Merritt Centennials
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The Merritt Centennials continued the trend in the new year of going to OT and winning, this time against the Coquitlam Express 5-4.

The first period started with the Express jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Danny Pearson and Chase Danol. The Cents would cut the lead to one on their first powerplay of the game. Rylan Van Unen got the puck along the goal line, drove the net, and the puck popped loose in the slot for Payton Matsui to bat it in for his 2nd goal in 3 games and 4th of the season. Austin Roden stopped 9/11 in the first, and Kolby Matthews stopped 8/9.

In the second, the Cents quickly tied it with Rylan Van Unen potting a juicy rebound off a low Talon Zakall shot in the pads. Then the Express started to pull away with goals from Christian Sanda and Alex DiPaolo to make it 4-2. Shots after 2 were 26-19.

The final frame saw the Cents start out slow, but turn it on late. The energy line gave the Cents the jump they needed with all three combining on the action. Vincent Guy set up Brett Roloson for a shot from the high slot, and Daniel Tkac got a double tap on the rebound to make it 4-3 with 3:50 to go. Then the Cents buckled down and put the pressure on. Late in the game Jaydon Fetter unleashed a blast from the left point, and Nick Wicks deflected it in to tie the game at 4’s and send it to OT.

In OT it was all Centennials as they possessed the puck for the majority of the extra frame, and it paid off. The Cents played the puck back to neutral ice to Captain Nick Wicks, he saw an opening on the right side and glided in across the blue line, made some moves to the outside on the defender and then sniped it short-side high over the glove of Matthews to seal the win.

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said the energy line is starting to build trust.

“Daniel Tkac and the whole energy line is really starting to gain some trust from Brandon and myself. I feel comfortable putting them out in any situation, and they came through for us tonight.”

The Cents now move into a one-point lead in the Interior Division over the Penticton Vees once again.

ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cooper Connell 0G 0A

3rd STAR: Rylan Van Unen 1G 1A

2nd STAR: Nick Wicks 2G 0A

1st Star: Christian Sanda 1G 1A

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The Merritt Centennials (25-13-1-1) have a mid-week date with the Mainland Division's Coquitlam Express (20-17-1-0) tonight.

The Cents are coming off a thrilling weekend that saw them pick up two wins in two games that went to extra time. The Cents were able to topple the BCHL best Prince George Spruce Kings on Friday night with goals from Payton Matsui, and a game-tying goal in the final minute from Matt Kopperud to level the game at 2-2. Overtime would solve nothing, and then Kopperud applied some slick moves in the shootout going backhand, between the legs to score the only goal of the shootout while Austin Roden stopped all comers for PG. The Cents followed that up with more heroics on Saturday against the Vernon Vipers. The Cents got a first period goal from Nick Granowicz and a powerplay goal from Brendan Schneider to give them a 2-1 lead late, but Vernon would tie it up and send it to overtime. After surviving a string of penalties to finish out regulation and into overtime, the Cents got a chance with the man advantage late, and Granowicz scored with 8 seconds remaining to give the Cents the win, and give him sole possession of 1st in the game-winning goal category.

The Express are coming off a sound thumping of the West Kelowna Warriors 8-1 and aren't a team to be taken lightly. They're a much improved club from last season, and the Cents were guilty of underestimating them last year by losing the season series 0-2 by scores of 5-2 and 3-2 respectively. The Express have the 5th most goals scored in the league with 150, just 5 back of the Merritt Centennials, but they spread their scoring across all lines as they don't have a scorer in the top 20 in the BCHL. They also have one of the best goalie tandems in the league in Kolby Matthews and Chase Stevenson so the Cents will have to play a complete game from the complete team in order to top the Express.

The Cents will need more punch from top scorer Brad Cocca who is 4th in the league with 51 points. Nick Granowicz is coming off a 2 goal performance and is up to 6th with 48 points. Mathieu Gosselin is hanging in the top 20, at 20, with 41 points.

The Express have 16 players on their roster who have contributed at least 10 points this season. Josh Wildauer leads the team with 40 points, Connor Gregga has 35, and Alex DiPaolo has 33 points.

The special teams battle favours the Express:

Powerplay:                                 Penalty Kill:

COQ - 20.2% (5th)                COQ- 79.4% (10th)

Cents - 17.9% (15th)           Cents - 75.1% (17th)

The goaltending duel sees Austin Roden coming in red hot after a two-win performance this weekend in which he was relied upon heavily. Roden is 17-7 with a .901 SV%, a 3.21 GAA, and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis has yet to start a game in 2019 and is 8-5-2 with a .904 SV% and a 3.31 GAA. Kolby Matthews has been exceptional since being acquired by the Express and is 12-9 with a .907 SV%, a 2.82 GAA, and 1 shutout. Chase Stevenson is 9-9 with a .882 SV%, a 3.74 GAA, and 1 shutout.

Head Coach Joe Martin says that the Express are a strong team that likes to play offense.

"Early on in the year, they were known for their defensive play, but now it seems like they've been all about the offense. That being said they have two great goaltenders who can keep them in games if need be."

The Cents will hope to be the stronger team tonight.

Puck Drop 7pm from the Poirier Sports and Leisure Complex. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.

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Austin Roden has captured the eyes of the BCHL with his stellar play over the last weekend.

Helping the Cents start out 2019 with a pair of wins, Roden was crucial to the teams success.

On Friday, he went toe-to-toe with Logan Neaton of the Prince George Spruce Kings, who holds the league-best GAA, in a goaltending duel that didn't allow a scorer on the board until the third. He bent, but didn't break as both goalies allowed two goals in the third period, but Roden was able to stop all comers in overtime and the shootout with some acrobatic saves. He stopped 29/31 shots and was named 1st star.

On Saturday against the Vernon Vipers, Roden came up huge again. Late in the game with the Cents facing penalty kill after penalty kill, Roden held on to get the team to overtime and then killed off a penalty in overtime for the team to persevere with just 8 seconds remaining on the clock. Roden was named 3rd star for his efforts stopping 37/39 shots.

Over the weekend he made an impressive  66 saves/70 shots, sported a  .943 SV%, and 1.85 GAA.

It was the first honorable mention for a Centennials goaltender this season.

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The Merritt Centennials have started the year with back to back overtime victories, this time over the Vernon Vipers 3-2.

The Cents started strong in their first road game of 2019. The team tested Bradley Cooper, who looked shaky early, but despite getting shots through the netminder they couldn’t get them into the net. Until Mathieu Gosselin was given way too much room behind the net, and Nick Granowicz barged his way to the front and Gosselin put it on a platter for Grano to make it 1-0. It would be the only goal of the first as Austin Roden continued his hot play by stopping all comers. Shots after 1 were 8-8.

In the middle stanza, Cooper started to round into form and the Cents couldn’t beat him despite plenty of chances. After only one penalty in the first period, the penalties started to pile up in the second and the Cents took one too many. Connor Marritt would score on a rebound to tie the game at one’s after two. Shots after two period of play were 22-21 in favour of the Vipers.

In the third, the penalties continued and early on it was the Cents with a two man advantage. They would convert their first powerplay of 2019 when Brendan Schneider found a puck that got through Cooper and into the blue paint and bang it home to make it 2-1. However, late in the game the refs would give the Vipers a two-man advantage and they’d equalize the game with a Matt Kowalski wrister from the slot. The penalties continued to stack up late in the third, and the Cents had to be sharp to get the game to extra time. Shots after 3 were 36-27 in favour of the Vipers.

The Cents had their hands full killing of a penalty to start the overtime frame. The penalty kill would persevere and then Mike Van Unen would draw a penalty by driving the net hard and getting hauled down. With the 4-on-3 advantage the Cents would go to work, and only needed one shot to win it. Mathieu Gosselin teed one up from the top of the left circle, and Nick Granowicz would deflect it out of mid-air and in to give the Cents the win.

With the two points, the Cents will vault into 1st place in the Interior Division over the idle Penticton Vees.

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said he loved the teams compete.

“You have to give full credit to the guys on this one. They didn’t give up when the chips were stacked against them, and they ended up getting rewarded.”

ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Josh Latta 0G 2A

3RD STAR: Austin Roden 37/39

2nd STAR: Matt Kowalski 1G 1A

1st STAR: Nick Granowicz 2G 0A

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The Merritt Centennials (24-13-1-1) take to the road for the first time in 2019 to face the Vernon Vipers (14-16-6-3). 

The Cents are coming off the most exciting game of the season against the Prince George Spruce Kings, a game that had a little bit of everything. The goalies dueled for a full 2 periods, as Austin Roden and Logan Neaton stopped all comers until 5 minutes into the 3rd. Payton Matsui scored the first goal of the New Year for the Cents by electing to keep on a 2-on-1 and rocketing a wrister top shelf. The lead didn't last long as the Spruce Kings got a 2-on-1 of their own moments later and beat Roden down low. PG would add to their lead on the powerplay to give them a 2-1 edge with just over 8 minutes to go, but the Cents wouldn't back down. In the final minute, Matt Kopperud converted out of a melee in front from a Mathieu Gosselin pass to tie the game at 2's and send it to OT. In overtime, the goaltenders shone once again to ensure the 3-on-3 segment didn't result in victory. Kopperud made good on the first shootout attempt with a nifty move between the legs to net the only goal of the shootout, as Austin Roden stared down all comers to give the Cents the thrilling shootout victory to start 2019. 

The Vipers are coming off a win of their own to start 2019 against a West Kelowna Warriors club that is chasing the Cents in the standings. The snakes were able to build up an early lead and hang on. Josh Latta, Brendan Kim (2), and Coleton Bilodeau built up a 4-1 lead then survived the late push from the Warriors. The Vipers, despite their record, are a stingy team that doesn't give up many chances on home ice, and the Cents will have to play a simple road game if they want to upset the home side in game two of 2019. 

The last time these two teams met was in late November in Vernon and it was the Vipers who were able to take the game 3-2. The majority of their chances came on the counter-attack as the Cents were playing a little too cute with the puck. The only goals were a deflection on the powerplay from Christian Sabin, and a no nonsense shot from Brady Ziemer off the half-wall to make things interesting late, but the Cents couldn't mount the comeback. 

The Cents got a big game from Matt Kopperud who extends his points streak to 8 games, but Captain Nick Wicks' point streak was snapped at 10 games. Brad Cocca was held off the score sheet but still has a team best 50 points, but falls into a tie for 4th in BCHL scoring. Nick Granowicz picked up an assist on the game-tying goal and is 6th league-wide with 46 points, and Wicks is hanging in the top 20 at 19th with 40 points. 

The Vipers are led by rookie Teddy Wooding in scoring with 28 points, Matt Kowalski has 27, and Josh Latta has 25 points. 

The special teams battle sees the Vipers with the edge. 

Powerplay:                                    Penalty Kill: 

Vipers - 19.7% (5th)                      Vipers - 83.1% (7th)

Cents - 17.7% (15th)                    Cents - 75.1% (16th)

Austin Roden is coming off one of his best performances of the year, and could get his 2nd start in a row. He's now 16-7 with a .898 SV% and a 3.27 GAA with 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis is 8-5-2 with a .901 SV% and a 3.31 GAA. Vernon now has two goalies they can rely on. Aiden Porter is 9-14 with a .903 SV% and a 2.86 GAA and 3 shutouts. Bradley Cooper is 5-10 with a .919 SV%, a 2.22 GAA and 3 shutouts as well. 

Head Coach Joe Martin knows that the Vipers despite their spot in the standings are still a talented club.

"They've lost a couple players to major-junior, they've made a few more moves this year than usual, but they're still really sound defensively and have been in a lot of tight games this year."

The Cents will hope to put their talent on display and stay perfect in 2019. 

Puck drop 6pm at Kal Tire Place. Pre-Game 5:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas. 

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