The Merritt Centennials (14-39-1-3) finish their season against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (29-23-4-1) this afternoon.
Last night the Merritt Centennials scored their 2nd win in their 'No Bull' Ty Pozzobon third jerseys by their second big score 7-4 over the Trail Smoke Eaters. The offense was flowing early for the Merritt Centennials who after killing a penalty got a goal on the rush after Talon Zakall set up Daniel Tkac back door to open the scoring 1-0 just 2:34 into the game. Michael Collela scored top corner off a faceoff play to tie the game at 1's just 2 minutes later. Late in the frame, Owen Ozar snuck behind the D to break in all alone from the blue line and dangle in on Winter to make it 2-1, and that's where the game would be after 20 minutes. In the 2nd frame, the Centennials came out flying led by their Captain Rylan Van Unen in his final home game at the NVMA. After putting some early pressure on, the Captain caused a turnover at the blue line then dangled in around a man and then slipped the puck five-hole to make it 2-2. Christian Buono followed that up by flying up the left wing, and despite having an option on the other side, he kept and sniped top corner to restore the Cents lead 3-2. Talon Zakall opened up a 2 goal lead after he jumped up in the rush and Evan Benwell found him back door to make it 4-2 at the 10:05 mark. Brophy Dunne then took a boarding penalty against Collela and the Smoke Eaters' Chase Dafoe quickly scored on the powerplay to make it 4-3. On the ensuing shift, Owen Ozar danced into the zone and deked out the team but got tied up at the final moment to draw a penalty shot. He made no mistake with the free break in to tie the game 4-4. With the Cents on a powerplay it was the Captain who book ended the period with another goal, this one from the point with traffic in front to restore the one goal edge 5-4. In an effort to spark their team, the Smoke Eaters swapped to Logan Terness to start the 3rd period, but the gamble didn't pay off as Payton Matsui danced to the slot and fired top corner to make it 6-4. On a follow up play, Ben Ward went crashing to the net and Terness was swapped back in favor of Matteo Paler Chow. Ben Ward would add another one for the Cents in the third to make it 7-4, and the despite the Smoke Eaters scoring one late to make it 7-5 the Cents would hang on for the win.
The Silverbacks faced the same Smoke Eaters club on Friday night and suffered a 5-1 defeat. With the loss the Silverbacks are limping into the last game of the season having gone 2-3 over their last 5. Despite the loss to the Smoke Eaters they were able to come away with a gutsy 5-4 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs. The last time on home ice they lost 4-1 to Wenatchee and before that lose to the Cents last week 4-2 on Brian Barrett night. The Silverbacks come into this game with something to play for however. With a regulation win they could vault into home ice advantage in the playoffs and depending how the tie breakers go even have a shot at 3rd place in the Interior division to secure a trip to the Island to take on the Grizzlies. The Cents will face a team not only hungry to go out strong on home ice, but also a team hungry to improve their playoff seeding. The Cents have been playing with pride in their final two weekends, and are looking to continue that trend.
The season series has been a wild one. The Cents own a 2-2-1 record against the 'Backs and every game has been close. The series opener was a tight 4-3 OT loss on the road, but the Cents followed that up with a 6-5 win at the NVMA. A double header at the turn of January to February saw the Silverbacks take both games 6-2 and 5-3, but the Cents have the most recent success with that 4-2 win on Brian Barrett night. The Silverbacks have been able to pick up wins at home however, and the Cents will be looking to spoil the part at the Shaw Centre for the first time this season.
Offense was coming from all over the lineup last night on Ty Pozzobon night, and the Cents will look for that to continue in their finale. Payton Matsui now has 43 points, Christian Buono with a snipe last night is up to 37, Thomas Manty has 33, and fresh off a 4 point night Daniel Tkac has shot up to 32 points.
The Silverbacks are led by their Captain Akito Hirose with 51 points, Noah Wakeford is just behind with 50, and Daniel Rybarik is the big goal scoring threat with 30 goals and 48 points.
The special teams battle sees the Cents continuing to improve to the end.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 13% (17th) Cents - 72.4% (17th)
'Backs - 19.1% (8th) 'Backs - 77.1% (14th)
Ryan Winter will be looking to close out his junior career with a win after staring down the Smoke Eaters last night. Winter is 6-19-1 with a .891 SV%, a 4.40 GAA, and 1 shutout. Tanner Marshall is waiting in the wings with a 7-19 record, a .882 SV% and a 4.86 GAA.
In a must-win situation, you'd think the Silverbacks would turn to Ethan Langenegger for his final tune up before the playoffs. He has been a workhorse this year going 22-15-2 with a .907 SV%, a 2.81 GAA and 3 shutouts. Grant Adams is 4-4-1 with a .904 SV% and a 2.99 GAA.
After the game last night, Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says the team needs to bring that positive energy to their final test of the year.
"It just makes such a huge difference when the guys are on the bench supporting each other, cheering for each other, and thinking positive about the next shift."
The Cents will look to end their 2019-20 campaign on a positive note this afternoon.
Puck drop 3pm. Pregame 2:45 on Q101 and Hockey TV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
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and the 'No Bull' 3rd Jersey Auction at www.32auctions.com/nobull