The Merritt Centennials (10-36-1-3) take on the last team they picked up points against on home ice against the Vernon Vipers (26-21-2-1) tonight.
The Centennials are still in search of their first win of 2020 despite some solid efforts over the last week. The Cents fell in a tight defeat to the Chilliwack Chiefs 6-4 where they climbed themselves out of a 3 goal hole in the 2nd period, tied the game up in the 3rd, and surrendered a 5 on 3 and empty netter late to have the game slip out of their grasp. On Friday against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, the Cents opened the scoring with a shorthanded tally from Payton Matsui, and Matsui tied the game in the second period 2-2, but the 'Backs were able to take the reigns from there by scoring 4 unanswered to make it a 6-2 final. On Saturday at home, the Cents found themselves behind 3 goals again but managed to comeback with goals from Benwell and Torzsok but a penalty to Josh Van Unen gave the Silverbacks a goal on the PP to make it 4-2. The Cents got the early goal in the 3rd to point them in the right direction, but the Silverbacks were able to restore the two goal lead and win by a score of 5-3.
The Vernon Vipers are 2-3 in their last 5 and are coming off the heels of something the Cents know well, a Penticton Vees beat down. They lost by a score of 7-1 the last time out, but before that were able to rattle off two wins in a row with a 2-1 win against PG and a 4-3 win against the Wenatchee Wild. Before that they dropped a pair to the West Kelowna Warriors 4-1 and 3-2.
The Centennials will remember the last time they played the Vernon Vipers well as it was the last time they picked up points on home ice in the Teddy Bear Toss Miracle game where they came back from a 7-2 deficit to tie the game at 7's before falling in a shootout to Vernon. The season series sits at 0-3-1 with losses of 5-2, 3-2, 8-3, and that 8-7 shoot out loss. Hopefully playing an opponent they've had some success against will give the Cents the boost they need.
The Cents are led by Payton Matsui and Christian Buono at 33 points with Daniel Tkac sitting 3rd with 26.
Matt Kowalski has scored 50 points in 50 games and is 9th in BCHL scoring. Captain Connor Marritt has 35 points and Dawson Holt has 34, but overall the Vipers have a score by committee mentality.
The special teams battle sees the Cents looking to continue to improve.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 11.2% (17th) Cents - 72.2% (17th)
Vipers - 15.8% (14th) Vipers - 85.2% (4th)
In the blue paint the Cents netminders are looking to right the ship. Ryan Winter is 3-17-1 with an .894 SV%, a 4.31 GAA and 1 shutout. Tanner Marshall is 6-18 with an .881 SV% and a 4.92 GAA.
The Vipers have a solid option in Reilly Herbst who is 17-7-2 with a 2.84 GAA, a .904 SV% and 1 shutout. Keegan Karski is 2-2 with an .888 SV% and a 3.10 GAA.
Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says the Cents need to continue to avoid the little mistakes.
"There's been a couple little things from the last few games that if you can avoid, the outcome might be different. We avoid those and we will be good."
The Centennials will look to find their way to a win tonight.
Puck drop 7pm. Pregame 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.