The Merritt Centennials (12-38-1-3) take on former Head Coach Joe Martin and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (25-25-2-2) this afternoon.
The Merritt Centennials achieved something last night they hadn't done since November 23rd of 2019 - pick up a win on home ice, and it came against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 4-2 on a night where they honored Brian Barrett, Merritt's Mr. Hockey. The first period didn't have any goals, but it had some solid physicality with a couple crunching hits from Brody Johnston and Brophy Dunne. The Cents carried the chances, but were unable to convert on a night where they were short 2 bodies up front and 1 on the backend. In the middle frame, things started to heat up. Despite an early powerplay for the Cents, Salmon Arm was able to tally one shorthanded after a turnover to Luke Mylymok he was able to set up Will Poirier for a breakaway from the blueline and he made the Cents pay with a move to the backhand in tight. The goal came just 2 minutes in to the 2nd, but with 2 minutes left Talon Zakall was able to fire a seeing eye shot through the crowd and find the top corner blocker side to tie the game 1-1 after 40 minutes of play. Shots after 2 were 26-24 Cents. The Cents were able to use their powerplay to power themselves to victory in the 3rd period. A nifty tic tac toe play was finished off by Evan Benwell after some quick passing from Thomas Manty and Christian Buono. The Silverbacks were able to even the score on a powerplay of their own after a shot thrown wide, bounced off the end boards, then off the heel of Marshall's skate, and out to Noah Wakeford who was able to tap it home to tie the game 2-2. The Cents earned themselves another powerplay, and Thomas Manty blasted a one timer past Adams to restore the one goal lead 3-2. Late in the game, with the net empty for the 'Backs, Payton Matsui fearlessly blocked a shot and it came free to Daniel Tkac who fired it down the ice to make it a 4-2 final. Final shots were 37-33 Salmon Arm.
The Bulldogs are finishing up their Interior road swing where they've taken on the top two teams in the division losing 5-0 to the Trail Smoke Eaters and 3-2 in overtime to the Penticton Vees. The Dogs have been beat up between the pipes as they're rocking a double emergency back up situation, much like the Cents were earlier in the season. Despite that they took the Vees to the brink last night where keen WHL pick up Matt Grouchy and Captain Mitch Deelstra scored to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 edge. That was what they held all the way until the final 9 seconds of the game when Jackson Neidermayer sent the game to overtime. Steve Holz was able to secure the game for Penticton just 16 seconds into OT. In their last 5 games, the Bulldogs are 1-3-1. Their lone win of late came 3-2 over the Powell River Kings.
The Cents and Bulldogs have met twice already this season. Once back at the BCHL Showcase, and once in early December. At the showcase, the Cents fell by a score of 4-1, and in early December the teams went the distance to a shootout. After the Cents were up 3-0 after 40 minutes, the Bulldogs battled back to tie the game and send it to extras.
The Cents and fans will be wondering who will lead the way after so many bodies went down yesterday. Payton Matsui continues to lead the way with 39 points, Christian Buono chipped in with an assist last night and is up to 34, and Daniel Tkac and Thomas Manty are sitting at 28 points.
The Bulldogs are led by Ryan Doolin up front with 50 points, Captain Mitch Deelstra has 48 points, and defender Tim Gould has chipped in with 33 points.
The special teams battle sees the Cents coming off a two goal night with the extra man and will look to keep the momentum going.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 12.4% (17th) Cents - 71.9% (17th)
Dogs - 15.2% (15th) Dogs - 81.2% (10th)
The battle in the blue paint sees Tanner Marshall coming off a great performance. He is now 7-18 with a .881 SV% and a 4.86 GAA. Ryan Winter is 4-19-1 with a .892 SV%, a 4.40 GAA, and 1 shutout.
The Bulldogs don't have their two regulars available this weekend. Draft prospect Jackson Glassford and Luke Pearson are on the shelf, and a couple of emergency back ups have stepped in. Carlo Siso is 1-1 with an .885 SV% and a 3.84 GAA. Scott Bird is 0-0-1 with a 2.99 GAA and a .909 SV%.
Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says the team needs to have the same attitude that gave them success last night.
"The boys played a full team game last night. If they can execute the same way this afternoon, then we are going to be successful."
The Cents will look to finish this home stand strong this afternoon.
Puck drop 2pm. Pregame 1:45 on Q101 and Hockey TV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.