The Merritt Centennials (8-15-1-0) welcome the Trail Smoke Eaters (18-8-2-1) and the BCHL's biggest offense to the NVMA tonight.
The Cents are coming off their first 4 point weekend, and come in with a three game win streak to tonight's contest. Over the Weekend the offense for the Cents was no slouch either winning by scores of 4-2 over Prince George and 6-4 over the Wenatchee Wild. The Cents were able to find timely goals and got solid goaltending from Tanner Marshall throughout the weekend that was which was a key contributor to their success.
In the game against Prince George, Payton Matsui was able to steal a puck behind the net shorthanded and stuff it in to open the scoring, Hunor Torzsok scored by deflecting a Zakall shot, Christian Buono found Josh Kagan back door, and Matt Osadick scored for the first official time before the end of the 2nd period. The Cents had a 4-0 lead going into the third, and if not for some knuckling pucks Marshall deserved the shutout, but two beat him to make it a 4-2 final.
The following night against the Wenatchee Wild the Cents rode out a rough 1st period full of penalties to come back and tie the game 2-2 with goals from Tyson Galloway and Talon Zakall before surrendering one late to make it 3-2 after 1. The second period went scoreless before the Cents shot out of the gate in the third with 4 unanswered goals from newcomer Braydon Clark, a slick give and go between Kagan and Tkac, a powerplay blast from Thomas Manty, and a shot off a faceoff win by Oslon Werenka to make it 6-3 going into the latter half of the third. The Cents bent, but didn't break to hang on for the 6-4 win.
The Trail Smoke Eaters have been one of the hottest teams in the league since the last time these two teams met - at the BCHL showcase. Trail has ridden a red hot offense led by the BCHL's best Kent Johnson to a series of wins, however, of late they're beginning to cool slightly. In their last 5 games the Smokies are 2-2-1, that one representing a rare tie against the Langley Rivermen 4-4 after the game was called due to a serious injury. Their last 5 games are as follows: a 3-1 victory over the Chilliwack Chiefs, a 4-4 tie with the Langley Rivermen, a 5-2 loss to Alberni Valley, a 4-1 loss to the Nanaimo Clippers, and a 6-2 win over Powell River.
Josh Kagan has now gotten into the top 20 in BCHL scoring sitting at number 19 with 27 points. The Slovakian Wolrd Junior candidate Daniel Tkac has 20 points, and Payton Matsui has 17.
The Smoke Eaters and the BCHL are led by young phenom Kent Johnson with 52 points. Running mate Michael Collela has 38 points, and Owen Ozar has 37.
In net, Tanner Marshall has strung two wins together for the first time this season and is now 5-7 with an .886 SV% and a 4.27 GAA. Ryan Winter has been out of action for the last while and is 2-8-1 with a .910 SV%, a 3.75 GAA, and 1 shutout.
Trail is led by rookie netminder Logan Terness who is 13-4-2 with a .939 SV% and a 2.17 GAA. Matteo Paler Chow who was acquired from Powell River is a combined 8-8 with an .877 SV% and a 3.53 GAA.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says that the Cents need to be ready for the creative offense of the Smoke Eaters.
"These guys can make a play out of thin air, and they have tons of speed. We will have to slow them down, be physical, and play strong team defense."
The Cents will hope to create a win tonight.
Puck drop 7pm from the NVMA. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.