Merritt Centennials
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The long road to Trail wasn’t for not as the Cents picked up a point, but they’ll wish for more after a controversial 2-1 loss in OT against the Smoke Eaters.

On their first powerplay, on their first shot, the Smoke Eaters would get the first goal of the game from Carter Jones. Rylan Van Unen was in the box for slashing. The Cents would get a chance on the powerplay in the period, but would be unable to convert. Brett Roloson had the golden opportunity of the first, but his shot went wide from the high slot. Vincent Duplessis made the start, but wasn’t overly busy stopping 5/6 shots while Adam Marcoux stopped all 10 for Trail.

The second period was a little sloppy on both sides. Lots of forced passes, lots of neutral zone play, lots of quick zone entries and exits. As imagined, it didn’t result in much offense as neither team scored in the middle frame. Shots after 2 were 17-13 in favour of the Cents.

The third period opened with the Cents hungry to get in the game. Just three minutes in they were rewarded when Brad Cocca scored his 13th goal of the season, and his 40th point by beating Marcoux with a quick shot as he crossed the blue line in the middle of the ice. It beat Marcoux low glove side and tied the game at 1-1. The Cents would make a heavy push in the third shooting 16 shots on net, but couldn’t find the game winner.

OT wouldn’t last long as just 2 minutes in, Bryce Anderson drove in from the far side of the ice and cut towards net. Vincent Duplessis made the save, but as he was falling backwards into the net, he thrashed it out into the blue paint. The referees ruled the puck crossed the line as Duplessis was falling backwards and that would be the end of the game.

The Cents picked up a point, but will slide back to 2nd in the Interior Division after a Penticton Win.

The Cents will make the journey home, and get set to host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks tomorrow night.

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The Merritt Centennials (17-9-0-1) take to the road to face the Trail Smoke Eaters (10-12-4-2) in a battle of division rivals tonight. 

The Cents are coming off a week where they went 2-1. The week kicked off with a 3-2 loss at home to the Wenatchee Wild - Matt Kopperud picked up both goals in the loss. The Cents followed that up with a 3-2 victory at the surprisingly stingy Shaw Centre against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. This time it was Nick Granowicz's time to shine as he collected 2 shorthanded goals and an assist to see the Cents past the backs. The weekend finale was back at home where the Cents handled the Smoke Eaters in their first meeting of the season and won by a score of 4-2. 

It's rare, but not unheard of, to face the same two teams on back to back weekends, but that's what the Cents will do. They'll look to replicate their 4-2 win last Saturday as they outworked the Smokies for the victory. Nick Wicks, Rylan Van Unen, Ben Ward, and Brendan Schneider all tallied for the Cents as they'll try to put together another 3 game win streak tonight. A week after the powerplay had it's best weekend of the season going 7/12, it had one of it's worst weeks of the season going 1/16. The Cents have had a long week of practice to prepare for this rematch - we'll see if the practice pays off tonight. 

The Smoke Eaters made the long trek to Prince George for a mid-week match up in between facing the Cents. The 10-hour one-way journey didn't pay dividends as the Smoke Eaters were upended by the best defensive team in the BCHL 4-1. Smokies netminder Adam Marcoux had a solid game to keep his team in it, but with just 17 shots in the game the Smokies couldn't generate enough offense. 

Matt Kopperud continues to serve a 4-game suspension for his hit on Hudson Schandor last Friday in Trail. Brad Cocca continues to lead the team and is 3rd in BCHL scoring with 39 points, Nick Granowicz is 4th with 37, and Mathieu Gosselin is 11th with 32. 

The Smoke Eaters are led by newly acquired forward Chase Stevenson and Captain Braeden Tuck with 24 points while Carter Jones has 23. 

Players to Watch: 

Centennials - #29 Brett Roloson (2G,2A): The young forward for the Cents is seeing some extra ice time in the absence of Matt Kopperud as he centres Brendan Schneider and Rylan Van Unen. His work ethic has been on display in the last number of games, using his speed to get pucks quickly up ice, and back check to be back in sound position defensively. He's a pot that's ready to boil over. 

Smoke Eaters - #14 Diarmad Dimurro (0G,18A): The smooth skating defenseman for Trail had his feet on display against the Centennials in the last outing. He can make the first man miss, and then skate the puck up ice to start the offense. He hasn't bulged the twine yet this season, but he's a good puck distributor for the Smokies. 

Special Teams: 

Powerplay                                          Penalty Kill

Smoke Eaters - 21.6% (2nd)    Smoke Eaters - 76.2% (14th)

Cents - 18.2% (11th)                   Cents - 76.1% (16th)

Goaltending: Austin Roden comes in with the hot hand winning his last 3 starts. Vincent Duplessis had won 3 in a row before being stopped by the Wild last wednesday. 

Cents: 

Austin Roden - 11-5 .894 SV% 3.51 GAA 1 shutout

Vincent Duplessis - 6-3-1 .908 SV% 3.23 GAA 

Smoke Eaters: 

Adam Marcoux - 8-12 .888SV% 3.35 GAA

Tanner Marshall - 2-4 .884SV% 3.22GAA

Head Coach Joe Martin hopes that with a long week of practice, the Cents will be prepared for the Smokies. 

"There's some things we will work on, including the powerplay, to be ready for the Smoke Eaters, but it all comes back to our game plan and how we execute."

Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas. 

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The Merritt Centennials broke their slump on the powerplay, and broke through with a 4-2 win against the Trail Smoke Eaters. 

The first period started off slow, 3 minutes passed before the first shots were exchanged. After the slow start, the Cents slowly started to turn on the offense. After a stretch in the offensive end, Brad Cocca threw the puck from behind the net out front to Nick Granowicz, who passed it to Nick Wicks at the side of the net who finished off the play to make it 1-0. It was Wicks' 5th goal of the season, and the Cents lone goal of the frame. The Smoke Eaters would tie things up late in the period on the powerplay to make it 1-1 after 1. Austin Roden made his second consecutive start for the Cents and stopped 8/9 in the first period. Adam Marcoux stopped 8/9 for the Smokies. 

In the second, the teams traded a couple powerplay opportunities before the Cents broke the deadlock. The energy line went to work down low in the offensive zone, and Frazer Dodd tried a shot from the near side that was denied, but Ben Ward found it behind the net and tucked it in the other side for his second of the season, and the 2-1 lead. Rylan Van Unen finished off a quick passing play from Brendan Schneider behind the net for the Cents to take the 3-1 lead into the third. Shots after 2 were 23-15. 

The final frame saw both teams trade goals early on the powerplay. The Smoke Eaters used the powerplay to their advantage for the second time in the game, and the Centennials used the powerplay to their advantage for the first time in 12 attempts. Brendan Schneider broke the slump for the Centennials by finding the rebound from a Brady Ziemer point shot to make it 4-2. The Cents would get a full length 2-man advantage that they couldn't convert on, and then they'd play defense the rest of the way to hang on to the lead. Austin Roden would pick up his third win in as many tries, and the Cents will retain their hold on first place in the Interior Division. 

Energy Player of the Game: 

Nick Wicks - 1G

3rd Star: Joey Berkopec - 1A

2nd Star: Ben Ward - 1G

1st Star: Brendan Schneider - 1G, 1A

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said it was important to come away with this kind of victory. 

"This kind of win is almost more important than one where everything is going right. We had to work hard, teams are starting to gun for us and play us like we are the top team in the division."

The Cents and Smoke Eaters will do it all again next Friday from Trail. 7pm puck drop on Q101. 

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The Merritt Centennials (16-9-0-1) welcome the Trail Smoke Eaters (10-10-4-2) to the NVMA for the first meeting of the season. 

The Centennials are coming off a bounce back 3-2 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks after falling earlier in the week to the Wenatchee Wild by the same score. The Cents got a gutsy performance from Austin Roden, who earned a 3rd star nod for stopping 24/26 shots. Nick Granowicz was in on all the offense as he finished the game with two shorthanded goals and an assits, Christian Sabin had the other goal, and Brad Cocca tallied two assists. Matt Kopperud could suffer some supplemental discipline after getting a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a high hit. The strange thing was that the call was made well after the hit, and only after the player was clearly hurt on the play. The Cents exchanged two shorthanded goals for, for two powerplay goals against on the major, but that was the most exciting moment of the game. Austin Roden held the fort in the third as the Cents hung on for the win, the only team to beat Salmon Arm in regulation this year, and the only team to do it twice. 

The Smoke Eaters are starting to turn it around after a dreadful stretch of play that saw them lose 8 straight. They are 3-2 in their last 5, and every game has been a one-goal contest. Gone are the likes of highlight reel forwards Ross Armour and Kale Howarth, but the Smoke Eaters are still finding scoring throughout the lineup with 81 goals for through 26 games. The Smokies are coming off two wins this week against Vernon and Wenatchee by matching 3-2 scores. 

The season series favoured the Cents last year as they went 4-2 against the Smokies. The teams combined for 40 goals over 6 games, so offense was not in short supply. 

The Cents are hoping for more offense from Brad Cocca who has now moved to 2nd in league scoring with 37 points, Nick Granowicz is right behind him with 36 points for 3rd in the BCHL and with his two shorthanded goals last night, now leads the league in goals with 20, and Mathieu Gosselin still holds down the 6th spot with 32 points. 

Trail is led by newly acquired Chase Stevenson and Carter Jones with 22 points, Braeden Tuck has 21, and rookie Kent Johnson has 20. 

The special teams battle sees the Centennials looking to break a goal scoring slump with the extra man that has seen the go 0/11 in the last two games:

Powerplay                                Penalty Kill

Cents - 18.1% (10th)               Cents - 76.7% (15th)

Smokies - 20.8% (4th)             Smokies - 76.1% (16th)

The goaltending match up sees Austin Roden coming off a win against Salmon Arm. Now 10-5 with a .891 SV%, a 3.62 GAA, and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis is 6-4 with a .908 SV% and a 3.23 GAA. The Smokies have leaned on Adam Marcoux who is 8-10 with a .888 SV% and a 3.28 GAA while Tanner Marshall is 2-4 with a .884 SV% and a 3.22 GAA. 

Head Coach Joe Martin says that despite the team losing some top end talent, the game won't be easy. 

"They may not have those two special players anymore, but they have a very balanced attack, with four lines that can bite you. We will have to stick to our game plan and be ready for them."

For fans looking to get their hands on a limited edition Centennials Cancer Awareness Jersey you can do so when you pledge at least $10 towards your favourite Centennials in the Movember waxing challenge. Find Melanie in the Mezzanine tonight to make a pledge! 

Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.  

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The Cents went into hostile territory and did what only they have done before by coming away with a 3-2 win against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

The first period saw the Cents spend a lot of time early in their own zone, but on their first foray into the offensive end with some extended pressure they’d convert. Christian Sabin poked the puck across the line after being set up by Nick Granowicz and Brad Cocca. Despite chances on the powerplay that goal would stand up as the lone one of the first. Austin Roden made the start for the Cents and stopped all 6 shots he faced in the first while the Cents fired 9 shots on net.

The middle frame saw the Cents squander two more chances on the powerplay before Matt Kopperud was sent off after a hit up high on Hudson Schandor. Initially there was no call on the play, but after Schandor laid on the ice for a time, got some attention from the trainer, the refs assessed a 5 minute major to Kopperud and a game misconduct. The Cents would actually convert first shorthanded. Nick Granowicz picked the pocket of goalie Matt Armitage and tucked it into the open cage to make it 2-0. The Silverbacks wasted no time after that, scoring two quick answering goals within a minute. However, Granowicz wasn’t done with just one short handed goal, he’d add another on a 3-2 rush with Brady Ziemer and Brad Cocca to make it 3-2. Shots after 2 were 28-15.

In the third the Cents had to kill off some penalties, and thanks to the play of Austin Roden escaped with the victory as they hung on to win 3-2. Final shots were 33-26 in favour of the Cents, but the team went 0/5 with the extra man, and is now on a 0/11 dry spell in the last two games combined.

3rd Star: Austin Roden - 24/26

2nd Star: Trevor Adams - 1G 1A

1st Star: Nick Granowicz – 2G (SH) 1 A

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin identified the characteristics that help his two best players pick up points.

 “I think Cocca and Granowicz just want it more than everyone else, and that’s why when you put them together they are lethal out there. They have the skills, but they also work harder than the opponent, and that sets the tone for the team.”

The Cents return home to face the Trail Smoke Eaters tomorrow night at the NVMA.

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