The Merritt Centennials (10-33-1-3) head down to the Fraser Valley to take on the Chilliwack Chiefs (23-14-5-4) tonight.
The Merritt Centennials are still looking to right the ship in January before it's gone and they look to do it against another tough test in the Chilliwack Chiefs. The Cents are coming off a weekend where they weren't able to put a full 60 minute effort together. On Friday against the Vees, they took the first period off and found themselves down 4-0 after 20 minutes. Despite skating with the Vees the rest of the way, they suffered a 6-2 defeat with Payton Matsui providing the special teams punch with a goal on the powerplay and shorthanded. The following night at home against the Eagles, the Cents were in it again for 40, trailing only 1-0 after 1 and 4-2 with momentum on their side after 2, they couldn't find a goal in the third period to give them the momentum needed for the comeback and the Eagles picked up a few goals on the powerplay to ensure victory going 4/7 and winning 7-2. The Cents will need to be disciplined tonight as they go up against the league's best powerplay.
Chilliwack is trending in the right direction in January as they are 6-2, and 4-1 in their last 5. They survived a barn burner against the Prince George Spruce Kings last time out. The Chiefs started the game trailing 2-0, but were able to score 4 unanswered goals to get back on track. PG would answer in the 2nd, but the Chiefs would add two more before they hung on for the win 6-5. Their latest set back came against the Coquitlam Express 4-3, but before that rallied 3 in a row against Langley 3-2, Coquitlam 4-3, and the Express once more 6-1. The Chiefs seem to be able to adapt their game to their opponent, and can score in bunches.
Payton Matsui has slowly climbed his way to the Centennials scoring lead with 31 points, moving him into a tie with Christian Buono. Daniel Tkac has 25 points while Thomas Manty leads rookies with 23 on the team.
The Chiefs have one top 20 scorer on their roster with Minnesota Wild draft pick Nikita Nesterenko at 44 points, Peter Reynolds has 37, and Brett Willits has chipped in 31.
The special teams battle sees the Cents going up the league's best powerplay.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 11.2% (17th) Cents - 73% (17th)
Chiefs - 28.1% (1st) Chiefs - 81.3% (9th)
The battle in the blue paint sees both Cents starters suffering during this losing drought. Ryan Winter is 3-15-1 with a .895 SV%, a 4.19 GAA and 1 shutout. Tanner Marshall is 6-17 with an .880 SV% and a 4.91 GAA.
The Chiefs lean on Mathieu Caron to be the guy. He's 16-8-5 with a .910 SV%, a 2.64 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Kolby Thornton is 7-5 with a .895 SV% and a 3.01 GAA.
Cents Assistant Coach Zach Wright says the team needs to pick it up for that final playoff spot.
"We know we aren't out of it yet, but we know we need to start picking up wins. We need to go out, put everything together and get one."
The Cents will look to pick up their first win of 2020.
Puck drop 7pm. Pre-game 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas.