Merritt Centennials
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** 5:45 PRE GAME**

The Merritt Centennials (2-10) face off against their closest geographical rival the West Kelowna Warriors (4-9-3-1) tonight.

The Cents get set for their second matchup of the week against an Interior Division opponent, and their second matchup of the season against the West Kelowna Warriors. The Centennials have had a whirlwind of a week away from the rink. Head Coach and General Manager Barry Wolff was relieved of his duties on Wednesday, and longtime Governor and Director of Hockey Operations Brian Barrett announced his retirement on Friday. Despite the distractions the Cents seem looser around the rink, and tighter in the dressing room. On Wednesday they fought to the bitter end in a tight 3-2 loss to the Vernon Vipers. After a scoreless first period, in which both goaltenders came up solid, and Ryan Winter had a save of the year candidate, the goals came in the second. The Cents surrendered a powerplay goal, but then fought back with goals from Rylan Van Unen and Josh Kagan to make it 2-1 after 2. However, despite a hard fought third, it was the Vipers who found the scoresheet to tie it, and then a late dagger within the final minute to win it.

The Warriors are coming off a matchup against the league leading Salmon Arm Silverbacks and were able to pick up the win in a tight 2-1 game. Last weekend they went down under to face the Wenatchee Wild. Down South they were able to pick up 3/4 points against the Wild and haven't suffered for scoring this season as they've netted 46 goals.

One of the Cents lone wins on the year came against the Warriors back on September 20th when they were able to win at home 4-2. Merritt got goals from Roloson, Tkac, Matsui, and Manty en route to the victory, and it was also the last time the Cents tallied a powerplay goal.

Josh Kagan has been a goal scoring machine in the last few games and leads the Cents with 12 points and 8 goals. Daniel Tkac, Brett Roloson, and Payton Matsui are all tied with 7 points.

Young Brandon Dent is the leading scorer for the West Kelowna Warriors with 16 points. Veteran Lucas Cullen has 14 points, and Max Bulawka has 10.

The special teams battle sees the Cents needing some drastic improvement, while West K isn't far behind in the penalty kill department.

Powerplay:                            Penalty Kill:

Cents - 7.5% (17th)          Cents - 72.4% (16th)

West K - 18.6% (11th)   West K - 74.7% (15th)

The goaltending duel sees the Cents waiting for someone to step up. Ryan Winter had his best game of the year on Wednesday versus the Vipers, but Tanner Marshall will get the start tonight. Marshall is 1-3 with a .858 SV% and a 4.59 GAA. Winter is 1-7 with a .904 SV% and a 3.91 GAA.

The Warriors have split time between Brock Baier and Johnny Derrick. Baier is 2-10 with a .893 SV% and a 3.83 GAA. Derrick is 1-2 with a .916 SV%, a 3.05 GAA, and 1SO.

Head Coach Derrick Sweet-Coulter says the Cents just need to reset their mindset.

"We need to start thinking of the positive impact our hard work can have, our plays can have, and what we can do out there. Don't dwell on the negative, focus on the positive."

The Cents will look to reset tonight against the West Kelowna Warriors.

Puck Drop 6pm at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna. Pre-Game 5:45 on Q101 and Hockey TV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.

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The Merritt Centennials are announcing that longtime Governor and Director of Hockey Operations Brian Barrett is retiring from his position within the team citing personal reasons.

For parts of 47 years, Brian Barrett has been integral to the success and longevity of the Centennials franchise. As a Player, Coach, General Manager, BCHL Governor, Director of Hockey Operations, and even Owner Barrett has done whatever was required of him to keep the team thriving. For his commitment to the game of hockey, Barrett was inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016.

President of the Centennials Neil Menard says that there is nothing but thanks from him and the Board of Directors for Barrett's many years of service.

"Brian has been so integral to this hockey team for so many years. He's affected the lives of players on the team, helped them reach the next level, sometimes professionally, and sometimes beyond the realm of hockey. His commitment and dedication to the team cannot be questioned, and we'd like to thank him sincerely for all the time and effort he put into the club and wish him the best in his next chapter."

Barrett will continue to be a fan, and get more time to devote to his family.

The Centennials are next in action on the road Saturday night against the West Kelowna Warriors at 6pm.

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Matt Osadick

(Photo credit – Garrett James)

To say it’s been a crazy week in Cents land would be an understatement.

Players and fans alike were going through their gameday routine on Wednesday when the news broke that Head Coach and GM Barry Wolff had been relieved of duties and Assistant Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter was taking over the reins as the bench boss.

Matt Osadick played for Barry last year in Swan Valley and stopped by Q101 for five good minutes and to share his initial reaction to hearing the news.

“It not easy, having your Head Coach sent away, it’s not easy for everybody around. Derek has to step towards a pretty big role here, I think he’ll do fine,” said Matt.

“We had a captain’s meeting to see how things were going to work out, couple changes happening,” added Matt.

“We’re just trying to keep positive, obviously it’s not easy, we’re just trying to make the best of it,” said Matt.

Before the dust even had a chance to settle the Cents were out on the ice to play the Vernon Vipers. A well-fought battle for Merritt ended with a late dagger in the final minute from Vernon, but Matt believes there are positives to be taken.

“We were competing and just a couple of unlucky bounces that ended up in the back of our net,” said Matt.

Matt sees his share of powerplay time, a powerplay that hasn’t scored since September 20, a 0-39 stretch.

“We need to get some bodies in front, shot more pucks and eventually they’ll start going in. A quick couple of passes, one-touch then fire it at the net,” shared Matt.

Along with the slumping PP unit, Matt has been a little snake-bitten himself so far this year.

“I’ve hit a few too many posts so far, just in a little slump right now. Eventually, I’ll come out and start getting up there,” said Matt.

A theme evident on Wednesday and confirmed by Matt is Coach Derek is looking to simplify the game, play north-south not east-west.

We’ll get our first true chance to see the Derek Sweet-Coulter Merritt Centennials tomorrow from West Kelowna. Puck drop is 6:00, Q101 will have all the action starting with the pregame show at 5:45 with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.

 

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On Twitter: @Q101Merritt

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The Centennials got snaked by the Vipers in the final minute of play and fell by a score of 3-2 in Derek Sweet-Coulter's debut as bench boss.

In the first period the teams skated to a scoreless draw, but not for lack of trying. Ryan Winter got the call in net for the Cents, and was called upon numerous times to make huge stops some of the desperation variety. The Vipers also got quality goaltending from Reilly Herbst and shots were 12-11 in favour of Merritt after the first.

The middle stanza saw the Centennials draw their first penalty of the game, and the Vipers and their league worst powerplay was able to convert. Bodies in front and a bounce came free to Connor Marritt who broke the goose eggs and made it 1-0 for the Vipers 4 minutes into the frame. Captain Rylan Van Unen was able to tie the game before the period's halfway mark after him and Brett Roloson streaked down the right wing, and Roloson fed the pass back to set Van Unen up for a rocket farside blocker on Herbst. Youngster Tyson Galloway then recorded his first point in the BCHL when he set up Josh Kagan with the perfect backhand dish on a platter that Kagan potted past Herbst to give the Cents the lead. Payton Matsui had an opportunity on the penalty shot after a hard charge to the net. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to convert on the powerplay after being poke checked by the Vernon netminder. Shots after 2 periods of play were 29-21 in favour of the Vipers.

The final frame saw the Cents weather the Vipers attack, and counter with some solid offensive play with the lead. Unfortunately, a play off a faceoff led to Jackson Caller getting the puck around Winter to tie the game 2-2 halfway through the 3rd. Then with the game winding down, and it looking like overtime was on the horizon the Centennials the Vipers found the heart breaker from newcomer Dawson Holt to make it 3-2. With the net empty the Cents tried to push for the equalizer, but couldn't get traction in the offensive end and 3-2 would be the final. Final shots were 44-31 in favour of the Vipers.

After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter said the team played a great game given the circumstances.

"It was an emotional day for everyone. The guys really came out hard and played extremely well all things considered. Still a few minor mistakes out there, but the guys know when they've made a mistake and want to learn from it."

The Cents will look to learn from this game and move on against the West Kelowna Warriors in West K Saturday. Puck drop 6pm.

ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Doug Scott

3RD STAR: Rylan Van Unen 1G

2ND STAR: Ryan Winter 41/44 STOPS

1ST STAR: Dawson Holt 1 GWG

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The Merritt Centennials (2-9) look for revenge inside the same week against the visiting Vernon Vipers (5-6) tonight.

Last weekend the Centennials began their games against the Vipers albeit later than usual due to bus trouble leaving Merritt. The game began at 8:20, and the teams to their credit came out flying. The Vipers scored two quick goals to break their 3 game shutout skid that they came into the game with, and the Centennials were able to answer in the latter half of the period with goals from Captain Rylan Van Unen and Thomas Manty. However, in the second the Vipers pulled away with some timely scoring and ended up taking the game by a score of 5-2. The Centennials followed that up with a tight 4-3 defeat at the hands of the Nanaimo Clippers, and despite a goal from Payton Matsui and two goals from Josh Kagan, again it was the 2nd period and special teams that were the difference. The Cents went 0/7 with the extra man while the Clippers converted on 2/4. A late push with the net empty didn't yield any results for the Cents and they look to end a now 4 game losing streak tonight.

The Vipers saw a return to form after facing the Centennials. Coming into the game shutout in the 3 games previous they were able to tally 5 goals against the Cents and then carry the momentum over into the following night against a talented Chilliwack Chiefs club. They scored 4 more goals while they held the Chiefs offense to just a goal. Newcomer Reilly Herbst in net has provided them with a solid 1-2 punch as he picked up his first 2 wins of the year last weekend.

The two teams are now tied in terms of producing offense with 23 goals for each, however, the Vipers have been better at keeping the puck out of their net as the Cents have allowed 21 more goals over the same amount of games.

The Centennials saw some chemistry begin to build on their top line with Payton Matsui, Thomas Manty, and Josh Kagan factoring in on all 3 goals on Saturday night against the Clippers. As a result Kagan now leads the team in points with 11 while Daniel Tkac and Payton Matsui are tied with 7 points apiece.

The Vipers continue to be led by their Captain Connor Marritt in terms of offense with 7 points. Matt Kowalski has 6 points, and linemate Connor Sleeth has 5.

The special teams battle sees the Vipers as the league's Jeckyl and Hyde team, while the Cents are looking to bump a lengthy slump on the powerplay.

Powerplay:                        Penalty Kill:

Cents - 7.8% (16th)      Cents - 72.7% (16th)

Vipers - 6.1% (17th)     Vipers - 92.5% (1st)

In net, the Cents are looking for someone to seize the number one role. Ryan Winter is 1-6 with a .900 SV% and a 4.03 GAA. Tanner Marshall is 1-3 with a .858 SV% and a 4.59 GAA.

The Vipers got a pair of quality starts from their new goalie Reilly Herbst over the weekend. He is now 2-0 with a .968 SV% and a 0.60 GAA. Max Palaga has been the Vipers go-to guy over the start of the year and is 3-6 with an .899 SV%, a 2.77 GAA, and 1 shutout.

Assistant Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says the team needs to start showing some urgency on the ice.

"Points at the beginning of the year matter as much as they do in February. We need to start showing some urgency and start picking up some wins."

The Cents will look to bring that urgency tonight against the Vernon Vipers.

Puck Drop 7pm from the NVMA. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101 and Hockey TV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.

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