The 6th in the Interior Division Merritt Centennials (2-5) clash with former Head Coach Joe Martin and the 5th in the Island Division Alberni Valley Bulldogs (3-7) this afternoon.
The Centennials are coming off another 1-1 weekend where they finished on a winning note heading into the week of practice. Last Wednesday the Centennials weren't able to turn a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes into a victory against the Coquitlam Express after some penalty trouble let one of the leagues best powerplays back into the game. The Cents got some offense from Daniel Tkac, Matt Osadick, and Payton Matsui en route to a 6-3 loss. However, the Cents rebounded well heading into the weekend. Despite working on some offensive drills in practice heading into Saturdays game against the Wenatchee Wild, it was the defense and goaltending that came to play on both sides. Tanner Marshall picked up his first win between the pipes as a Cent and was instrumental in keeping the team in the game with big save after big save. After the Wild opened the scoring late in the first, Spencer Schneider scored his first in the BCHL early in the second on a wrap around attempt to tie the game at 1. The game would go all the way to extra time waiting for the game winner, and it was supplied by Brett Roloson and Joey Berkopec. Roloson slowed play down by circling back to his own zone, then cut across neutral ice from right to left, as he gained the offensive blue line he noticed a hard charging Berkopec going to the net with his stick on the ice and saucered in a perfect pass on the tape that Berkopec shovelled up and over Chenard for the thrilling OT victory.
The Alberni Valley Bulldogs played last night against the Showcase hosting Chilliwack Chiefs and fell by a score of 5-2. The Bulldogs had their first big road trip of the season last weekend and went 0-3. Losing 8-2 to Prince George, 5-2 to Chilliwack, and 4-2 to Coquitlam. Despite the lopsided losses the Bulldogs have scored 12 more goals than the Merritt Centennials albeit with 3 more games played and have two players that are in the BCHL's top 20 in scoring. Much like the Centennials, Joe Martin and the Bulldogs are tinkering and rebuilding their roster in year one of a new coaching regime and it takes time to get everything moving smoothly.
Last season the Cents swept the series 2-0, but both games were decided by a goal. The Cents won 4-3 in Alberni and 5-4 at home in Merritt.
Daniel Tkac had his point streak come to an end against the Wenatchee Wild, but in the month of September led the team in scoring with 7 points in 6 games. Newcomer Josh Kagan comes in with 7 points earned in his 7 games played with the Cowichan Valley Capitals and looked impressive in his first look against the Wild. Brett Roloson and Payton Matsui are both starting to heat up with 5 points a piece.
The Bulldogs boast two goal scorers in the BCHL's top 20 in Mitch Deelstra and Ryan Doolin. Deelstra has tallied the most times in the BCHL with 8 goals, while Doolin has been setting him up. Former Cents Jackson Munro has 7 points.
The Special teams battle sees the Cents looking to improve, while the Bulldogs are quite respectable in both categories.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Bulldogs - 20% (5th) Bulldogs - 81% (11th)
Cents - 12.9% (16th) Cents - 70.3% (17th)
The battle in the blue paint will pose a difficult question for the Cents. Tanner Marshall played sensational in both his games this season, and Ryan Winter is waiting in the wings for a chance to prove himself once more. Marshall is 1-1 with an .889 SV% and a 3.43 GAA. Winter is 1-4 with a .905 SV% and a 4.08 GAA.
The Bulldogs have split the goaltending duties pretty evenly between their two netminders. Former Cents AP Jackson Glassford is 2-2 with an .898 SV% and a 3.83 GAA. Luke Pearson has gotten into a few more games, but hasn't fared any better at 1-5 with an .889 SV% and a 3.93 GAA.
Assistant Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says the team really started to come together after their last win.
"If we can keep the positive attitude on the bench going and have the guys supporting each other out there I like our chances."
The Cents will hope to come together to string their first two wins together of the season.
Puck Drop 4:30pm from Rink 2 at the Chilliwack Colliseum. Pre-Game 4:15 on Q101.1FM and streamed at www.q101.ca ONLY.