, and Troy Quinn has 3 points to lead the Centennials offensively.
The Express early on are a team that gets things done by committee. They're a deep team that can score no matter which line is on the ice. They're led by defenseman Steven Bellini who has 7 assists, while 4 players: Danny Pearson, Tyler Schleppe, Nicholas Carabin, and Adam Trotman have 4 points a piece.
The special teams battle sees the Express with the edge in both categories.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Coq - 31.8% (1st) Coq - 86.7% (7th)
Cents - 19% (8th) Cents - 71.4% (14th)
The goaltending duel sees Ryan Winter as the only tender of record for the Centennials so far. He's 1-4 with a .905 SV% and a 4.05 GAA. Tanner Marshall is waiting in the wings after going 12-0 with the Brooks Bandits last season with a 1.33 GAA and a .925 SV%.
The Express sport the top goaltender in the league early on in Clay Stevenson. After the death of his mother, he is playing unbelievable going 3-0 with a .965 SV% and a 1.00 GAA. Thomas Wardle is the young back up who is 1-1 with an .886 SV% and a 4.00 GAA.
Assistant Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says that the Cents can take rough games, but two things can't be in doubt.
"Effort and Attitude need to be there every game, and those are well within our control. We need to bring both to get the win tonight."
The Cents will look to make life rough on the Express tonight.
Puck Drop 7:15pm, Pre-Game 7pm on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas.
A reminder to sign up for the Centennials weekly online 50-50 where you can a toonie into over $200 here: https://centsweekly5050.thelottofactory.com/