Merritt Centennials
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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.

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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 

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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. 

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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

Special Teams: 

Centennials Powerplay (13th) - 16.3%    Bulldogs Powerplay (17th) - 12.2%

Centennials Penalty Kill (16th) - 76.1%   Bulldogs Penalty Kill (4th) - 86.2% 

Goaltending Matchup: 

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. 

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The Merritt Centennials accomplished a lot of firsts: their first lead after 20 minutes, their first lead after 40 minutes, but they’re still looking for their first win of the season against the Penticton Vees as 65 minutes solves nothing and the Cents fall in a shootout 4-3.

The first period was a text book road game period. Work hard defensively, commit to blocking shots, and convert when you get your opportunities. The lone goal came when Nick Wicks feathered one up the middle just out of the reach of Matt Kopperud, but Kopperud worked hard to force a Vees turnover onto the stick of a streaking Mathieu Gosselin who went down low, and then around the net to the other side to beat Jack Lafontaine on a wrap around for the 1-0 lead. Shots were 12-8 for the Cents after 1, with Vincent Duplessis stopping all 8 he faced.

The middle frame saw the Vees tie the game up on a seeing eye shot from Luke Loheit that just got over the pad of Duplessis. However, the Cents would regain their edge at the 8:10 mark of the second when Brendan Schneider and Rylan Van Unen tag teamed a puck off the end boards, Van Unen took it out front and beat LaFontaine upstairs, blocker-side to make it 2-1. After two the shots were 20 a side, and the Cents had their first opportunity to carry a lead into the third.

The final frame saw the Cents get just their second powerplay goal of the season against the Vees. Matt Kopperud found the puck after it broke free from a goal-mouth scramble, and gave the Cents a two-goal cushion 3-1. The Vees came back with a chance on the powerplay, and it was familiar foe James Miller netting the goal to make it 3-2. Eric Linell would tie things up at 3 and send the game to overtime.

In extra time the Cents and Vees traded chances. The Cents had their best chance on a give and go passing play between Captain Nick Wicks and Rylan Van Unen. But without some key stops from Vincent Duplessis, including a save on a buzzer beating 2-on-1, the Cents wouldn’t have even made it to the shootout.

In the shootout, Captain Massimo Rizzo was stopped by Duplessis. Matt Kopperud cut in with a nifty move, but LaFontaine stuck with him when he pulled it backhand. Cassidy Bowed faked a shot and went backhand to beat Duplessis. Mathieu Gosselin beat LaFontaine but not the post, and Connor Hutchison pulled off a late dangle to beat Duplessis to win the shootout 2-0.

The Centennials had a lot of positives in this game, and Head Coach Joe Martin wasn’t questioning his team at games end.

“I thought the effort was there from start to finish from our guys. The game was in our grasp, we had a few unlucky calls, a few unlucky bounces, and that was the difference.”

The Cents will reset and get ready to welcome the Alberni Valley Bulldogs to the NVMA tomorrow.  

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