The Merritt Centennials will have to wait until next week to get their first win of the season after the Victoria Grizzlies and their goaltender stole a game at the NVMA 5-1.
The first period saw the Cents open the scoring on the powerplay for yet another game. Olson Werenka took a shot through the crowd to get his first of the season. The lead wouldn't last as Cody Monds managed to even things up with the Grizzlies on a powerplay of their own with Olson Werenka in the box to make it 1-1. Ryan Winter made some spectacular saves early to keep the Cents in the game after getting outshot 18-8 in the first period.
In the 2nd it was all Centennials as they pushed the pace and were getting chances all over the place, but after the Cents got a 4 minute man advantage a blocked shot led to a 2-on-0 breakaway that Chase McInnis finished off to beat a sprawled out Winter. The Cents then went on a full 2 minute two-man advantage, but couldn't make good to find the equalizer and then it was Joe Howe's time to shine. The VIctoria Grizzlies netminder turned away 20 shots from Merritt throughout the 2nd, and some of the best chances saw the Cents mishandle the puck in the final moments. Shots after 2 were 29-28 in favour of the Grizzlies.
The final frame saw the Cents once again jump out hot, but on a miscued pass it found the stick of a streaking Benjamin Biester who broke in alone and beat Winter up high blocker side to give the Grizzlies a two goal edge. The Cents continued to press, but a knuckling backhander from Andrew Amousse fooled everyone and beat Winter down low to make it 4-1. The Cents didn't give up as Head Coach Barry Wolff pulled the goalie late to try and find some momentum with a powerplay late, but a long dagger found the back of the net to ice the game 5-1. Final shots were 40-39 for the Grizzlies.
After the game Assistant Coach Derek Sweet Coulter said that the boys are a bounce away from breaking a game open.
"We are having some pretty bad puck luck out there, and we are getting the chances, but the boys are squeezing the sticks a little too tight. We are learning as a group and we are learning new systems, there's no one that wants it more than the boys in the locker room."
The Cents will try and turn their fortunes next Friday against the West Kelowna Warriors.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME - Olson Werenka 1G
3rd Star - Ryan Winter 35/39
2nd Star - Michael Hoekstra 1A
1st Star - Joe Howe 38/39
The Merritt Centennials (0-2) still search for their first win of the season and they hope it can come at the expense of the visiting Victoria Grizzlies (0-2).
Last night the Cents were humbled by a powerful Penticton Vees squad that scored 4 goals in the 2nd period and 6 unanswered before the team finally came to life in the 3rd. For the first time in the Barry Wolff era, the Cents didn't open the scoring as Alex DiPaolo got the game going inside the NVMA. Rylan Van Unen answered with his first of the season on the powerplay, but from then on it was a steady taste of Vees as they'd score 2 more before the period was out to make it 3-1 after 1. The second period saw the Vees continue to fill the cage behind Ryan Winter as him and the Cents were shelled for 4 more goals to make it 7-1 after 2. Dylan Kosik relieved Winter for the third period and stopped all 5 shots he faced while the Cents were finally able to get some traction offensively. The push back resulted in their first two even strength goals of the season from Brett Roloson midway through the frame and Troy Quinn in the final minute to make it a 7-3 final.
The Grizzlies have to start the season as road warriors as their first 7 games will be away from their Q centre. They come into the contest still searching for their first win and only scoring 3 goals for while allowing 14 against. They opened the season with a 8-2 loss to the Cowichan Valley Capitals and followed that up with a 6-1 loss to the Prince George Spruce Kings last night. Much like in the Cents contest the Grizzlies allowed one period to get away from them as Prince George scored 4 unanswered to start the first. Over the rest of the game, judging by the shots it looked a little more even, but the Grizzlies couldn't solve Jett Alexander who made 27 saves on 28 shots. They'll come into this game just as hungry as the Centennials for a win.
Victoria have had their own goal scoring woes to start the season, and are a much different club than the high powered offensive machine of last year that featured the likes of first round draft pick Alex Newhook, the Campbell brothers, Riley Hughes, Carter Berger and more. All told the Grizzlies will be without their top 7 scorers from last year, much like the new look Cents, and only have 6 players returning to BCHL action from last year. Marty Westhaver, their Captain, will have to play a big role as well as Eddie Yan, Darwin Lakoduk, and Henri Schreifels. Another similarity between the two teams is between the pipes where the Grizzlies have had to reset completely. They've also brought in a 20 year old Liam Souliere and an 18 year old Joe Howe.
The special teams battle sees the teams split the difference in the early season. The Cents hold a slight edge on the powerplay, while the Grizzlies have been more steady on the penalty kill.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 25% (8th) Cents - 69.2% (14th)
Grizz - 18.2% (10th) Grizz - 85.7% (8th)
It's too early to tell who's going to grab the reins offensively for either team, but the Cents are led by Talon Zakall with 2 assists. While Brett Roloson, Rylan Van Unen, Vincent Guy and Troy Quinn have all provided some goals.
The Grizzlies are led by Edward Yan with a goal and an assist, Brady Macdonald has a pair of helpers, and Darwin Lakoduk has added a goal.
Merritt will have an interesting decision to make between the pipes tonight as Ryan Winter was shelled for 7 goals on 34 shots in 2 periods, and we saw our first glimpse of Dylan Kosik. Do the Cents turn back to Winter who is now 0-2 with a .873 SV% and a 5.40 GAA, or do they give Kosik his first full game after he stopped all 5 shots he faced in the 3rd period last night.
Joe Howe is the only goalie that's seen action for the Grizzlies so far this season and is 0-2 with a .808 SV% and a 7.00 GAA.
Assistant Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says the Cents need more jump, and they need it earlier in the game for the W.
"I felt we showed the kind of pride we had in the 3rd period last night, but we need to show that fight and that jump a little earlier on in the game and carry it through to come out on top."
The Cents will look to get the jump on the Grizzlies tonight.
Puck drop 7pm from the NVMA. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
Last night the high-powered and high-flying Penticton Vees invaded the NVMA and took no prisoners.
Thanks to beautiful puck control, tape to tape passes and some rocket shots, the Vees walked out of the rink with a 7-3 victory, handing the Cents their second straight loss to open the campaign.
Short-term memory. Thankfully the Cents won’t have to stew very long about their effort vs Penticton as they’ll be right back on the ice at the NVMA later tonight to host the Victoria Grizzlies.
Final 20. While the first two frames are best forgotten, it was an entirely different Merritt squad in the final stanza. They came out moving their feet and the puck, playing the body, and controlling the play. In an ugly game, the boys showed a nice degree of push-back in the final 20, to win the period 2-0.
Even strength scoring. After moving into the 12th-consecutive period without an even-strength goal the Cents finally found pay dirt, twice. Both Brett Roloson and Troy Quinn buried their first of the year.
Early determination. While the final period was a vast improvement, the first 40 minutes showed little to no fight from the Cents. The Vees were beginning to run away with the game and the Cents, in effect, let them.
Discipline. The Cents found themselves cutting ruts to the sin-bin throughout the contest. Along with the normal infractions, Troy Quinn ended up sitting for 10 minutes after a misconduct and Olsen Werenka hit the showers early following a check from behind. While the Cents need to play on the edge, they need to toe the line a little better moving forward.
The Merritt Centennials are right back at it tonight at the NVMA when they welcome the Victoria Grizzlies to town. Puck drop is 7 PM and if you can’t make it down to the barn, be sure to tune into Q101 for all the action starting at 6:45 with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt
The Merritt Centennials couldn't get their first win of the season as the Vees put their offensive ability on display early and often at the NVMA in a 7-3 win.
For the first time in the Barry Wolff era the Cents didn't open the scoring. Despite starting the game with a powerplay, the Vees mustered a 5-on-5 goal 3:54 into the frame from Alex DiPaolo. Rylan Van Unen would even things up on the powerplay after finding a lose puck in front to make it 1-1. Tristan Amonte and Cade Webber would answer for the Vees to make it 3-1 before the end of the first period. After 1 shots were 15-9 for the Vees with Ryan Winter and Yaniv Perets getting the starts for their respective clubs.
The second period was where things got away from the Centennials. Olson Werenka took an early penalty for holding and Danny Weight made it 4-1 on the powerplay. That would be the beginning of the onslaught as Evan McIntyre, David Silye, and Colton Kalezic all added to the scorelines before the 2nd was over to make it 6 goals unanswered. Late in the 2nd period, Werenka got called for a check from behind at the offensive blueline and was given a game misconduct as well. It marked the 2nd game in a row that Werenka didn't make it the full 60 minutes. Shots were 34-19 after 2.
The final frame saw the Cents come out with much more fire, albeit too late. Dylan Kosik got his first taste of BCHL action to start the third, relieving Ryan Winter. However, they were finally able to get some scoring done 5-on-5 as Brett Rolson found a huge rebound in front to make it 7-2 at the 8:14 mark. Then late in the 3rd with less than a minute to go Troy Quinn loosed a shot with eyes that found the top corner to make it 7-3. The Cents were able to win the third period, but not the game as they'd fall by a score of 7-3.
After the game Assistant Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter said the team needs to show that fire a little earlier.
"I think you saw the pride that the guys had in that third period. They knew what they needed to do to answer, they just need to come out with that jump a little sooner."
The Cents will look to come out with more fire on Saturday Night against the Victoria Grizzlies. Puck Drop 7pm from the NVMA.
A week after a season-opening loss to Wenatchee, the road ahead of the Merritt Centennials isn’t getting any easier.
This weekend the Cents will play their first double-dip, starting tonight versus arch-rival Penticton and then tomorrow against the beasts of the Island, the Victoria Grizzles. Both squads won their division last season.
Ahead of the busy weekend, we caught up with Head Coach and GM Barry Wolff for five good minutes.
Barry has admitted that his roster isn’t yet set in stone at this point, with some players still auditioning for the final few spots. Despite the season hitting high gear, coach isn’t going to be rushed into a decision.
“We’re just going to make sure we make the right choices, and if it takes one of those games, both of them or another week, we want to make sure we make the right choice,” said Barry. “It’s become very difficult (to make the cuts).”
Special teams for the Cents have been clicking, especially the powerplay which is 7-10 dating back to the preseason. Five on five hasn’t been as pretty, not finding the scoresheet in over ten consecutive periods.
“We had a lot of work to do on our defensive zone and being on the right side of our check and that was the focus early. So, maybe that took away a little bit from our offense,” said Wolff. “We got some skilled players that can shoot, and a lot of them are first-year guys and they need to figure out how good it is and the pace. They don’t have as much time as they’re used to getting the shot away.”
Barry continued to say along with getting the shots away, the shot selection needs to be better. Not hitting the tender in the crest and shooting for the rebound sometimes.
We may only be 60 minutes into the new season, but playing the body is clearly not an optional activity for the squad.
“No question. We have a smaller ice sheet than most in the league and we need to take advantage of that. When people come into Merritt, expect that we are hard to play against and we want to make that one of our ID’s,” said Wolff.
This weekend doubleheader begins this evening at 7 PM and the NVMA versus the arch-rival Penticton Vees.
“Luckily enough for us when we played those exhibition games, they only had like three guys each night that didn’t make the team, so basically that was their team,” said Wolff. “They’re firing on all cylinders so we need to make sure we meet that challenge.”
As for Victoria on Saturday, Barry isn’t even looking that far ahead.
“We don’t want to jump ahead,” concluded Wolff.
Both games this weekend start at 7 PM in the NVMA. If you can’t make it down to the barn, tune into Q101 for all the action starting at 6:45 with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt