The Merritt Centennials (10-28-1-3) get set to clash with a foe they're all too familiar with in January in the Trail Smoke Eaters (26-14-2-1) tonight.
The Cents are coming off a pair of losses to the West Kelowna Warriors over the weekend where they had brief moments of weakness that led to large swings on the scoreboard. In game 1 on Friday, the Cents allowed 3 goals in 49 seconds. During a 5-on-3 powerplay they surrendered a quick goal, then another at 5-on-4, then another at even strength to be down 3-0 before the game was 10 minutes old. Despite that they battle back to get within 2 before the third period, but didn't have the push needed to comeback for the win despite a goal from Captain Rylan Van Unen in the third. On the Saturday, the Warriors scored in the final minute of the first, but the Cents were only trailing 2-1 by the end of two courtesy a goal from Payton Matsui. Once again, the third period proved to be the difference as the Warriors added three more to make it a 5-1 final.
The Smoke Eaters are coming off a double dip against the Penticton Vees where they split the series 1-1. They won game 1 in Trail by a score of 4-3, but were unable to get going offensively in Penticton where they fell by a score of 5-1. In the loss, former Cent Matt Osadick scored his first as a Smoke Eater.
The Cents and Smoke Eaters prepare to meet for a 5th time this season and the first time this week, as they will be back on Saturday to take on Trail. The season series sits soundly at 0-4 for the Cents as they've been outscored 28-10 by the Smoke Eaters. The young defense of the Cents will have their hands full containing the offense of the Smoke Eaters, and Tanner Marshall is going to need to turn in a game stealing performance if the Cents want to pick up the points that they so desperately need. After dropping both decisions against the West K, the Cents now sit 3 points back of the Warriors in the bottom of the BCHL.
The Centennials will need their offensive guns firing. Christian Buono leads the team with 30 points, Payton Matsui has 28, and Daniel Tkac has 24.
The Smoke Eaters feature the top 3 scorers in the BCHL. Kent Johnson has 78 points, Owen Ozar has 51, and Michael Colella has 49.
The special teams battle sees the Cents slumping on the powerplay in 2020, and going up against the 3rd best team in the league.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 10.1% (17th) Cents - 72.6% (17th)
Trail - 25.1% (3rd) Trail - 86.6% (3rd)
The goaltending duel sees Tanner Marshall looking to pick up his first win of 2020. He's 6-14-1 with an .883 SV% and a 4.74 GAA. Logan Jorginson from the Osoyoos Coyotes of the KIJHL is the emergency back up tonight after Ryan Winter took a tumble and injured his elbow.
Logan Terness is the goaltender of note for the Smoke Eaters at 20-8-2 with a .929 SV% and a 2.49 GAA. Matteo Paler Chow is 9-10-1 with a .883 SV% and a 3.50 GAA.
Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says that the Cents need to stick to a simple gameplan to have success.
"Our guys need to keep it simple on the ice. In the defensive zone, and in the offensive when we play simple, we win battle, we have success."
The Cents will look to have some success tonight.
Puck drop 7pm. Pre-game 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas.