The Merritt Centennials (4-14) face off for the first time against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (16-4-1-0) tonight.
The Centennials are looking to bounce back after a tough 7 days of hockey. After losses to the Penticton Vees 4-1 and the Chilliwack Chiefs 7-1 in the lead up to the Wenatchee road trip, the Cents weren't able to complete comebacks against the Wild this past weekend. They were able to battle back in contention in both contests, but took a few minutes off during games that took them out of contention. In game one on Friday, the Cents came out of the gates strong, but just weren't able to cash in on their opportunities with a couple open nets and odd man rushes in the first period. Of course, on their first chance the Wild buried off a Cents skate and in to make it 1-0 after 1. The Cents would surrender another in the second period before adding a goal of their own late from Josh Kagan. Brett Roloson tied the game up early in the third period, and the game looked to be back on, but after tying the game the Cents didn't keep the pressure up while the Wild were able to add 3 unanswered to make it a 5-2 final. The following night the Cents didn't have the same jump in the first, but at the intermission it was the same story trailing 1-0. In the second period, Kagan was able to score again to tie the game, but again the Cents sat back after the goal and surrendered 2 more. The Cents woke up after the BCHL media time out and got goals from Daniel Tkac and the first in the BCHL from Tyson Galloway to tie the game 3-3 after 2. Early on in the third, the Wild pulled away by adding 2 goals, but the Cents battled back with a parting gift from Troy Quinn with a goal on the powerplay to bump their long slump and bring them within one. However, with the net empty the Cents couldn't complete the come back suffering a late empty netter for the 6-4 final.
While the Cents are 1-4 in their last 5 with 4 straight losses, the Silverbacks are 4-1 in their last 5. They've had a couple different weekend double headers sweeping the Wenatchee Wild two weekends ago by scores of 8-5 and 4-2. Last weekend they earned a split against the red hot Trail Smoke Eaters. The Smokies were able to win 5-4 in game 1, but Salmon Arm was able to take game 2 by a score of 2-1 in a shootout. The Silverbacks also sit atop the Interior Division going into the weekends action, and though the two teams are drastically different than they were a year ago. The Cents did go 5-1 in the season series against Salmon Arm last year, and these teams always play spirited hockey against each other.
The Cents have been busy on the trade front around the weekend that was. Before heading to Wenatchee the Cents picked up Jake Mclean from the Prince George Spruce Kings in exchange for future considerations, and released Isaac Alvarado from the roster to make room for him. Mclean earned an assist in his first two games as a Centennials forward and shows way more offensive flair than the departing Alvarado. Upon return to Merritt the Centennials weren't done dealing Troy Quinn to the Flin Flon Bombers in exchange for future considerations and acquiring forward Hunor Turzsok from the Estevan Bruins. Turzsok doesn't bring a lot of offensive pedigree, but he brings that next level compete and is a player that will grind in the corners and create space to help set up the skilled forwards of the Cents.
Offensively Josh Kagan continues to lead the way for the Centennials with 18 points. Payton Matsui and Brett Roloson have 12 points, and Daniel Tkac has 11.
Salmon Arm boasts 4 players in the top 20 of BCHL scoring. Defender Akito Hirose leads the Silverbacks and the BCHL in scoring by a defenseman with 26 points, Noah Wakeford has 25 points while Daniel Rybarik and William Poirier have 21 points apiece.
The special teams battle sees the Cents looking to reset after busting their lengthy slump, and the Silverbacks are sporting strong numbers overall.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 6.5% (17th) Cents - 66.7% (17th)
SA - 20% (7th) SA - 83.5% (7th)
Tanner Marshall had a tough outing last weekend against the Wild and now sits 2-6 with an .879 SV% and a 4.42 GAA. Ryan Winter got into action briefly in the 3rd period over last weekends action and is 2-8 with a .908 SV%, 3.74 GAA, and 1 shutout.
The Salmon Arm Silverbacks also boast one of the best goaltenders in the BCHL in Ethan Langenegger. He's been the go to guy and is 13-2 with a .927 SV%, a 2.18 GAA, and 2 shutouts to go along with two BCHL Player of the Week nods. Dylan Kruss is the bonafied back up with a 3-2-1 record a .899 SV% and a 2.70 GAA.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says the Cents have to be mindful of the opposition, but they also have to mindful of themselves.
"The biggest thing heading into this weekend is we can't beat ourselves. We need to make sure we are doing everything right on our end to put ourselves in a position to win. If we take care of our part, I like our chances."
The Cents will have to mindful of the big two points on the line tonight.
Puck drop 7pm from the Shaw Centre. Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101 and HockeyTV.
Fortis BC is sponsoring the game at the NVMA tomorrow and fans will have a chance to win a $500 Visa gift card so make sure you're in attendance!