The Merritt Centennials (10-37-1-3) look to bump the slump against the Prince George Spruce Kings (17-28-2-4) tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a game where they had destiny in their hands. After a slow start to a Tuesday night affair, the Cents drew two penalties in quick succession and were able to make the Vipers pay. Rylan Van Unen was able to pick his spot with a lazer upstairs on the 5 on 3 to open the scoring 1-0, and Ben Ward was able to barge his way to the goal mouth to score before the teams went back to even strength to make it 2-0. Vernon got one back on a powerplay of their own to make it 2-1 after 1 period of play. Jerzy Orchard opened the scoring in the second period with a cheeky attempt at a wraparound that was denied, so he went back to the near post to bank it off the goalie and in to make it 3-1. Despite the two goal lead, the Vipers woke up after that and scored 5 unanswered to come from behind and win 6-3. The Centennials are hoping for a similar start, but a different end to the game tonight.
The Prince George Spruce Kings haven't been as deadly as last season where they marched all the way to the RBC Cup finals, but they still represent a challenge in their own barn where they play a tight systems game. In their last five, the Spruce Kings are 1-3-0-1. Their most recent lost came on Wednesday night against the Wenatchee Wild in a tight 3-2 shootout loss. Before that they were able to top the surging West Kelowna Warriors 3-1, and previous to that dropped three games in a row to the Vernon Vipers 2-1, the Trail Smoke Eaters 9-2, and the Chilliwack Chiefs 6-5.
It won't be until next season that these teams will be divisional foes, and as such there's only been one game in the season series which the Cents won by a score of 4-2. Matsui, Torzsok, Kagan, and Osadick scored en route to victory, but with 2 of those scorers no longer in the lineup the Cents will look for different sources of offense. The Cents will also be battling their energy levels on the night as they will be without the services of any AP's and be two men short of a full deck.
The Cents are hoping for contributions from their top 3: Payton Matsui has 34 points, Christian Buono has 33, and Daniel Tkac has 26.
The team will have to be wary of the top guns on the Prince George Spruce Kings: Nick Poisson leads the way with 45 points, Corey Cunningham has 40, and Nolan Welsh has chipped in with 35.
The special teams battle sees the Cents looking for a better push on the PK after allowing 2 or more in the last 5 games played.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 11.7% (17th) Cents - 71.8% (17th)
PG - 18.3% (10th) PG - 76.5% (14th)
In net the Cents goaltenders are hoping to hold the fort early on while the group gets out the road rust. Ryan Winter is 3-18-1 with an .893 SV%, a 4.93 GAA, and 1 shutout. Tanner Marshall is 6-18 with an .881 SV% and a 4.92 GAA.
Former affiliate for a game Carter Woodside has been somewhat of a savior for the Spruce Kings as he's now 5-7 with a .906 SV% and a 2.97 GAA. Jett Alexander is 12=19=1 with a .892 SV% and a 3.22 GAA.
Assistant Coach Paul Barnes says it's all about putting that full 60 minute effort together.
"We saw again the other night that the Cents put together a solid 30 minutes, but we need to go from start to finish to get the result we want."
The Cents will look to put their first win of 2020 together.
Puck drop 7pm from the RMCA with Jared Thomas on Q101 and Hockey TV.