The Merritt Centennials, fans, staff, volunteers, and supporters gathered on Sunday night to salute the Centennials record year.
While the Cents were unable to capture 1st place in the Interior division, their .675 win percentage and 35 wins on the season were the most the town has seen in over 30 years.
Below is a brief description of each award and the winners.
Every year Rusty Brewer and the Ska-lu-la wood working shop hires Centennials to work not only in the shop, but with special needs clients. The two players that most exemplified their willingness to work, and enjoyment with the clients are:
Mike Van Unen & Mattias Dal Monte
VOLUNTEER EXCELLENCE AWARD
The Centennials not only work hard at the rink, they work hard in the community. Whether it be food drives, or their after school reading program, some Cents were always ready, willing, and able to go the extra mile to put a smile on a face in the community. The two players that excelled in volunteering are:
Nick Wicks & Ben Ward
FAN FAVORITE AWARD
With the help of fans and Work and Play Clothing Company and voting across all social media channels and in the rink, a favorite player was chosen from among the Centennials. While many votes were cast, it quickly became a two horse race between last years Fan Favourite Joey Berkopec and the NEW fan favorite:
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
As explained by Head Coach Joe Martin, the Most Improved Player doesn't always have to be a rookie, or someone who pulled through adversity. This year it went to a player who rounded out his game, moved from the wing to centre, won a bronze medal, and went from 33 points last year to 60 this year. The winner of the Most Improved Player:
ACADEMIC SCHOLAR AWARD
Every year the Centennials sign young players that still have to complete their high school education. Balancing hockey and school is a difficult task and there were a few Centennials that had to juggle that this season, but the one who still managed straight A's while maintaining a high level of play was:
MOST PROMISING PLAYER
This years recipient for Most Promising Player was another that made a huge step forward in his second year of Junior hockey. Last year he was a player that was in and out of the line up, but still managed to put up 9 goals and 17 points. This year he tripled his goal total to 27, finished with 51 points, and was a point-per-game player. The Most Promising Player:
COACHES CHOICE AWARD
Having the full trust of the coaching staff isn't something that's earned overnight. You have to be a player that shows up and plays hard game in and game out, practices like your in game mode, and hits the gym to set the tone for the team. This years winner was someone who is key in all situations and is always a ball of energy. The Coaches Choice:
MOST GENTLEMANLY PLAYER
Head Coach Joe Martin precluded this award by saying the Centennials had the 2nd most penalty minutes in the league behind only the Cowichan Valley Capitals so he doesn't know how much it applies. However, the player that embodies the gentlemanly spirit, around the room, in practice, and on the ice this year is:
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
The Cents came into this season with 13 returning players. With such a veteran heavy roster, it was tough to crack into playing big minutes for any rookies on the team. While there was a solid crop across the board for the Centennials, one player was able to make the smart decisions under pressure, play some tough match ups and almost always put the Cents in a better position on the ice. The Rookie of the Year:
This one is no secret. He's been leading the team in points almost from start to finish. Improving on his first season in the BCHL where he tallied just 23 points in 44 games, Brad Cocca refocused over the summer and came back a man possessed this season. He finished 6th in BCHL scoring with 68 points in all 58 games played, and will be leaned upon for offense in the Playoffs. The Cents leading scorer:
The Centennials have gotten solid performances from their D-core all season long, but there's one player who's stood out above the rest. Whether he's lacing an outlet pass tape to tape, or leading the rush himself with his solid skating and puck skills, he's a force to be reckoned with because of his toughness and his Hockey IQ. Doubling his point total from 13 last year to 27 this year. The Cents best defenseman:
Mike Van Unen
UNSUNG HERO AWARD
Every year there's always someone who flies under the radar, he helps the team refocus, play the right way, and leads by example while never looking for the limelight. This year that player has quietly played up and down the lineup, done what was asked, and never questioned it once. Going from 15 points last year, to 37 this year and leading with a quiet confidence. The Unsung Hero:
LEADERSHIP AND ABILITY AWARD
Last year this award went to the team's two goalies, but this year with such a shining example there wasn't much doubt as to who deserved it. Leading the team from the pre-season to the post season, someone that has demonstrated both leadership when required, and ability when called upon. Playing in all situations and netting over a point per game with 59 this year. O Captain My Captain:
MOST VALUABLE LOCAL PLAYER
The team found this award sitting neglected in a closet and had to shine it up before presenting it. It's been 5 years since the team has had a local born and raised talent on the team, and there's still a bright future ahead for this guy:
BEST PLUS / MINUS AWARD
Some say this stat doesn't tell the full story anymore, but for a player who came to the team a day before the regular season and fit in like a glove it says a whole lot. The player that had the best plus / minus on the team with a +22:
MOST GAME WINNING GOALS
When the game is on the line this player always had ice water coursing through his veins. He's said that he just tries to get open with his stick on the ice, and more than anyone else in the BCHL this season he did. There's a reason why his nickname is 'Game On,' The player with the most game-winning goals this season with 10:
JOE TENANT TROPHY - MOST DEDICATED AWARD
Hockey is a game of dedication. To get to this level, players have already had to prove their dedication through every trial up to this point. So to be honored above them all is truly something special. This player has been leaned upon in all situations, has played over 100 BCHL games, and picked up 27 wins this season (a recorded history Cents record!). But he still wants to pick up 16 more. The Most Dedicated player on the Merritt Centennials:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
As Coach Martin described it, this player fell into his lap because of phone call he decided to take last spring. He liked what he heard, and decided to bring the young man aboard. Since day one he's impressed with his poise, his speed, his skill, and his never say die attitude. He brings a calming influence, and has been leaned on for leadership this season. It will be his first and only year in the BCHL, but he's not ready for it to end yet. Leading the Cents with 32 goals scored and 59 points. The Cents MVP:
The Merritt Centennials may not have finished at the top of the division, but they brought the fans to their feet in a thrilling OT victory 4-3 over the Vernon Vipers.
The first period started off all Merritt, but by the end they had nothing to show for it. Despite out shooting the Vipers 17-7 in the first, Bradley Cooper made some show stopping saves to keep it at zero's.
In the second period, the Vipers found the net first and it happened on a bit of a lucky play. Teddy Wooding cut in with an open wing, and he fired one off the shoulder of Austin Roden, the puck went flying up into the air, then fell off Roden's back and in to make it 1-0. Payton Matsui tied the game with a quick cut out of the corner, and pulled to the slot and fired one up high on Cooper to make it 1-1. The Vipers came back on the shot clock after 2 period of play to make it 28-23 in favour of the Cents.
The final frame saw the Cents get out to a two goal edge. Brad Cocca scored on the powerplay to make it 2-1, and then Nick Wicks broke in on the right wing and sniped up high short-side to make it 3-1. The Cents thought they had the game in the bag, but the Vipers got a goal from Logan Cash with just under 2 minutes to go, and Elan Bar Lev Wise scored with under a second to go to tie the game at 3-3.
In overtime the teams traded chances until Jesse Landsdell hauled down Nick Granowicz to give the Cents a powerplay in the final minute of OT. With 4 forwards on Nick Wicks and Mathieu Gosselin played give and go before 'The Goose' launched one top corner to send the home town crowd into a frenzy for the 4-3 victory.
The only sad note on the night was that the Penticton Vees won their game against Salmon Arm and secured top spot in the Interior Division, but the Centennials head to the post season to play the Trail Smoke Eaters. The first playoff games will be on Friday March 1st and 2nd at home before travelling to Trail. Pick up your playoff tickets from the Cents marketing office at 2001 C Voght St or call Jared at 378-3604.
Energy Player of the Game: Nick Granowicz 0G 0A
3RD STAR: Austin Roden 33/36
2ND STAR: Bradley Cooper 45/49
1ST STAR: Mathieu Gosselin 1G 0A
The Merritt Centennials (35-15-4-3) will sport their new 3rd jerseys tonight against the Vernon Vipers (26-21-7-3).
The Cents are coming off a gutsy win in Langley to keep their hopes of finishing first in the division alive. The Rivermen scored on the powerplay before Frazer Dodd poked in a Joey Berkopec shot from centre that squeaked past the netminder to tie things at 1. In the second period, Mathieu Gosselin got the Cents their first lead of the game when he converted on a drop feed from Brad Cocca with a shot low glove to make it 2-1. The Rivermen tied it up 3 minutes later, and the tie held up through 60 minutes and overtime to take the game to a shootout. Fortunately for Austin Roden after making 44 saves on 46 shots throughout the game he didn't have to make one in the shootout as the Rivermen missed the net on both their chances. Matthieu Gosselin and Matt Kopperud made good on both of theirs to ensure a 3-2 shootout victory for the Cents.
Vernon are 3-2 in their last 5 and are coming off a 4-1 win vs the Coquitlam Express. Coleton Bilodeau, Teddy Wooding, Trey Taylor, and Logan Cash all cashed in for the Vipers who have had an amazing turnaround to their season. Early on in the year they were on the wrong side of one-goal games and overtime losses, but still managed to pick up points along the way. They've managed to barter that into a 4th place finish in the Interior Division regardless of tonight's outcome.
The Cents will need a favour from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks if they expect to finish first place in the division. The Penticton Vees will need to lose in regulation or overtime, and the Cents would need to win in regulation or go to overtime to secure first place. The Vees just hold the tie breaker with a 1 win edge, and the edge in the season series. Whoever finishes first goes on to play the Cowichan Valley Capitals, whoever finishes 2nd will travel to Trail.
Merritt has the slight edge in the season series 3-2. The teams traded 5-2 wins early in the year. The Cents won 4-3 at home before being topped 3-2 in November. In early January the Cents won a thriller 3-2 in overtime with just 8 seconds to go that kicked off a stellar second half for the Cents. The Cents will look to secure the season series with a victory tonight.
The Centennials will need all hands on deck for the final game of the year. Brad Cocca leads the way with 67 points - still 6th in the league. Nick Granowicz and Mathieu Gosselin are tied with 59 points on the year, and after a crazy night in the BCHL Nick Wicks is no longer in the top 20.
The Vernon Vipers have just 3 players with over 40 points on the season. Matt Kowalski has 42 points, Josh Latta has 40 and Connor Marritt has 40 as well.
The special teams battle sees the Vipers with the more dominant penalty kill.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Vipers - 18% (15th) Vipers - 81.6% (6th)
Cents - 18.6% (12th) Cents - 77.4% (13th)
The Cents continue to ride red hot Austin Roden who has now won 4 in a row, and will play his 100th BCHL game tonight. Roden is 26-8-3 with a .911 SV%, a 2.95 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Vincent Duplessis is back behind Roden and is 9-5-3 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA.
Aiden Porter leads the way for the Vernon Vipers and is 19-17 with a .908 SV%, a 2.59 GAA, and 4 shutouts. Bradley Cooper has giving the Vipers a solid second option and is 7-13 with a .906 SV%, a 2.73 GAA, and 3 shutouts.
Head Coach Joe Martin knows that the Vernon Vipers will play with pride.
"The Vipers won't have much to play for in the standings tonight, but they're a well coached team, and a team that puts the sweater on and tries to win every night. We will have to push hard for the win."
The Cents will hope to make Merritt proud tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials pulled off a gutsy win to keep their dreams of a first place finish alive with a 3-2 win over the Langley Rivermen.
The Cents had to kill off 3 penalties in the first ten minutes, and succeeded on the first 2 but couldn’t kill off the third as Daneel Lategan scored on a backhand past Austin Roden to open the scoring.
Joey Berkopec helped the Cents even the score when he let go a shot from centre that trickled past Shayne Battler towards the net, and Frazer Dodd crashed the net hard to poke it past the line to tie the game 1-1.
Austin Roden stopped 16/17 shots in the first period.
The second period saw the Cents capture their first lead of the game when Brad Cocca gained the line on the left side, dropped for Mathieu Gosselin who ripped a shot just over the pad, glove side to make it 2-1. After the goal, the Rivermen replaced Battler with Braedon Flemming.
The Rivermen leveled the score just 3 minutes later on a low shot from Devin Leduc.
After 2 the shots were 25-17 in favour of the Rivermen.
The third period would solve nothing despite chances for both sides, and in overtime it was Roden who held the Cents in the game with 7 saves in the extra frame.
In the shootout, Roden didn’t need to make a save as both shots from the Rivermen went wide or high.
The Cents first shooter was Mathieu Gosselin who streaked up the middle with speed, deked hard to the backhand, got Flemming to bite, and then pulled it back forehand and in to give the Cents the edge.
Matt Kopperud sealed the victory with a move where he veered wide right, cut in, faked forehand, then went backhand past Flemming to win it.
The Penticton Vees won which means with the win the Cents keep pace, and keep the dream of a first place finish alive, but they need a Vees loss, paired with a Cents win or a trip to OT to seal the division title.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Riley Wallack 2 PIM
3RD STAR: Austin Roden 44/46
2nd STAR: Braedon Fleming 17/17
1st STAR: Matt Kopperud SO Winner
For the first time in his career Head Coach Joe Martin has been nominated for the BCHL's Coach of the Year.
Martin took over as head coach of the Cents in 2015-16 and has steadily lead the team to point totals of 50 or higher. His previous high water mark was a 23-25-2-8 season in 2016-17 that netted the team 56 points and a round 2 playoff exit against the Penticton Vees. The most wins the Cents managed under Martin before this season was 24 achieved last year.
This season, with the help of a strong returning core of players, Martin has achieved career high in wins, points, win percentage, and goals for with 2 games left to play in the regular season. The Cents have 34 wins, 75 points, a win percentage of 67%, and 213 goals for this year, a huge turnaround from the 24 wins, 55 points, win percentage of 47.4%, and 185 goals for of a season ago.
Martin also served as an Assistant Coach on Team Canada West this year and captured a Bronze Medal with Centennials forward Mathieu Gosselin. Away from the ice, Martin has also helped 10 players move on to NCAA Division 1 scholarships this season which is also a team record. He also picked up his 100th career BCHL win this year against the Powell River Kings.
He is up against Brian Maloney of the Chilliwack Chiefs, and Tyler Kuntz of the Powell River Kings for the award.
The Cents still have an opportunity to put another feather in Martin's cap this season - their first Interior Division title in over 40 years, but the 2 games remaining will decide that.