The Merritt Centennials (10-26-1-3) face off against the West Kelowna Warriors (7-25-5-2) tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a pair of games against the Trail Smoke Eaters and had their best periods early on in both games as they rode goals from AP Brett Mero and Christian Buono to a 2-0 lead in game 1, and goals from Chase Nameth and a BCHL first from Evan Benwell to lead 2-1 after one in game 2. The second period saw the Cents slide slightly, more so in game 2 as they'd allow the Smoke Eaters to grab a couple goals. In game 1, the Cents were still in the lead 2-1, and in game 2 they were still in the game at 3-2. The undoing came in the third period in both contests, but in game 1 it wasn't until the final 5 minutes where Trail scored 3 quick goals to make it a 6-3 final. Game 2 saw Trail add a pair in the final frame to take it 5-2. Tanner Marshall was outstanding in both games despite the unflattering scoreline and held his team in it for a chance at victory. The Cents will need another solid performance from their goaltender, but will be strengthened by the return of Daniel Tkac from the World Juniors, and Chase Cooke who has been officially signed. The Cents will be without the services of Olson Werenka and Matt Osadick, who join Joey Berkopec as players moved at the trade deadline.
The West Kelowna Warriors opened 2020 with a pair of losses as well against the Coquitlam Express 4-3 and the Chilliwack Chiefs 3-1. They have a new bench boss in Shane Ferguson after relieving Brandon West of duties, and are going to be active players at the trade deadline. They've already made one move in sending D man Wyatt Head to the Coquitlam Express and there should be more to follow.
The Cents and Warriors meet for the 5th time tonight, and the Cents lead the season series 3-1. They've won games by scores of 4-2, 5-2, and 6-2 before falling in the most recent game of the season series 5-3 just before the Christmas break.
The Centennials continue to be led by Christian Buono who has 31 points, Payton Matsui has 25, and Daniel Tkac looks to pick up where he left off in the BCHL with 23 points.
West Kelowna is led by a trio of youngsters. Tyler Cristall has 25 points, Johnny Evans has 24, and Carter Wilkie has 19 points.
The special teams battle sees the Cents penalty kill holding it's own to start 2020, but the powerplay needs to get on the board in 2020.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 10.4% (17th) Cents - 73.2% (17th)
West K - 17.6% (11th) West K - 74.4% (15th)
The goaltending duel sees both teams at a crossroads as to who to play in game 3 of the series. Tanner Marshall has played outstanding so far this year and is 6-12-2 with an .885 SV% and a 4.61 GAA. Ryan Winter is waiting in the wings with a 3-11-2 record, a .902 SV%, 4.08 GAA and 1 shutout.
Johnny Derrick is now the guy in West K at 3-12-1 with a .904 SV%, 3.41 GAA, and 1 shutout, but the Cents were able to chase him from the net the last time he was between the pipes.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says the Cents should get a boost from having some new and old bodies in the mix.
“We are going to see Tkac back from the World Juniors, Cooke is excited to officially begin his Centennials career. I'm looking for both to come in with confidence and help our team.”
The Cents are hoping for a boost back into the win column.
Puck drop 7pm. Pregame 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
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