The Merritt Centennials had a tough 49 second span in the first period and couldn't come back from the 3 goal turn in an eventual 5-3 loss to the West Kelowna Warriors.
The Cents had a number of young players in the lineup and early on you wouldn't know it. It wasn't until the Centennials went to the penalty kill that they showed sign of weakness. The Warriors quickly went to a two man advantage, and quickly scored a pair of goals to make it 2-0. After going back to even strength, West K would add another one and in the span of 49 seconds the Cents found themselves down 3-0. The Cents opted to pull Tanner Marshall in favour of Ryan Winter to energize the bench. The move paid off as Thomas Manty would answer for the Centennials with a quick shot blocker side on Derrick to make it 3-1 with Orchard and AP Brett Mero setting him up. The Warriors would get another tally by beating Winter down low, five hole to make it 4-1. Late in the frame, Evan Benwell danced into the zone made a deke to the backhand and was stoned on the line, but Jake McLean followed up the play to push it across for the goal to make it 4-2. Shots after 1 were 14-10 West K.
Things slowed down in the 2nd period as teams traded chances, and Derrick came up with a number of quality stops to keep his team in the lead. The Centennials went to the PP, but it wasn't the turning point they were hoping for as Carter Wilkie would score short handed to make it 5-2. It would stand up as the only goal of the period despite the increased pressure from the Cents. Shots after 2 were 25-23 Warriors.
Rylan Van Unen got the Centennials within two in the final frame, but the goal came too little too late with 6 minutes to go. Try as they might, the Cents couldn't find more offense and the Warriors would hang on for the win. Final shots were 37-32 Cents.
After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter said the team needs to make sure their start is better.
"You can't start a game like that, especially on home ice. If we want to have success we need to keep ourselves in the game early on and not be chasing all night."
The Cents will look for a better result tomorrow as they are now just 1 point ahead of the Warriors for the final playoff spot in the BCHL.
The Merritt Centennials are pleased to announce the signing of defender Brody Johnston (03) from the Kamloops Storm of the KIJHL. Unfortunately, Cents D Tyson Galloway (03) will join the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL for the remainder of the season.
Johnston hails from Vanderhoof, BC and had 7 assists in 29 games with the Storm this season, his first in the KIJHL. Last season he spent time with the Cariboo Cougars, getting into games with the major and minor midget programs in the BCMML where he tallied 3 goals and 11 asssists in 34 games played.
Head Coach and GM Derek Sweet Coulter says the Cents wanted to get ahead of the curve and get Johnston now.
"For a younger player Brody knows his identity. He moves the puck quick, skates well, hits hard and has a high hockey IQ. He plays an aggressive style that will fit our small ice surface well. He has a high energy level and will do whatever it takes for the team to have success and he is extremely excited to be a Centennial. We identified Brody early on this season and have been keeping a close eye on him, and he will fit the culture we are trying to build in the locker room."
Fans can get their first look at Johnston tonight as the Cents take on the West Kelowna Warriors at 7pm at the NVMA.
The Merritt Centennials (10-26-1-3) face off against the West Kelowna Warriors (7-25-5-2) tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a pair of games against the Trail Smoke Eaters and had their best periods early on in both games as they rode goals from AP Brett Mero and Christian Buono to a 2-0 lead in game 1, and goals from Chase Nameth and a BCHL first from Evan Benwell to lead 2-1 after one in game 2. The second period saw the Cents slide slightly, more so in game 2 as they'd allow the Smoke Eaters to grab a couple goals. In game 1, the Cents were still in the lead 2-1, and in game 2 they were still in the game at 3-2. The undoing came in the third period in both contests, but in game 1 it wasn't until the final 5 minutes where Trail scored 3 quick goals to make it a 6-3 final. Game 2 saw Trail add a pair in the final frame to take it 5-2. Tanner Marshall was outstanding in both games despite the unflattering scoreline and held his team in it for a chance at victory. The Cents will need another solid performance from their goaltender, but will be strengthened by the return of Daniel Tkac from the World Juniors, and Chase Cooke who has been officially signed. The Cents will be without the services of Olson Werenka and Matt Osadick, who join Joey Berkopec as players moved at the trade deadline.
The West Kelowna Warriors opened 2020 with a pair of losses as well against the Coquitlam Express 4-3 and the Chilliwack Chiefs 3-1. They have a new bench boss in Shane Ferguson after relieving Brandon West of duties, and are going to be active players at the trade deadline. They've already made one move in sending D man Wyatt Head to the Coquitlam Express and there should be more to follow.
The Cents and Warriors meet for the 5th time tonight, and the Cents lead the season series 3-1. They've won games by scores of 4-2, 5-2, and 6-2 before falling in the most recent game of the season series 5-3 just before the Christmas break.
The Centennials continue to be led by Christian Buono who has 31 points, Payton Matsui has 25, and Daniel Tkac looks to pick up where he left off in the BCHL with 23 points.
West Kelowna is led by a trio of youngsters. Tyler Cristall has 25 points, Johnny Evans has 24, and Carter Wilkie has 19 points.
The special teams battle sees the Cents penalty kill holding it's own to start 2020, but the powerplay needs to get on the board in 2020.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 10.4% (17th) Cents - 73.2% (17th)
West K - 17.6% (11th) West K - 74.4% (15th)
The goaltending duel sees both teams at a crossroads as to who to play in game 3 of the series. Tanner Marshall has played outstanding so far this year and is 6-12-2 with an .885 SV% and a 4.61 GAA. Ryan Winter is waiting in the wings with a 3-11-2 record, a .902 SV%, 4.08 GAA and 1 shutout.
Johnny Derrick is now the guy in West K at 3-12-1 with a .904 SV%, 3.41 GAA, and 1 shutout, but the Cents were able to chase him from the net the last time he was between the pipes.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says the Cents should get a boost from having some new and old bodies in the mix.
“We are going to see Tkac back from the World Juniors, Cooke is excited to officially begin his Centennials career. I'm looking for both to come in with confidence and help our team.”
The Cents are hoping for a boost back into the win column.
Puck drop 7pm. Pregame 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
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(Photo - Garrett James)
As of December 26, 2019, no Merritt Centennials player had ever suited up in the World Junior Championship.
On December 27, 2019, Daniel Tkac changed that.
Tkac joined Q101 to discuss the tournament and the feeling of dawning his nation's sweater on the World stage.
“It’s something you always dream about, it’s an unbelievable feeling when you get to play on that stage, it’s just unreal. Just amazing,” said Tkac.
And the ‘Slovakian Superman’ didn’t just play, he performed, finding the back of the net for the game-winning goal over Kazakhstan.
“It was a nice pass, even though it hit a couple of sticks and feet, but it was bouncing, and I just tried to get my stick on it. Once it hit my stick, I guess it just floated into the net, it took a while, once it went in, I was pumped and excited,” said Tkac. “The body took over (after I scored), pure reaction.”
Tkac would add an assist in the second game of the Juniors and continue to gain the trust of the Slovakian staff, be utilized on the power play, penalty kill and at even strength.
“It felt good. You always want to be one of those guys to be trusted. I’m glad he trusted me in those types of situations, it was a good experience,” added Tkac.
As for playing against some elite talent, including Alexis Lafreniere and Team Canada in the quarters?
“It was nice to play against those types of players, see where you’re at,” began Tkac. “It’s not every day you get to play against those types, it’s nice when you get the chance, try to keep up with them and do everything you can.”
“It is a confidence booster, I can feel it I think, I’m not going to lie it’s a confidence booster,” added Tkac.
Staying out of the box was the biggest lesson Tkac learned from the tourney, saying when you give those caliber players a chance to score, they find a way and take advantage.
Tkac’s lasting memory from the tournament certainty wasn’t a surprise.
“The overall experience, but also definitely the goal, that’s going to be a big one. Enjoying the moment, soaking everything in, it was awesome,” concluded Tkac.
Tkac will be lacing them up for the Cents tonight for the first time since December as Merritt welcomes West Kelowna to the NVMA.
Catch the broadcast on Q101 beginning at 6:45 with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt
Photo Credit: Garrett James
The Merritt Centennials are sending D Olson Werenka (99) to the Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL for future considerations.
Werenka, a Calgary native, is returning to his home province to conclude his Junior career. This season with the Cents he had 3 goals and 14 assists in 31 games played. He is joining a Spruce Grove team that are second place in the North division of the AJHL at 30-10-2 and are the 4th place team overall.
Head Coach and GM Derek Sweet Coulter knows Werenka will be a good piece for a contender.
"Olson has that fire and that fight you need to be effective in the playoffs. We wish him well with the Saints."
The Merritt Centennials would like to thank Olson for his contributions to the team and the community during his time with the club, and with him the best with Spruce Grove.