Merritt Centennials
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The Merritt Centennials (11-37-1-3) welcome the BCHL's best in the Coquitlam Express (42-8-1-1) tonight.

The Cents are coming in with a head of steam after their first win of 2020 against the Prince George Spruce Kings. Early on the Cents were in tough as they came in with just 4 defenseman, and Brophy Dunne dropped the gloves after being goaded into a fight by Wil Kushniryk. That would drop the Cents D corps down to three, but they'd battle on with the help of the Van Unen bros filling in on the backend. Prince George would find the scoreboard first after a deflection from Haydn Delorme and would lead after 1, but a strong 2nd period would bring the Centennials back from the brink. A breakaway goal from Rylan Van Unen tied the game at 1-1, then a play out of the corner from Evan Benwell gave the Cents the 2-1 lead, and Hunor Torzsok would add to the lead with a goal on a broken play after a Payton Matsui centering feed to give the Cents a solid three goal outburst in the third. The Spruce Kings would cut the lead to one before the period was over, but in the third the Cents used the strength of their special teams to get back into the contest. Matsui would deflect a Talon Zakall point shot home on the powerplay, and then put a pass on a platter for Hunor Torzsok on shorthanded to give the Cents a 5-2 lead. Some timely, and unreal saves from Ryan Winter helped the Cents hang on for their first victory of the new year, and helped snap a 15 game losing streak.

The Coquitlam Express have been another animal this season, and are a well oiled machine heading into the playoffs and looking to lock up tops in the regular season. They are 4-0-1 in their last five with the lone blemish coming to the Wenatchee Wild 4-3 in overtime. Aside from that, the Express have won with varying degrees of difficulty topping Victoria 6-3, Alberni Valley 9-4, Langley 5-0, and Chilliwack 4-3.  Part of the Express success is that it's not any one player, or one line that's been carrying the mail over the year. Coquitlam has 9 scorers with 30 or more points, and 10 players with 10 or more goals on the campaign. Tonight will also mark the return of Joey Berkopec for one final time in Merritt during his junior career. It will take an all hands on deck effort from the Cents to slow down the league's best.

The lone game in the season series was way back in September of this year. Where the Express came away with a 6-3 win. Matt Osadick, Daniel Tkac, and Payton Matsui scored in the losing effort.

The Cents got a 3 point performance from their top point getter on Friday in Matsui who now has 37 points. Christian Buono has 33, while Daniel Tkac and Thomas Manty have 26 points.

Coquitlam has two scorers in the league's top 20 in Greg Lapointe with 53 points, and Josh Wildauer with 49. Connor Gregga is 3rd in team scoring with 41 points, while one of the most dangerous players in the BCHL in Massimo Rizzo has 39.

The special teams battle sees the Cents coming off the good vibes built up in their last game, but they'll be running up one of the best units in the league on both sides of the puck.

Powerplay:                          Penalty Kill:

Cents - 12% (17th)         Cents - 72.1% (17th)

Express - 24.5% (2nd)  Express - 88.8% (1st)

In net, Ryan Winter is coming off a win and is now 4-18-1 with a .895 SV%, a 4.28 GAA, and 1 shutout. Tanner Marshall is 6-18 with an .881 SV% and a 4.92 GAA.

The Express boast the leagues best netminder, and have a 3 goalie tandem. Clay Stevenson is 29-2-1 with a 1.76 GAA, a .935 SV% and 4 shutouts this year. Jack Watson is 10-4 with a 2.62 GAA, a .904 SV% and 1 shutout, while Joe Howe, who was acquired from Victoria, is 9-15 with a .896 SV% a 3.82 GAA and 1 shutout.

Derek Sweet Coulter says that it will take an effort from the full lineup.

"What we saw on Friday was everyone playing hard, everyone playing defense, and everyone chipping in. We will need that effort and more against the Express."

The Cents will hope to take full advantage and add another win to the column tonight.

Puck drop 7pm from the NVMA. Pregame 6:45 with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve on Q101 and HockeyTV.

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The Merritt Centennials came into the game short 2 D-men, but they came out with their first victory of 2020 against the Prince George Spruce Kings 5-2.

After a first period that saw the teams trade a pair of chances on the powerplay, it was Haydn Delorme of the Spruce Kings who broke the deadlock scoring the only goal of the period at even strength. Before that, Brophy Dunne was goaded into a fight with Wil Kushniryk and after a brief wrestling match the Cents found themselves down to 3 D. Shots after 1 were 12-7 Merritt.

In the middle frame, the Cents didn’t have time to be sorry for themselves and took it to the offensive side of the game. With Josh Van Unen filling in more than admirably on D, the Cents were able to score three unanswered goals to take the lead. Rylan Van Unen was let loose down the right wing and saw some daylight, barged his way to the net and beat Woodside short-side to get the Cents going. On the ensuing shift after a hold at the line by Johnston, Evan Benwell walked out of the corner untouched and took it to the net roofing a backhand to make it 2-1. The Cents weren’t done there as a few minutes later after killing off a Spruce Kings penalty they broke up ice, and Payton Matsui threw a pass to the slot that was partially broken up, but Hunor Torzsok found the loose puck to put the Cents up 3-1. In the final minute, the Spruce Kings were able to beat Ryan Winter after he may have been interfered with to cut the lead to 3-2 before the third. Shots after 2 were 24-11.

With the game on the line in the 3rd period, the Cents clutched up on special teams. With Brodziak in the box for roughing, it was Talon Zakall who led the charge with the extra man after playing extra minutes all night. His point shot was deflected by Matsui in front and the Cents had a two goal lead. Once again it was Matsui who led the charge shorthanded, after a partial break he didn’t just throw the puck down the ice but skated and waited for reinforcements then found Torzsok with his stick on the ice in the slot to get the shorthanded tally. The Cents didn’t look back from there and Ryan Winter stopped 34/36 in the 5-2 win, the Cents first of 2020.

After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter the Cents may have been short, but it was a full team effort.

“I think we finally saw the whole team buy in, and the whole team play for the full 60 minutes tonight. The offense was back checking, we were doing the little things right, we kept it simple, and we won the game.”

The Cents will carry the good vibes into the Ice Breaker Saturday night at the Civic Centre before carrying the momentum into a game at home against Joey Berkopec and the Coquitlam Express on Tuesday.

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The Merritt Centennials (10-37-1-3) look to bump the slump against the Prince George Spruce Kings (17-28-2-4) tonight.

The Centennials are coming off a game where they had destiny in their hands. After a slow start to a Tuesday night affair, the Cents drew two penalties in quick succession and were able to make the Vipers pay. Rylan Van Unen was able to pick his spot with a lazer upstairs on the 5 on 3 to open the scoring 1-0, and Ben Ward was able to barge his way to the goal mouth to score before the teams went back to even strength to make it 2-0. Vernon got one back on a powerplay of their own to make it 2-1 after 1 period of play. Jerzy Orchard opened the scoring in the second period with a cheeky attempt at a wraparound that was denied, so he went back to the near post to bank it off the goalie and in to make it 3-1. Despite the two goal lead, the Vipers woke up after that and scored 5 unanswered to come from behind and win 6-3. The Centennials are hoping for a similar start, but a different end to the game tonight.

The Prince George Spruce Kings haven't been as deadly as last season where they marched all the way to the RBC Cup finals, but they still represent a challenge in their own barn where they play a tight systems game. In their last five, the Spruce Kings are 1-3-0-1. Their most recent lost came on Wednesday night against the Wenatchee Wild in a tight 3-2 shootout loss. Before that they were able to top the surging West Kelowna Warriors 3-1, and previous to that dropped three games in a row to the Vernon Vipers 2-1, the Trail Smoke Eaters 9-2, and the Chilliwack Chiefs 6-5.

It won't be until next season that these teams will be divisional foes, and as such there's only been one game in the season series which the Cents won by a score of 4-2. Matsui, Torzsok, Kagan, and Osadick scored en route to victory, but with 2 of those scorers no longer in the lineup the Cents will look for different sources of offense. The Cents will also be battling their energy levels on the night as they will be without the services of any AP's and be two men short of a full deck.

The Cents are hoping for contributions from their top 3: Payton Matsui has 34 points, Christian Buono has 33, and Daniel Tkac has 26.

The team will have to be wary of the top guns on the Prince George Spruce Kings: Nick Poisson leads the way with 45 points, Corey Cunningham has 40, and Nolan Welsh has chipped in with 35.

The special teams battle sees the Cents looking for a better push on the PK after allowing 2 or more in the last 5 games played.

Powerplay:                          Penalty Kill:

Cents - 11.7% (17th)     Cents - 71.8% (17th)

PG - 18.3% (10th)           PG - 76.5% (14th)

In net the Cents goaltenders are hoping to hold the fort early on while the group gets out the road rust. Ryan Winter is 3-18-1 with an .893 SV%, a 4.93 GAA, and 1 shutout. Tanner Marshall is 6-18 with an .881 SV% and a 4.92 GAA.

Former affiliate for a game Carter Woodside has been somewhat of a savior for the Spruce Kings as he's now 5-7 with a .906 SV% and a 2.97 GAA. Jett Alexander is 12=19=1 with a .892 SV% and a 3.22 GAA.

Assistant Coach Paul Barnes says it's all about putting that full 60 minute effort together.

"We saw again the other night that the Cents put together a solid 30 minutes, but we need to go from start to finish to get the result we want."

The Cents will look to put their first win of 2020 together.

Puck drop 7pm from the RMCA with Jared Thomas on Q101 and Hockey TV.

 

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The Merritt Centennials started out strong, but the Vernon Vipers awoke and didn't look back as they scored 5 unanswered en route to a 6-3 Cents loss. 

The Tuesday night affair started out a little on the sleepy side as neither team found much purchase through the first 10 minutes. It wasn't until a pair of penalties to the Vipers that the Cents were able to open the scoring. Rylan Van Unen sniped top corner hockey to make it 1-0 with plenty of time remaining on the powerplay, and Ben Ward was able to tally on the powerplay as well as the Cents were able to shootout to a quick 2-0 lead. However, the Vipers were no slouches on their extra man advantage as Rylan Van Unen went off for slashing and the Vipers Captain Connor Marritt was able to tally to make it 2-1. That would be the score heading into the second period. Shots after 1 were 14-10 Cents. 

In the second period, the Cents had a solid start, but then things turned sour. Jerzy Orchard scored on a nifty wraparound, where he was denied on one side, but got a backhand to go on the other to make it 3-1. However, that awoke the Vipers and they'd score on the ensuing shift, and 4 unanswered. Max Bulawka, Ryan Shostak, Ben Helgeson, and Hunter Donohoe would all score in the 2nd period for the Vipers to know the Centennials back a peg. Shots after 2 were 30-24 Vipers. 

The final frame saw the Cents and Vipers skate at an even rate, but Nathan Kent would add his first in the BCHL to make it 6-3 Vernon. Ryan Winter stopped 39/45 shots in the losing effort. Final Shots 45-36 Vernon. 

After the game, Assistant Coach Paul Barnes said the Cents seemed to lose their way after the 3rd goal. 

"We kind of took our foot off the pedal after the third goal, and let the Vipers come back in the game. We need to keep pushing at those points and keep the pressure on."

The Centennials will look to rebound on the road against the Prince George Spruce Kings on Friday night. 

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The Merritt Centennials (10-36-1-3) take on the last team they picked up points against on home ice against the Vernon Vipers (26-21-2-1) tonight.

The Centennials are still in search of their first win of 2020 despite some solid efforts over the last week. The Cents fell in a tight defeat to the Chilliwack Chiefs 6-4 where they climbed themselves out of a 3 goal hole in the 2nd period, tied the game up in the 3rd, and surrendered a 5 on 3 and empty netter late to have the game slip out of their grasp. On Friday against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, the Cents opened the scoring with a shorthanded tally from Payton Matsui, and Matsui tied the game in the second period 2-2, but the 'Backs were able to take the reigns from there by scoring 4 unanswered to make it a 6-2 final. On Saturday at home, the Cents found themselves behind 3 goals again but managed to comeback with goals from Benwell and Torzsok but a penalty to Josh Van Unen gave the Silverbacks a goal on the PP to make it 4-2. The Cents got the early goal in the 3rd to point them in the right direction, but the Silverbacks were able to restore the two goal lead and win by a score of 5-3.

The Vernon Vipers are 2-3 in their last 5 and are coming off the heels of something the Cents know well, a Penticton Vees beat down. They lost by a score of 7-1 the last time out, but before that were able to rattle off two wins in a row with a 2-1 win against PG and a 4-3 win against the Wenatchee Wild. Before that they dropped a pair to the West Kelowna Warriors 4-1 and 3-2.

The Centennials will remember the last time they played the Vernon Vipers well as it was the last time they picked up points on home ice in the Teddy Bear Toss Miracle game where they came back from a 7-2 deficit to tie the game at 7's before falling in a shootout to Vernon. The season series sits at 0-3-1 with losses of 5-2, 3-2, 8-3, and that 8-7 shoot out loss. Hopefully playing an opponent they've had some success against will give the Cents the boost they need.

The Cents are led by Payton Matsui and Christian Buono at 33 points with Daniel Tkac sitting 3rd with 26.

Matt Kowalski has scored 50 points in 50 games and is 9th in BCHL scoring. Captain Connor Marritt has 35 points and Dawson Holt has 34, but overall the Vipers have a score by committee mentality.

The special teams battle sees the Cents looking to continue to improve.

Powerplay:                                  Penalty Kill:

Cents - 11.2% (17th)             Cents - 72.2% (17th)

Vipers - 15.8% (14th)            Vipers - 85.2% (4th)

In the blue paint the Cents netminders are looking to right the ship. Ryan Winter is 3-17-1 with an .894 SV%, a 4.31 GAA and 1 shutout. Tanner Marshall is 6-18 with an .881 SV% and a 4.92 GAA.

The Vipers have a solid option in Reilly Herbst who is 17-7-2 with a 2.84 GAA, a .904 SV% and 1 shutout. Keegan Karski is 2-2 with an .888 SV% and a 3.10 GAA.

Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says the Cents need to continue to avoid the little mistakes.

"There's been a couple little things from the last few games that if you can avoid, the outcome might be different. We avoid those and we will be good."

The Centennials will look to find their way to a win tonight.

Puck drop 7pm. Pregame 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.

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