The Centennials got a solid effort from start to finish using their team speed to their advantage to pull off a 4-2 win over the Smoke Eaters in Game 1.
The first period started with a bang. The Cents were looking great right off the hop and tested Smokies starter Donovan Buskey with a couple early chances. Unfortunately, the Cents weren't able to convert on their early opportunities, and the Smokies were able to cash in on their first chance of the period after a scramble behind the net was thrown out front to Kent Johnson who sniped one blocker-side high on Austin Roden to make it 1-0 for Trail. Shots after 1 were 13-11 in favour of the Cents.
In the middle frame the Cents came out of the gate with some pep again, and this time they were rewarded. Just 22 seconds into the second, Nick Wicks played back to Matt Kopperud at the top of the left circle, and Kopperud went glove high and it had enough power to roll over Buskey's glove and in to tie that game 1-1.
Midway through the period, the Cents got their third chance on the powerplay and made good. Brendan Schneider found Mike Van Unen at the line, and he unloaded a howitzer that found its way top corner to give the Cents their first lead of the game 2-1.
Late in the period, from nearly the same spot as the opening of the period Kopperud spun off the left side wall, and form the top of the circle sniped one through the crowd top corner glove on Buskey to give the Cents a two-goal lead 3-1.
The two goal lead wouldn't last long as with just 30 seconds to go in the 2nd, Diarmad Dimurro loosed a shot from the line that was deflected by Ghirardosi and in to make it 3-2. Shots after 2 were 24-19.
The third period saw the Cents return to their speed game, and they spent much of the period in the offensive zone. Before the Smoke Eaters could make a push to tie the game, Nick Granowicz stole the puck off a Smokies defender, cut in ahead a step, and made a sharp move backhand, forehand, upstairs to give the Cents the two goal cushion 4-2.
The Smoke Eaters made a push and pulled the goalie late, but the Cents and Roden held the fort to hang on for the win. Final shots were 37-31 in favour of the Cents.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: BRENDAN SCHNEIDER 0G 2A
3RD STAR: Donovan 33/37
2ND STAR: Austin Roden 29/31
1ST STAR: Matt Kopperud 2G 0A
Game 2 goes tomorrow night from the NVMA. Tickets will be available from 3pm - 6pm at the NVMA box office, puck drop 7pm.
Another Centennials netminder has himself a late season commitment.
Playing stellar all year, and especially down the stretch Austin Roden has committed to the University of Nebraska - Omaha.
The Victoria, BC native is in his 2nd season with the Merritt Centennials and has served as the primary starter throughout the year. Registering the 4th most minutes played in the BCHL with 2442, he finished with the 6th best save percentage at .912, the 10th best goals-against at 2.95, and 2 shutouts. Last season he made it into the BCHL history books with the 5th best save percentage of all-time for a season with .931.
Roden is one of the hardest workers on the team, and he and the Cents head into the post season on a 5 game win streak.
The Centennials keeper is now the 10th Cent with a committed to an NCAA Division 1 program - a team record.
The 2nd seeded Merritt Centennials (36-15-4-3) and the 7th seeded Trail Smoke Eaters (23-24-8-3) meet in the post season for just the 2nd time in their long histories.
Tonight begins the second season for both clubs, and despite being a 2 vs 7 match up on paper the series will be much tougher than that. The Cents hold the season series edge at 4-0-2, and went perfect against the Smoke Eaters at home. Needless to say home ice advantage will be paramount as both teams have some of the most unique dimensions, and atmosphere's to their rink. The Cents won with a bit of breathing room at every game held at the NVMA by scores of 4-2, 5-3, and most recently 6-4. In games in Trail, the Cents were the only team to win in regulation 5-2, and two games went beyond 60 minutes one a 2-1 loss in OT where Duplessis fell beyond the goal line, the other a 3-2 loss in the shootout. However, overtime will be a full 5-on-5 now that we are into the post season, and there will be no skills competition to bail the Smoke Eaters out either. With the 4th best home record, and the 3rd best away record in the BCHL, the Cents will be looking to defend their territory well in games 1 and 2 and then eyeing at least a split in Trail.
The Cents conclude what was their best season in 30 years, setting highs for wins (36) and win percentage in that span (.681), and their 220 goals for was the best it's been in 13 seasons. Trail managed 184 goals this season while allowing 207 against for a -23 differential, while the Cents were able to outscore many of their problems at +38. While those stats go out the window, and everything is wiped to zero to start game 1 the Cents will have confidence knowing that they are fully capable of beating any team in the BCHL. Having 5 scorers who eclipsed 50 points also helps the team brim with confidence, while the Smoke Eaters had just 2 players get past the 50 point mark. The depth of the Cents up front should be a difference maker in this series.
Defensively it may be Trail that holds a slight edge in the series. Through much of the season they deployed 7 defensemen to give them options on the blue line, and they're built for the playoffs being big and physical. Trail has a lot more of their offense move through the back end with 124 points recorded on the season from defenders, but there is a big drop off in production behind Trevor Zins and Diarmad Dimurro. The Cents are a little more even across the board from 1-7 and have actually helped more on the scoresheet with 128 points, but the Cents also scored 36 more goals than the Smokies. The Cents employ more mobile, puck moving defenseman and will need to be shifty, but also willing to take the hit to make the play.
Special Teams will be the biggest X-factor in the series. Trail has one of the best powerplays on the season, but on the penalty kill both teams struggled. Needless to say, the team that can seize their opportunities with the extra man, but also limit the damage on the penalty kill will have a huge advantage in this series.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Trail - 22.8% (4th) Trail - 77.7% (11th)
Cents - 18.9% (13th) Cents - 77.3% (13th)
Offensively the Cents will continue to rely on their fantastic five who all eclipsed the 50 points plateau. Brad Cocca finished the season 6th in the league with 68 points, Mathieu Gosselin finished 14th with 60 points, Nick Granowicz finished 16th with 59 points, Nick Wicks finished 18th with 59 points, and Matt Kopperud finished with 51 points on the year.
Conversely, Trail had just 4 players score over 40 points. Carter Jones finished with 55 points, Chase Stevenson had 53, rookie Kent Johnson had 46, and defender Trevor Zins also had 46 points.
As with any trip to the post season, goaltending will play a huge factor. Both teams feature a goalie who is used to getting a lot of action in the crease as Roden was the 4th most utilized goalie in the BCHL with 2442 minutes played, and Marcoux was the 5th most with 2376 minutes played. Austin Roden may be the hottest goalie in the league right now coming off 5 straight wins and the league's final BCHL Player of the week nod. He's 27-8-3 with a .912 SV%, a 2.95 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Vincent Duplessis is back to 100%, but hasn't seen action in nearly a month. He is 9-5-3 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA.
Donovan Buskey may be turned to early on in the series with Adam Marcoux recovering from injury. Buskey is 5-4 with an .880 SV% and a 3.99 GAA. Marcoux has been the guy this season for Trail with a record of 16-22 with a .893 SV% and a 3.13 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin knows this isn't a Trail team to be taken lightly.
"I have a lot of respect for Trail, and I think that's a feeling our team needs to have, but at the same time we need to make sure we're playing the right way, and our way."
Game 1 of the playoffs goes tonight, and it is Murray GM night. The first 100 fans will get a free rally towel, Murray GM giveaways in the first intermission, and a $140 detailing package up for grabs in the 2nd intermission.
Get your tickets by 3pm from the Marketing Office across from Canada Post, or after 3pm tickets will be available at the door at the NVMA.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1 FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
As voted on by BCHL broadcaster's the league's All Star nominations were released today.
Despite a great team performance on the season, the Cents only had one individual singled out by the league's play by play men: Nick Granowicz.
Granowicz had an electrifying season in what will be his only year in the BCHL. His 10 game-winning goals were a BCHL best, his 32 goals on the season were 7th, and his total of 59 points was good enough for 16th in the league. For his efforts he was named a Second-Team All Star.
The Macomb, Michigan native is committed to play hockey at the University of Michigan next season and will join former Centennials forward and NHLer turned Coach, Bill Muckalt.
Granowicz joins Head Coach Joe Martin as the only two Centennials to be recognized by the BCHL in year end awards.
Here are the 2019 BCHL All-Stars:
F – Alex Newhook, Victoria Grizzlies
F – Ryan Brushett, Powell River Kings
F – Kevin Wall, Chilliwack Chiefs
D – Carter Berger, Victoria Grizzlies
D – James Miller, Penticton Vees
G – Jack LaFontaine, Penticton Vees
F – Mike Hardman, West Kelowna Warriors
F – Nick Granowicz, Merritt Centennials
F – Matt Holmes, Chilliwack Chiefs
D – Layton Ahac, Prince George Spruce Kings
D – Aiden Hansen-Bukata, Nanaimo Clippers
G – Logan Neaton, Prince George Spruce Kings
F – Kent Johnson, Trail Smoke Eaters
F – Kevin Wall, Chilliwck Chiefs
F – Matt Holmes, Chilliwack Chiefs
D – Nick Bochen, Prince George Spruce Kings
D – Pito Walton, Coquitlam Express
G – Aidan Porter, Vernon Vipers
The Coach of the Year Award for 2018-19 is coming back to the Nicola Valley.
Head Coach Joe Martin was able to transform from a team that went 24-27-5 last year to a high powered offensive machine that went 36-15-4-3 this season.
The Centennials wins of 36 and win percentage of .681 are the highest in 30 years, and the Cents goals for of 220 is the highest in 13 seasons.
With a strong crop of 13 returning players, good recruiting from Director of Scouting Brandon Shaw, and a great support staff on the bench in Athletic Trainer Tyler Wowchuk, and Equipment Manager Kelly Bartch, Martin was able to take the Cents to new heights.
Coach Martin appreciates the accolades, but knows that teams aren't judged by how they perform in the regular season.
"Obviously it's a great honor, and I appreciate being singled out in a league that's full of great coaches, but there's still plenty of work to do and my focus is on round 1 of the BCHL playoffs and the Trail Smoke Eaters."
Joe Martin joins Luke Pierce (2013), Al Glendening (2006), Brian Barrett (1993), Eddy Beers (1989), and the coach the trophy is named after Joe Tenant (1978) in winning coach of the year.