The Merritt Centennials (34-15-4-3) square off with the Mainland's Langley Rivermen (26-26-2-1) tonight.
The Cents are coming off a tidy win against the West Kelowna Warriors. They gained the lead just 43 seconds in thanks to some work in front by Mathieu Gosselin and Nick Granowicz. Granowicz was able to find the rebound off a Goose shot to open the scoring. Gosselin would add to the lead midway through the first period after Talon Zakall made a well timed pinch at the right point, spotted Granowicz back door, and he found Gosselin in front for the tap in between the legs to make it 2-0. The Cents got a little undisciplined in the first and gave up a powerplay goal to the Warriors to bring them within one. After a scoreless second period, the Cents came to life in the third. Brad Cocca joined his linemates on the goal front by chipping one up and over Hopkins from inside the blue paint, and Gosselin added his 2nd of the night on a powerplay sniping short-side high to make it 4-1. Gosselin picked up 2 goals and 2 assists for the first star nod, while Austin Roden stopped 38/39 shots in net.
The Rivermen are on a bit of a slide of late. Since losing to the Cents on January 27th 4-1, they went on an 8 game losing skid before finally righting the ship against the Vernon Vipers with a 4-2 victory in their most recent contest. Despite the losing streak, the Rivermen are a team that's to be respected as they also have the size and grit to try and grind down opponents. Merritt will have to be careful to play clean, take advantage on the powerplay, and keep their heads up to avoid injury.
The season series between the two clubs sits a 1-1. The Rivermen won way back at the BCHL showcase 4-2, but in the most recent contest the Cents won 4-1. Wicks scored two goals late in the 1st period just over a minute apart, and Kopperud and Dal Monte added powerplay goals early in the third for the Cents to secure the victory. The Cents got 11 powerplay opportunities in the game, and converted on 3.
The Cents now have 5 players that have eclipsed the 50 point plateau, and have 4 players in the top 20 in scoring, the only team in the BCHL that can boast that stat. Brad Cocca leads the way with 66 points for 6th in league scoring. Nick Granowicz is 13th in the BCHL with 59 points. Mathieu Gosselin made a surge after a 4 point night on Tuesday to get to 58 points and 16th, while Nick Wicks has 57 points for 19th. Matt Kopperud is the other Cents scorer above 50 points with 51.
By comparison the Rivermen only have 4 skaters with over 30 points. Ethan Leyh leads the way with 39, defender Jake Livingstone has 36, and Trevor Ayre and Daneel Lategan are tied with 33 points.
The teams split the special teams battle as the Rivermen are a Jekyll and Hyde team depending on which unit is out there.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 18.8% (12th) LAN - 83.5% (3rd)
LAN - 17% (16th) Cents - 77.3% (12th)
Between the pipes, the Cents have been getting a string of stellar performances from Austin Roden. Roden is now 25-8-3 with a .910 SV%, a 2.96 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Liam McGarva was the backup on Tuesday as the Cents continue to miss Vincent Duplessis.
The Rivermen's Braedon Flemming is 18-19 with a .903 SV%, 2.82 GAA, and 4 shutouts. New back up Shayne Battler is 8-6 with a .906SV%, a 2.63 GAA, and 1 shutout.
Head Coach Joe Martin knows the Rivermen won't be an easy out.
"This is a team that makes life hard for opponents with their size and grit, we need to focus on our game of speed and skill."
The Cents will try and make it look easy tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101,1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials got a dominant display from their top line en route to a 4-1 win against the West Kelowna Warriors.
The game had just begun when Nick Granowicz found a rebound to the side of the net off a Mathieu Gosselin try and banged it home for his 32nd goal of the season just 43 seconds into the period.
The Cents survived a couple powerplays immediately after the goal before getting another one at the midway point of the period. After a face-off loss by the Centennials, Talon Zakall had an excellent pinch at the right point, through it cross-ice for Granowicz, and he one-touched in front for Gosselin who tapped it five-hole to complete the tic-tac-toe play to give the Cents the 2-0 lead.
The Cents took a penalty late in the period, that gave the Warriors a chance to get within one after a Mike Hardman goal to make it a 2-1 hockey game after 1 period of play.
The second period went scoreless as Austin Roden stood tall in the pipes for the Centennials. His efforts were rewarded in the 3rd period.
The Cents started to slowly pull away in the final frame, slowly building momentum until Brad Cocca broke open the game. Cocca got a feed in the blue paint and was able to elevate the puck from in tight up and over Hopkins to make it 3-1.
The Cents got a series of powerplays as the Warriors started to get undisciplined and Mathieu Gosselin was able to add his 2nd of the night and join the 20 goal club. Gosselin dangled in the on the left side and then sniped one from the sharp angle, shot-side, up and over Hopkins shoulder and in to make it 4-1.
Austin Roden stopped 38/39 shots throughout the game, as the Cents pulled even with the Penticton Vees in the Interior Division standings. However, Penticton has a game in hand.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said that the Cents continue to work on discipline.
“I felt there were two calls that we didn’t really need to take, and one of them ended up in our net. In the playoffs, you can’t afford to take those liberties, you don’t want to be the one in the box when it ends in a goal.:
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Lukas Cullen
3rd STAR OF THE GAME: Brad Cocca 1G 2A
2nd STAR OF THE GAME: Nick Granowicz 1G 1A
1st STAR OF THE GAME: Mathieu Gosselin 2G 1A
The Merritt Centennials (33-15-4-3) lock horns with another Interior Division foe, the West Kelowna Warriors (27-27-0-1) tonight.
The Cents are coming off a weekend where they went 2 for 2 against two Interior Division teams. First up were arch-rival Penticton, and for the first time in nearly 2 years the Cents marched into Penticton and picked up a victory 4-2. Daniel Tkac broke the game open with a steal and a snipe to make it 1-0 after 1 period of play. Rylan Van Unen added insult to injury when he dangled in on a penalty shot and beat LaFontaine blocker side. Nick Granowicz showed no mercy on a move in tight to the forehand high-glove on Derek Krall who came in to replace LaFonatine to make it 3-1 after 2. Matt Kopperud added an early powerplay marker in the third before the Vees came storming back, but Austin Roden held them to just a single goal on 30 shots in the 3rd and stopped 53/55 overall in the winning effort.
The following night against Trail the Cents showed their resilience to the physical game, and their resilience to come back on the scoreboard in a 6-4 win. Trail opened the scoring but the Cents answered with a deflection goal from Brendan Schneider before Trail regained the lead 2-1 before the first was over. Nick Granowicz converted a slap-pass from Mathieu Gosselin to tie the game at 2 early in the 2nd period, but again Trail would regain the lead. Matt Kopperud would level the game at 3's with a head scratching goal that would last until the buzzer after 40. In the third, the Cents got their first lead of the game from a deflection by Payton Matsui, but again the Smoke Eaters tied it at 4. On a powerplay midway through the 3rd, Granowicz converted on another PP, this time by finding a soft spot in the slot, and then firing top corner. Captain Nick Wicks would add an empty netter to ensure victory late in the third.
Tonight's meeting is a clash of the two most offensive clubs in the Interior Division. The Cents lead the division with 209 goals for on the season, and West Kelowna is 2nd with 201. However, it's a clash of two teams that are heading in different directions. There was a time when West Kelowna was duking it out with Merritt for top spot in the division, or hot on their heels, but West K has lost 4 of it's last 5 and have fallen to 6th in the division with 55 points. The Centennials have an Interior Division banner in their sights, but need to continue to win, while hoping for the Vees to falter.
Merritt leads the season series between the two teams 3-1-1 with a chance to take the edge tonight. Early on it was all Cents with scores of 8-4, 8-3, and 5-4 before the Warriors picked up wins 6-3 and 4-3 in OT. This game will also feature some highly talented forwards, as both teams have 3 players in the BCHL's top 20 scoring race (only the Victoria Grizzlies have more with 4).
Brad Cocca continues to lead the way for the Cents with 63 points which is good enough for 7th in the league. Nick Granowicz is coming off a 3-goal weekend where he eclipsed the 30 goal mark, and netted 2 game-winning goals to extend his league lead with 10. Him and Captain Nick Wicks are tied in points with 57 on the campaign.
Mike Hardman is the top dog for the Warriors with 68 points for 3rd in the BCHL. Chase Dubois has 60 points for 11th, and Willie Reim has 57 points for 17th.
The special teams battle sees the Warriors with one of the leagues most potent powerplays.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
WK - 23.2% (2nd) WK - 76.8% (13th)
Cents - 18.9% (12th) Cents - 77.4% (12th)
The battle between the pipes sees Austin Roden continuing his stretch of dominant play. He's now 24-8-3 with a .908 SV%, a 3.04 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Vincent Duplessis is still nursing an injury, but should he be ready to return is 9-5-3 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA.
Rookie Connor Hopkins has shared the crease with Brock Baier this season with West Kelowna. Hopkins is 15-18 with a .912 SV%, a 3.24 GAA and 1 shutout. Baier is 12-8 with .894 SV% and a 4.17 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin expects another close game from the Warriors.
"The Warriors are still a dangerous team that you need to respect. We will need to be playing our best to get past them."
The Cents will try their best to ensure the Warriors don't come close tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV and Q101.1FM with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials survived an up and down game, but came out on top in the end against the Trail Smoke Eaters 6-4.
The first period started with the Smokies converting on the powerplay on a long shot from Trevor Zins through the crowd. Brendan Schneider tied it up with a deflection of a Mike Van Unen point shot to tie the game 1-1. Owen Ozar regained the lead for Trail after Jaydon Fetter blew a tire as he crossed the blue line, gave it up to Carter Jones, and despite Austin Roden making the initial save the net was empty for Ozar to make it 2-1 after one. Shots were just 9-8 after the first period, and Roden made 7 saves.
The second period started a little stronger for the Centennials as they converted on the powerplay early. Mathieu Gosselin delivered a slap pass on the tape, back door for Nick Granowicz who put it home to tie the game at 2's. For Granowicz it was the goal that brought him to the 30-goal plateau. The Smokies would restore their lead on a powerplay of their own with Braeden Tuck finding a hole through the crowd to make it 3-2. Matt Kopperud would tie the game with a seeing-eye shot from beside the net, that got through Donovan Buskey and tied the game at 3. Shots after 2 were 19-18 in favour of the Smoke Eaters.
In the final frame, the Cents came to play and got an early goal from Payton Matsui off a deflection from a Talon Zakall point shot to make it 4-3 giving the Cents their first lead of the game. Chase Stevenson would level the game catching Roden cheating off the post short side. The Cents got a powerplay midway through the 3rd period, and Nick Granowicz found a soft spot in the high slot, received the feed from Nick Wicks, and sniped one glove side on Buskey to give the Cents the 5-4 lead. Nick Wicks would ice the game with an empty netter in the final minute to make it 6-4.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said it definitely had a playoff atmosphere.
"It started with the crowd, it finished with our play. We took hits, we converted on the powerplay, and we picked up the win."
The Cents picked up their 2nd win in a row, and go 2 for 2 on the weekend. Next up the West Kelowna Warriors on Tuesday night.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Joey Berkopec 2 PIMs
3rd Star: Trevor Zins 1G 1A
2nd Star: Mathieu Gosselin 0G 2A
1st Star: Nick Granowicz 2G 0A
The Merritt Centennials (42-15-4-3) get set for another Interior Division Showdown against the Trail Smoke Eaters (22-23-7-3) tonight.
The Centennials are riding high after picking up their first win against the Penticton Vees in nearly two years last night. The Cents got a first period goal from Daniel Tkac after he stripped a defender and then ripped a wrist shot blocker-side on Jack LaFontaine to make it 1-0. The Cents would add some offense in the second on the rare penalty shot. Rylan Van Unen was hauled down as he went to the net, and took the defender, himself, and LaFontaine for a ride into the end boards. LaFontaine looked hurt on the play, but elected to stay in for the penalty shot. Van Unen showed him no mercy coming in with speed on the right side before making quick moves across the crease, finishing forehand and putting it over the blocker of LaFontaine for the 2-0 lead. LaFontaine would be replaced by Derek Krall shortly thereafter. The Vees got on the board off a lucky bounce, but Nick Granowicz regained the two goal lead before the end of the period with a nifty move in tight to make it 3-1 after 2. The Cents tallied early in the third period on the powerplay as Matt Kopperud and Jackson Munro played give and go before Kopperud deked backhand and upstairs to make it 4-1. The Vees then came at the Cents hard throwing 30 shots on net in the third period alone, but Austin Roden with the help of the defense, and some timely posts was able to hold the Vees to just one goal and the Cents hung on for the 4-2 win. Roden made 53/55 saves in the first star effort.
The Trail Smoke Eaters are riding a bit of a high themselves, coming in on a three game win streak that included an overtime victory against Penticton on Wednesday. Trails most recent win came against the Langley Rivermen last night 4-2, young gun Kent Johnson scored two goals in the first period to set the Smokies up well moving forward. Dafoe and Jones added goals for Trail as they overcame some rough stuff against the Rivermen to win.
The season series between the two clubs sits at 3-0-2 for the Cents with both losses coming in overtime, one in the shootout. The most recent game in Trail saw the teams get early goals in the first with Brendan Schneider and Brett Roloson scoring for the Cents to make it 2-2 after one. Then the teams were starved for offense all the way until the final horn, when OT solved nothing the teams went to the shootout and it was Kent Johnson who sealed the victory for Trail with a deadly move to give them the 3-2 edge.
Brad Cocca should have gotten an assist last night on the Granowicz goal, but has yet to get credit so remains at 62 points. Nick Granowicz is now on the precipice of the 30 goal plateau with 29, and 55 points for 17th league-wide, and Nick Wicks is tied for 20th at 54 points.
The Smoke Eaters are led by Carter Jones with 51 points, Chase Stevenson has 49 points, and rookie Kent Johnson has 44 points.
The special teams battle sees Trail with one of the top powerplays.
Powerplay Penalty Kill:
Trail - 22.2% (4th) Trail - 78.3% (11th)
Cents - 18.6% (13th) Cents - 77.5% (12th)
In net Austin Roden is coming off a first star performance with 53/55 saves. He's now 23-8-3 with a .909 SV%, a 3.01 GAA, and 2 shutouts. AP Jackson Glassford continues to serve as back up in the absence of Vincent Duplessis.
Adam Marcoux has been the guy in Trail this year and is 16-22 with a .893 SV% and a 3.13 GAA. Donovan Buskey came in at the trade deadline from the WHL and is 4-2 with a .884 SV%, and a 3.67 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin knows that the Smoke Eaters are a dangerous team.
"They've got a good mixture of speed, size, and skill and can hurt you on the rush. They're on a bit of a run right now, and we need to be ready at home."
The Cents will try and prove how dangerous they can be tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.