The Merritt Centennials (3-10) look to string a pair of wins together for the first time this season when they host the Langley Rivermen (8-9) tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a 2 game split last week after some changes were made to the coaching staff and hockey operations. Despite the emotional drain, the team was able to rally for two of their best performances of the year. Last Wednesday against the Vipers the game looked destined for overtime before a dagger in the final minute stole the game for the Vipers. Rylan Van Unen and Josh Kagan tallied in the narrow 3-2 loss. The Cents followed that up with their best performance of the season on Saturday against the West Kelowna Warriors where they didn't suffer for offense and two seeing-eye shots were the only ones to beat Tanner Marshall in a 5-2 victory. The Cents got offense from 5 different scorers as Payton Matsui, Brett Roloson, R. Van Unen, Thomas Manty, and Spencer Schneider all chipped in with goals. With a full week of practice under new Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter the Cents are poised to push for more wins this weekend.
The Langley Rivermen come into the contest on the heels of a loss on Wednesday to the Coquitlam Express 4-1, but before that put up a couple of wins last weekend 2-0 over Coquitlam and 5-3 over the Surrey Eagles. After a rocky start to the season, the Rivermen started to find their form at the BCHL Showcase and after being 4 games below .500 battled back to level footing and are now sitting just a game below. A team that the Centennials can look to as a model for battling back in a season. The Rivermen a team that certainly doesn't suffer for offense with two of the top scorers in the league, including the 2nd highest scoring defender in the BCHL, Jake Livingstone. They've put 55 goals up over the year, and have a differential of only -2 so they've been a relatively steady team that's in most of their games.
The Centennials are hoping that the offensive outburst against the Warriors becomes a trend and not just a blip on the radar. Josh Kagan still leads the Cents up front with 13 points, Brett Roloson and Daniel Tkac are tied with 9 points, and Payton Matsui has put up 8.
The Rivermen boast a couple stop scorers in the BCHL. Brendan Budy has 23 points on the year, ranked 4th in the BCHL, and Jake Livingstone has 18 points, 2nd most amongst defensemen. Joseph Musa and Kalen Szeto each have 12 points.
Special teams remain a spot the Cents are circling in practice to improve, as the Rivermen hold the edge in both categories.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 7.1% (17th) Cents - 71.2% (16th)
Rivermen - 20% (7th) Rivermen - 75.7% (14th)
The goaltending battle sees the both Cents netminders coming off stellar performances. Ryan Winter is still searching for his 2nd win of the year though not for lack of effort. He sits at 1-7 with a .904 SV% and a 3.91 GAA. Tanner Marshall is coming off another solid performance and is 2-3 with an .878 SV% and a 4.01 GAA.
The Rivermen have leaned on Braeden Fleming for most of the season. He's 8-7 with an .895 SV%, 2.93 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Kristian Lyon is the bonafied back up and is 0-2 with an .819 SV% and a 5.40 GAA.
Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says the Cents need to start stringing together some positive starts and positive results.
"We need to hang onto the feeling from last weekend, and carry that into the week of practice so we are prepared for some key games coming up."
The Cents will look for another positive result tonight against the Rivermen.
Puck drop 7pm from the NVMA. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
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