The Merritt Centennials (13-8-0-1) welcome the Vernon Vipers (8-6-5-2) to town during Parent's Weekend tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a weekend split against the Penticton Vees and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. They lost in their first trip to the penalty shootout against the Vees 4-3. Mathieu Gosselin, Rylan Van Unen and Matthew Kopperud had goals to give the Cents a 3-1 lead in the final frame, but the Vees stormed back to tie it and then win it. The following night the Cents rebounded on home ice against the Dogs. With the 3rd best home record in the division at 8-3, the Cents got off to a good start against Alberni scoring 3 goals in the first to lead 3-1. The newly formed top line of Nick Granowicz, Brad Cocca, and Christian Sabin were in on all of them with Granowicz scoring twice, Sabin scoring the other, and Cocca drawing assists on all three. Granowicz completed the hat trick early in the third before the Bulldogs stormed back to tie things at 4. Brendan Schneider got the game-winner with 2 minutes remaining to vault the Cents over the Dogs late. Vincent Duplessis had back to back 38 save nights and went 1-0-0-1 over the weekend.
The Vipers and Cents will meet for the third time this season and have split the season series so far. The Vipers spoiled the Cents home opener by a score of 5-2, but the Cents returned the favour a couple weeks later when they invaded Vernon and won by the same score.
As of late, the Vipers have been struggling by their lofty standards. They've been in a lot of tight games, but have had trouble scoring goals as evidenced by their 59 goals for - the lowest in the Interior Division. They've also spent the most time in extra time with 5 games lost in overtime and 2 lost in the shootout, but have yet to win a game that's gone longer than 60 minutes. However, with those trips to overtime come extra points in the standings which they've used to keep pace in the tight Interior Division and they sit just 4 points back of the Cents and Warriors at 23 points.
The Vipers are coming off a loss to the Penticton Vees on Wednesday night in overtime. The game was tied at two after goals from Ben Sanderson and Sebastien Streu for the Vipers, and the scoreline held through 60 minutes. However, a late major penalty to Mitch Andres gave the Vees 5 minutes to try and get the go-ahead goal. While they couldn't do it in regular time, with the 4-on-3 advantage in overtime they made good and won the game. In their last 5 games, the Vipers are 2-1-1-1.
The Cents welcomed a new face to the team yesterday. Payton Matsui joins the Centennials after a very successful season in the United States Hockey School League, and a brief stint in the USHL. With St. Thomas Academy last season he scored 26 goals and 28 assists for 54 points. An astounding 2.16 points-per-game. This season he spent time with the Central Illinois Flying Aces and tallied 2 goals in 13 games. Head Coach Joe Martin expects him to add to the overall depth of the roster, provide offense, but also bring a full 200 ft game.
Brad Cocca continues to lead the Cents in scoring, now 4th league-wide, with 30 points. However, coming off a 4 point night including a hat trick, Nick Granowicz is 5th in the league with 29 points. Mathieu Gosselin is 3rd on the team, and 12th in the league with 25 points.
The Vipers are led by defenseman Jack Judson in scoring with 18 points. Forwards Josh Latta and Captain Jagger Williamson are tied for second in team scoring with 14 points, and Alex Swetlikoff has 13 points.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Vipers- 22.1% (1st) Vipers - 81.2% (9th)
Cents - 16.8% (13th) Cents - 76.1% (16th)
The goaltending match up sees Vincent Duplessis coming in with some solid play for the Centennials. He's now 5-3 with a .903 SV% and a 3.28 GAA. Austin Roden will see action this weekend and is 8-5 with 1 shutout, an .885 SV% and a 3.80 GAA. The Vipers have given the majority of starts to Aiden Porter who is 5-8 with 2 shutouts, a 2.69 GAA, and a .905 SV%. Max Palaga was brought in from the Kamloops Blazers and is 2-2 with a .943 SV% and a 1.77 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin says that the Vipers are a team that always present a challenge.
"They're a solid defensive team. They're having some trouble scoring goals right now, but that doesn't mean we can take them lightly. We will have to play our game, our way to win tonight."
For families of 4 attending tonight's match, they can enjoy a special of $20 for two adults and two kids tickets. Parents and Billet Parents will be honored before the game in a ceremony.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials have added another player to the roster: Payton Matsui.
According to Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin, Matsui is a player they've had their eye on for a while.
"We recruited Payton back in the spring last year, and committed to him them, but being American we wanted to see where he ended up. He's spent time with Central Illinois this season, but he made the decision to come here and approached his staff in the USHL to be moved to the Centennials."
Matsui, who hails from Lakeville, Minnesota, was a big time producer in the USHS with St. Thomas Academy last season scoring 26 goals and 28 assists for 54 points, or 2.16 points-per-game. He's also spent some time with the Flying Aces of the USHL this season netting 2 goals in 13 games.
While he boasts a significant point pedigree, Coach Martin says he expects a complete game from Matsui.
"He's another piece that makes us a bit deeper at two ends of the rink. I know that he's a guy that will be able to add some offense, but he's not coming just for that."
Fans will get their first look at Matsui in a Centennials uniform on Friday night against the Vipers.
For the first time since its website was launched in 2003, the BCHL has added an historical statistics page that shows some of the league's all-time greats and their career records.
The Centennials are represented in nearly ever category: Bryan Kang is 3rd in terms of career Games Played with 280, Frank Biller is 4th in career goals with 168 and Darrel Zelinski is 6th with 160, Zelinski is also tied for 8th in career points.
In the goaltending category a current Cent finds himself on the leader board. Austin Roden is tied for 5th in save percentage in a season with .931%. Former netminder Graeme Gordon is tied for 8th in career wins with 60. Brad Thiesen is tied for 1st for shutouts in a season with 7, and second for shutouts in a career.
A Cent is also represented in the most points in a game with 12 - Ken Stroud.
For a full look go to the BCHL website at bchl.ca/all-time-stats
The Merritt Centennials survived a thriller at the NVMA against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs to win 5-4.
The Cents started slow in the first, but executed when they got their chances. Nick Granowicz opened the scoring 9:34 into the period on the heels of a powerplay, Brad Cocca drove wide on a wrap around and Granowicz found the loose puck in front to give the Cents the 1-0 edge. Granowicz would do the same thing again 5 minutes later, and Cocca would set him up again to make it 2-0. Christian Sabin scored his first in an age off a drive that started with Granowicz driving wide and then throwing it in front. Once again it was Sabin who found the garbage in front. The Dogs retaliated with a garbage goal of their own late in the first to make it 3-1 after 1. Vincent Duplessis made his 3rd start in a row for the Cents, and John Hawthorne got the nod for the Dogs. Shots were 17-11 after the first.
In the second, the referees loomed larger than either team. Penalties back and forth made it difficult for either team to get settled, and the Bulldogs would get the lone goal of the second to cut the lead to 3-2 after 2. Shots were 28-22 after two periods of play.
The third started with Granowicz completing the hat trick bid. Unassisted on the powerplay he stole the puck in the slot, skated to the right side, and beat Hawthorne mid-glove side to give the Cents a 4-2 edge. The game turned on it's head at the 9:17 mark when Keaton Mastrodonato scored off a giveaway to make it 4-3. Just 9 seconds later the Bulldogs would score again to tie it up. The Cents still had a bit left in the tank, and Captain Nick Wicks really turned his game up to another level. He was sent in behind the D, got a shot away, and once again it was the follow up that converted. Brendan Schneider would score the eventual game-winner at the 2:05 mark. The Cents and Duplessis would hang on to pick up the win, and pick up 3/4 points on the weekend. Final shots were 42-30 in favour of the Bulldogs. The Cents went 2/8 on the powerplay.
Energy Player of the Game:
Brad Cocca - 0 goals 3 assists
3 stars of the Game:
3. Vincent Duplessis - 38 saves on 42 shots
2. Evan Googins - 1 goal 1 assist
1. Nick Granowicz - 3 goals, 1 assist
After the game, Joe Martin was pleased with the win, but felt there was more to work on.
"I don't want to sound down after a win, but I think there's a lot of things that we could've done better in this game. We had trouble finding a second line that was giving us as much as the Granowicz line, our team needs to all be pulling in the same direction."
The next game is next week when the Vernon Vipers come to town. 7pm puck drop, 6:45 pre-game from the NVMA.
The Merritt Centennials (12-8-0-1) look to bounce back tonight against the visiting Alberni Valley Bulldogs (7-11-1-0) at the NVMA to keep pace with the red hot West Kelowna Warriors for first in the Interior Division.
The Cents are coming off their best performance of the season against Penticton, mind you the bar was set pretty low with losses of 6-3, 6-2, and 6-1. The Cents managed to play a good road game through the first two periods to garner themselves a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes of play. Mathieu Gosselin and Rylan Van Unen scored goals in the first two while Matt Kopperud added another in the third to give the Cents a 3-1 lead. However, the Vees used the home town crowd, and a key powerplay to get back into the game and force extra time. The Cents and Vees traded chances in overtime, but the unsung hero of the game was Vincent Duplessis who made big save after big save and kept the Cents in it until the bitter end. The game ended in the Cents first trip to the shootout where Kopperud was denied on his slick move, and Gosselin hit the post. Duplessis made the stop on the Vees first shooter, but couldn't stop the final two and the Cents would fall in a 4-3 shootout loss.
The Alberni Valley Bulldogs are on the road yet again, and had to start the trip in Prince George. The Spruce Kings dominated on the shot clock 45-19, but stellar goaltending from John Hawthorne kept the game close. Grayson Valente was the lone scorer for the Dogs in a 2-1 loss.
The last time these two teams met this season it was a hard fought win for the Merritt Centennials. The Cents may have been guilty of underestimating the Bulldogs, and were given all they could handle in the Dog Pound in Alberni. Alberni led after the first period 1-0, but goals from Joey Berkopec and Rylan Van Unen gave the Cents a brief lead before the Dogs tied it back up in the 2nd. In the third, Nick Granowicz gave the Cents the go-ahead goal only to have Alberni tie it again. Brad Cocca ended up giving the Cents the lead for good with just a minute and a half left to play for a 4-3 victory.
The Bulldogs will make their first and only trip to the NVMA this season which is always a tough spot to play for out of division teams that don't get the chance to play here often. The first 10 minutes will be huge for the Centennials if they can take advantage of their home ice.
Cents leading scorers:
Brad Cocca (4th in BCHL) 11-16-27
Nick Granowicz (6th in BCHL) 12-13-25
Mathieu Gosselin (9th in BCHL) 13-11-24
Bulldogs leading scorers:
Ryan Miotto 6-10-16
Keaton Mastrodonato 5-7-12
Jackson Doucet 3-7-10
Centennials Powerplay (13th) - 16.3% Bulldogs Powerplay (17th) - 12.2%
Centennials Penalty Kill (16th) - 76.1% Bulldogs Penalty Kill (4th) - 86.2%
Vincent Duplessis is coming off a 38 save effort on 41 shots against the Penticton Vees which included many showstopping saves. he's now 4-3-0-1 with a .903 SV% and a 3.20 GAA. It marks the first time this season a Cents netminder has a save percentage above .900. Austin Roden is 8-5 with an .885 SV% and a 3.80 GAA.
John Hawthorne is coming off a good start of his own and is 5-8 with a .918 SV% and a 2.88 GAA. Cole Demers is 2-4 with a .870 SV% and a 4.04 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin said the Bulldogs aren't a team to be taken lightly.
"This team despite their record is actually pretty good. They have players that can make a difference, and they work hard."
The Cents will have to out work the Dogs if they want to come away with a win tonight.
Fans who show up to the NVMA tonight will be treated to some love for their dog from Pet Valu. Free samples of dog food, and free dog washes will be given out at the game.
Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca.