Merritt Centennials
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The series swaps venues starting tonight as the Merritt Centennials welcome the Wenatchee Wild to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. 

The Cents will hope to get an assist from their home rink, which is the smallest in the BCHL, to help slow down the Wild and their high flying offense. After two games the Wild are humming along, in large part due to their powerplay which is 6/14 or a staggering 42.8%! Jasper Weatherby and Cooper Zech, the league's leaders on forward and defense, have arrived in the series. Weatherby has 6 points, scoring 2 in each game including the game winners, and Zech has added 4 assists as he quarterbacks the powerplay. 

The offense for the Cents did arrive in game 2, and as has been the case all season the team got it done by committee. Christian Sabin scored unnassisted on a sharp angle shot 33 seconds into the game to get the Cents first goal of the playoffs. Rylan Van Unen and Matt Kopperud combined on a 2-on-1 to tie the game at two and chase game 1 starter Seth Eisele. Mathieu Gosselin collected a feed from Nick Wicks and fired one far-side blocker on Austin Park, and Zach Risteau streaked down the wing on a Mike Van Unen offering before sniping one top corner glove side. All the Cents goals have come during even strength play as they haven't managed to convert on the powerplay in the series going 0/5 including a 5-minute major and a full 2-minute 5-on-3. 

Goaltending hasn't been sensational for either side. Eisele coming off a shutout on 14 shots in game 1, allowed 2 goals on 3 shots in game 2 and was pulled in favour of Austin Park. Austin Roden after shutting the door on 16 shots in relief in game 1, only stopped 15/19 in game 2 before being pulled in favour of Jacob Berger. In Roden's defense, 3 of the 4 goals allowed were on the powerplay. 

Needless to say discipline will be a huge factor in game 3. Head Coach Joe Martin mentioned that the Cents goal was to allow for 3 minors a game, and through 2 games their averaging 7. That being said, the Cents also need to seize the opportunity when it arises which hasn't been often with only 5 powerplay chances, but that makes them all the more valuable. In the post game comments from game 2, Coach Martin also said his team needs to rise to the moment instead of being overcome by it and there's no bigger moment in the series than game 3 when you're down 2-0. 2-1 is a lot easier to swallow than down 3-0 on the verge of elimination. 

In net after two games for the Wild, Eisele is 1-0 with an 88.2 SV%, a 1.84 GAA and 1 shutout. Park who the Cents saw for the first time this season in game 2 is 1-0 with an 88.9 SV% and a 2.20 GAA. For the Cents, Roden hasn't been the goaltender of record for either loss but has a 88.6 SV% and a 4.56 GAA while Jacob Berger has an 88.7 SV% and a 5.38 GAA. 

The Cents need to play better from the net out and rise to the occasion of a crucial game 3.

A reminder to show up wearing your red to support the team in their biggest game of the year. 

Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.  

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Highlights and insight from the first leg of the Interior Division Matchup between the Merritt Centennials and the Wenatchee Wild and a look ahead to Games 3 and 4 in the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. 

 

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The Merritt Centennials found their offensive legs in game 2, but weren’t able to stop the Wild on the penalty kill as they surrendered 4/6 and fell 6-4.

It was the Cents who struck early in the game, just 33 seconds in Christian Sabin snuck one past Seth Eisele shortside and it found a hole to make it 1-0.

The Wild were able to answer on the powerplay just 2 minutes later, and just 10 seconds in to the attack, Lucas Sowder was able to tie the game 1-1.

Nathan Ionnone got his first of the post season after a sneaky set up by Sam Morton who drove wide, and behind the net, dishing a no look backhand pass before skating out the other side and Austin Roden was caught looking the wrong way and beaten to the blocker side.

31 seconds later, Matt Kopperud was set up perfectly by Rylan Van Unen on a two-on-one, and Kopperud fired one between the legs of Eisele to draw the Cents level 2-2. Eisele would be pulled after allowing 2 goals on 3 shots, and the Cents would get their first taste of Austin Park who hasn’t started a single game all year against the Cents.

Chad Sasaki would add one late for the Wild to pull them back ahead 3-2, once again on the powerplay.

With just 6 seconds to go there was a dust up following a delayed high stick, and Murphy Stratton ended up cross checking Brendan Schneider from behind and going off for a 5 minute major and a game misconduct.

To start the second the Cents had virtually a full 5 minute powerplay, and halfway through that a full 2 minute 5-on-3, but weren’t able to convert on a glowing opportunity.

Halfway through the second the Wild would jump out by 2 following another powerplay goal. Jasper Weatherby found himself open between the hashmarks and ripped one glove side on Roden to make it 4-2. That would end Roden’s night and Jake Berger would come into the game, marking the second game in a row where the Cents netminder had been pulled.

Late in the second, the Cents would start to come on strong. Mathieu Gosselin got the puck at the right hash mark off a feed from Nick Wicks and was able to fire one blocker side to get the Cents within one.

Less than a minute later Zach Risteau beat Park clean to the glove side and blast the water bottle off the netting to make it 4-4.

The Cents went into the third with the game in their hands, but after surrendering an early powerplay to the Wild, which they killed, the Cents found themselves on their heels.

Jasper Weatherby got the go ahead goal off a deflection of a Cooper Zech shot to pull the Wild ahead at the 11:45 mark, and AJ Vanderbeck iced the game with 1:30 to go before the Cents could even pull the goalie.

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin noted that the Cents got caught up in the moment.

“Towards the end of the game, or during that 5-on-3 powerplay we got a little caught up in the moment and were forcing plays, or just throwing pucks away instead of making something happen.”

The Cents will look to stay more disciplined, and make more happen when they return home to the Nicola Valley for a Tuesday night matchup at 7pm.  

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The Merritt Centennials and the Wenatchee Wild have had a night off to think about the series, but tonight playoff action resumes. 

The mood around the Centennials during their off-day was surprisingly upbeat despite dropping the opening game of the series 4-0.

The Wild shot out to a 2-0 lead courtest of league leading scorer Jasper Weatherby in the first period. Weatherby's first goal came 9:30 into the frame when he cut out of the corner, and rode the goal line before forcing his way in front of the net and beating Jake Berger low shortside. 

After a Zach Court slashing call, Weatherby found the back of the net on the man advantage by deflecting a point shot to make it 2-0 after 1. Berger was the busier of the two netminders turning away 9/11 shots, while Seth Eisele only had to stop 3. 

In the second, the Wild continued to press. The Cents were having trouble getting out of their zone, and were having an equally troubling time spending extended periods in the Wild end. Zak Galambos ended up fooling Berger with a 5-hole shot on a powerplay with Mike Van Unen in the box for slashing. 

Ashton Stockie dropped the mits against Nathan Iannone late in the second looking to spark his team, and the bout was spirited but shortlived as Stockie lost his footing and fell to the ice with the linesman jumping in shortly after.

The fight didn't provide the fire as Captain of the Wild, AJ Vanderbeck, added his first of the post season on a quick bing-bang-boom play, fed by Murphy Stratton and Weatherby behind the net. That would be the end of Berger's night, stopping 21/25 shots. 

Austin Roden would relieve Berger in the late second and third and managed to stop all 16 shots he faced, despite the Cents making a parade to the penalty box late in the game. The Cents fell 4-0 while being outshot 41-14. 

The Wild have only been outshot four times throughout the whole regular season, so that task may be a little out of reach, but they'll need to test Eisele a little more than 14 times in a game if they want to top the Wild. 

The Cents will also have to engage their forecheck with a little more pace. The Wild were able to use their quick puck movement to escape pressure, and their zone too easily in game 1. However, the Cents were able to generate chances on the counter-attack, but just weren't able to convert. They'll look to do so tonight as they're they only team in the BCHL playoffs to be shutout in game 1. 

The special teams battle in game 1 saw the Wild go 2/8 on the powerplay or 25%, the Cents were 0/2 on their opportunities. 

Seth Eisele stopped all 14 shots he faced in net, and Bliss Littler, coach of the Wild, will likely turn back to his top netminder. Despite the low number of shots, Eisele did make a couple highlight reel saves to keep the Cents off the board. Jacob Berger stopped 21/25 for an 84 SV%, while Austin Roden stopped all 16 he faced in relief duty. On the postgame show, Head Coach Joe Martin said that his mind was made up about who would start game 2, but he wouldn't divulge that info. 

The Cents will look to bounce back and earn the split in game 2 against the Wild. The key word being earn, Cents need to play with that desperation and desire to win. 

Puck Drop 7:05, Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.  

 

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The Merritt Centennials started to show some fight late in the game, but the damage had already been done. The Wenatchee Wild scored 2 in the first and second, and that was all they needed to get by the Cents in the third as they won by a score of 4-0. 

Jasper Weatherby, the league's MVP and leading scorer showed why in the first period with two goals. One 5-on-5 where he came out from the nearside corner, with a move along the goal line before cutting in front of the net and beating Jacob Berger down low short-side past the toe to make it 1-0. He added another on the powerplay on a deflection off a point shot from Sam Morton to make it 2-0. The powerplay was the Wild's first of the game. 

In the second, the Wild added another on the powerplay from Zak Galambos, who walked in from the right point and fired one five-hole from the right dot to make it 3-0. 

Wild Captain AJ Vanderbeck has the games final goal 5-on-5 with a nice tic-tac-toe play from Murphy Stratton to Weatherby behind the net, before it was put to Vanderbeck who fired it quickly on Berger. That would end Berger's night with 2 minutes to go in the second period. 

Austin Roden came on in relief and stopped the 2 shots he faced in the second plus the 14 he faced in the third to go unbeaten. He made some huge saves late when the Cents started to get a little unruly, and were taking repeated trips to the penalty box. Nick Wicks had a shorthanded breakaway, and Mathieu Gosselin had a chance coming out of the box but neither could solve Seth Eisele who made 14 saves for the shutout. 

The Cents have plenty of room for improvement as they head into game 2 of the series looking for a split. More shots, more time in the offensive zone, more determination, and more edge are in order. Head Coach Joe Martin said that whatever the reason was, his team has to move on.

"We can't change the past, we can't change what happened to us. We're here today, and we're down 1-0. Whether we lost 4-0 or 5-4 in overtime, a loss is a loss in the playoffs. Let's get over it, let's remember it, let's learn from it, and let's be better."

Game 2 goes Saturday night at 7pm, Pre-Game 6:50 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca. 

 

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