The Merritt Centennials (2-7) get set to duke it out against last years BCHL Finalist Vernon Vipers (3-6) tonight.
The Cents take to the road after not being able to capture a win at the BCHL Showcase, and the Vipers return home after not being able to do the same. The Cents had a good effort against former Head Coach Joe Martin and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in game 1 of their Showcase in Chilliwack. Despite multiple chances around the goal, the Cents couldn't beat Luke Pearson and Brett Roloson's tally 4 minutes into the first period stood up as the Cents only offense in a 4-1 loss. The following day in Penticton the Cents skates seemed stuck in quicksand as the speedy Trail Smoke Eaters took advantage and after a tight 1st period that saw the Centennials trailing 2-0, the Smokies pulled away in the 2nd adding 4 more goals and chasing Tanner Marshall from the net. Ryan Winter came in for the relief effort, but it didn't spark the bench as the Smoke Eaters continued to roll scoring 7 unanswered before Josh Kagan broke the shutout with a few minutes remaining on a goaltender gamble. The Cents are looking to pick up the offense against a similarly offensively challenged Vernon Vipers squad tonight.
The Vipers come into the game 1-4 in their last 5 games played, and aren't impressed with their performance at the Showcase either where they lost both games without registering a goal. In fact the Vipers have been shut out in their last 3 games straight. Losing by scores of 1-0 to Penticton, 4-0 to West Kelowna, and most recently 3-0 to the Chilliwack Chiefs.
The Vipers represent the only team in the league that has found the back of the net fewer times than the Centennials with 14 goals for over the year compared to the Cents 18. However, the Cents have allowed 15 more goals than the Vipers and are a league worst -22 in goal differential. Both teams will be looking to end their offensive funks tonight.
Newly acquired forward Josh Kagan now leads the way offensively for the Centennials with 8 points after picking up a goal at the showcase, Daniel Tkac has 7 points, and Brett Roloson has 6.
The Vernon Vipers are led by Captain Connor Marritt and Cameron Macdonald up front while Ben Helgeson and 3 others have 3 points each.
The special teams battle sees the Vipers near the top of the table when it comes to the penalty kill, but at the bottom when it comes to the powerplay while the Cents are looking to improve on both counts.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 10% (16th) Cents - 72.9% (15th)
Vipers - 5% (17th) Vipers - 94.3% (2nd)
The battle in the blue paint sees the Cents looking to bounce back. Ryan Winter was steady in the showcase and is now 1-5 with a .906 SV% and a 3.87 GAA. Tanner Marshall has looked great in his lone win on the year, and hasn't gotten the support needed in his other two starts going 1-2 with an .855 SV% and a 4.83 GAA.
The Vipers have leaned on Max Palaga all season and he's 3-6 with a .903 SV%, a 2.65 GAA, and 1 shutout. Vernon has also just acquired Reily Herbst from the USHL. Last season he played for the Chicago Steel and was 12-7-2 with a 3.01 GAA and an .881 SV%.
Assistant Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says the Cents just need to continue getting better.
"Every day in practice we get closer to being the team we want to be. We'll look to be better against the Vipers."
The Cents will look to continue the Vipers losing streak.
Puck Drop 7pm from Kal Tire Place in Vernon on Q101 and Hockey TV with Jared Thomas.