The Merritt Centennials didn't leave anything in the tank, but they waited too long to get on the gas pedal as they suffered a 4-2 defeat to the Trail Smoke Eaters.
The first period was a lot slower than many of the Cents faithful who packed the barn would have hoped for. After coming out flying in games 1 and 2, the Cents stumbled out of the gate in game 5. They only managed 8 shots in the period, and gave up a breakaway for the Smoke Eaters first goal at the 9:47 mark of the first. Mack Byers scored his 3rd goal of the series, and his 3rd goal on Cents ice to give the Smoke Eaters the 1-0 lead after 1.
The middle frame saw the Cents perform better, but not get rewarded on the scoreboard. Once again it was a breakaway that was the Cents undoing. This time it was Owen Ozar who went in all alone and beat Roden down low. Roden redeemed himself on a 2-on-1 to keep the Cents within striking distance, and really wasn't at fault for any goal scored on the night. The Cents would finish the 2nd period behind 2-0.
In the third, the Cents had to kill off an early penalty, but then got to work offensively. They drew two penalties in quick succession and then got to go to the PP. At the 4:07 mark with the Cents cycling the puck around the horn with the two man advantage Mike Van Unen unloaded a lazer to make it a 2-1 game, and reach half his goal total for the year in 5 games of the post season alone. Then just as the second penalty was expiring Brad Cocca sent a blast top corner over the shoulder of Buskey to tie the game at 2. The Cents looked to be in the driver seat, but once again on the counterattack the Smoke Eaters proved why they're so dangerous. Bryce Anderson was left alone in front of the net and put a backhander behind Roden to give the Smoke Eaters the one goal edge, and try as they might the Cents couldn't find the equalizer again and surrendered an empty netter late to drop the game 4-2.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said that he wasn't happy with the end result, but the journey was one of the best so far.
"I think this team did some amazing things this year, we had a great core, great graduating players. It's never the way you want it to end unless you go all the way, but I feel the work we did this year will improve the Centennials program moving forward."
The Cents would like to thank all of their graduating players: 'O Captain My Captain' Nick Wicks free wheels on to Alaska - Anchorage, Assistant Captain Brendan Schneider will bring his never ending energy to Mercyhurst, Assistant Captain Nick Granowicz will get his 'Game On' at the University of Michigan, Brad Cocca stick handles to Brown, Mathieu Gosselin 'The Goose' will fly to Clarkson, Christian Sabin is grinding out a deal himself, Austin Roden will tend the crease for Nebraska-Omaha, and Mike Van Unen will bring his mobile defense to Northern Michigan,
The Merritt Centennials have their backs against the wall trailing 3-1 in the best of seven series as they look to stay alive against the Trail Smoke Eaters tonight.
The Merritt Centennials had arguably their best effort of the post season, but when the game looked bound for OT the Smoke Eaters pulled out a late goal to make it 3-2. For the first time in the series the Cents scored the opening goal, and once again their first goal came shorthanded. After Joey Berkopec went off for hooking, Brady Ziemer sprung fellow Minnesotan Payton Matsui in on a break away. Matsui got a shot off the pad, and did well not to over skate the puck or the net, finding his own rebound to make it 1-0, but Trail answered just under 3 minutes later with Kryski scoring his first of the playoffs to tie the game at 1.
In the second period the Cents were the first to the scoresheet again, and once again it was Payton Matsui figuring into the offense. After a stretch pass was blocked at center, the Centennials threw the puck back in and Buskey went behind his net to play. Matsui picked his pocket and found Matt Kopperud out front who scored his 4th goal of the series to give the Cents the 2-1 edge. However, the Smoke Eaters didn’t give up on the stretch pass, and midway through the period Connor found Tuck up the middle of the ice, and he was sprung for a breakaway. Tuck took a page out of Kent Johnson’s book and faked backhand until the final second bringing it forehand and in past the pad of Roden to tie the game.
The final frame saw both teams have chances to take the lead, but both goalies stood on their heads. Roden a little more so making big saves in tight and from distance. With the Cents pushing late in the third and hemming the puck in the Smokies zone, Trevor Zins in desperation got the puck up to Johnson. Johnson skated up the left wing, drove wide on Jaydon Fetter, dipped below the goal line and back out front to the backhand and went top shelf, glove on Roden for the dagger with just 2:30 to play for a 3-2 loss. Austin Roden turned in a much better effort throughout the game, giving the Cents the opportunity to win by making a couple key saves throughout the game.
The Cents now turn to a make or break Game 5 back at home where they were the 4th best home team during the regular season. Trail was able to steal Game 2, but the Cents did not turn in a good effort in that game. Now with their backs against the wall it's time to do or die. The Cents need to take what's given by the Smoke Eaters defense instead of trying to force plays that aren't there. Hunt for rebounds against Buskey, look to capitalize on a broken play as the Smokies have been collapsing to the net, and make sure your passes are going tape to tape or chip it down deep. No look back passes and dangling into sticks have been the undoing of many a promising Centennials rush. It's time to play simple. It's time to play hard. Unfortunately, that has been the recipe for the Smoke Eaters success in the series - the Cents just need to do it better.
The Cents have been led by Matt Kopperud who has 4 goals and 1 assist in the series. Payton Matsui has used his tenacity to maximum effectiveness scoring a goal and setting up 3 others. Brendan Schneider has had a hand in 3 goals, but the Cents need more from their top line of Cocca, Granowicz and Gosselin.
The Smoke Eaters are getting solid efforts from Tyler Ghirardosi who has 2 goals and 5 assists, rookie Kent Johnson has scored in every game this series and has 2 GWG to go along with an assist. Mack Byers had two goals in game 2 and has added 2 helpers.
The Cents have gotten 2 shorthanded goals in the past 2 games, but still need more from their special teams.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Trail - 22.2% (7th) Trail - 80% (8th)
Cents - 20% (9th) Cents - 77.8% (10th)
The Cents got a better performance from Austin Roden in Game 4, but with the season on the line they need an absolute game stealing effort. Roden is 1-3 with a .882 SV% and a 3.79 GAA. Donovan Buskey is doing his best to hang on to the starter's role with Adam Marcoux itching to get back in the crease and is 3-1 with a .928 SV% and a 2.50 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin feels the Cents are just a bounce away from bouncing back in this series.
"The effort is definitely there, we just need some better puck luck and some better decisions with the puck and we can be right back in this."
The Cents will look for a strong push to ensure the season lives to see another day.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV and Q101.1FM with Jared Thomas.
Pick up your tickets at the Marketing Office from 10-3, or at the NVMA from 3pm - puck drop!
The Merritt Centennials had arguably their best effort of the post season, but when the game looked bound for OT the Smoke Eaters pulled out a late goal to make it 3-2.
For the first time in the series the Cents scored the opening goal, and once again their first goal came shorthanded. After Joey Berkopec went off for hooking, Brady Ziemer sprung fellow Minnesotan Payton Matsui in on a break away. Matsui got a shot off the pad, and did well not to over skate the puck or the net, finding his own rebound to make it 1-0 at the 8:30 mark of the 1st.
Trail answered just under 3 minutes later with Kryski scoring his first of the playoffs to tie the game at 1.
Austin Roden turned in a much better effort throughout the game, giving the Cents the opportunity to win by making a couple key saves throughout the game. After 1 period shots were 14-10 Trail.
In the second period the Cents were the first to the scoresheet again, and once again it was Payton Matsui figuring into the offense. After a stretch pass was blocked at center, the Centennials threw the puck back in and Buskey went behind his net to play. Matsui picked his pocket and found Matt Kopperud out front who scored his 4th goal of the series to give the Cents the 2-1 edge just 2:15 into the second.
However, the Smoke Eaters didn’t give up on the stretch pass, and midway through the period Connor found Tuck up the middle of the ice, and he was sprung for a breakaway. Tuck took a page out of Kent Johnson’s book and faked backhand until the final second bringing it forehand and in past the pad of Roden to tie the game.
Shots after 2 period of play were 20-18.
The final frame saw both teams have chances to take the lead, but both goalies stood on their heads. Roden a little more so making big saves in tight and from distance. With the Cents pushing late in the third and hemming the puck in the Smokies zone, Trevor Zins in desperation got the puck up to Johnson. Johnson skated up the left wing, drove wide on Jaydon Fetter, dipped below the goal line and back out front to the backhand and went top shelf, glove on Roden for the dagger with just 2:30 to play.
The Cents ran out of time to equalize and fell 3-2.
After the game Head Coach Joe Martin said he thought the Cents gave their all.
"It was the best we've played in the series, but an unlucky goal at the end, a bad play for their second goal. We deserved a better fate."
They now have their backs against the wall trailing 3-1 for an elimination Game 5 back in Merritt on Friday night at 7pm from the NVMA. Pick up your tickets at the Marketing Office from 10-4pm tomorrow or 10-3pm on Friday. Then get your tickets at the rink from 3pm to puck drop. Cheer on your Cents to stave off elimination!
The Merritt Centennials look to even the series at 2-2 after tonight's game with the Trail Smoke Eaters.
The Cents showed some resilience in Game 3, but were unable to answer the bell quick enough in a game that quickly unraveled from a scoreless draw to a rout.
The first period was a tentative feeling out process instead of the hard nose pressure that was seen in Games 1 and 2. There was no end to end action, no quick counter-attacks, and no goals. The Cents did have a number of chances early, but once again Donovan Buskey stood tall and after being shelled for 4 goals in Game 1 he is becoming a big part of this series. Austin Roden also made a number of key saves in the first period stopping all ten he faced.
The second period was where things started to go downhill. The Smoke Eaters scored their first goal on a bit of goaltender interference in front, but after a conference the officials decided to let the goal stand. The 2nd goal came off a broken play, Mike Van Unen fearlessly blocked a shot, the puck came right back to Carter Jones and from a bad angle he was able to score on his own rebound. A couple minutes later, Kent Johnson came in on the left wing with a bit of room, and was able to pick the corner blocker side on Roden to make it 3-0 after the first 6 minutes of the second and end Roden's night. The Cents were put in the tough situation of throwing affiliate goaltender Jackson Glassford into the net, a player that hadn't seen a single second of BCHL action up to that point. He allowed one goal early on in his tenure, but seemed to settle down after that. Jackson Munro took the first penalty of the game that wasn't coincidental for a high stick, and short a man the Cents finally answered with a beautiful shorthanded breakaway from Brad Cocca to the backhand. The Smoke Eaters took themselves off the powerplay by taking 2 runs at Glassford within a minute, and went off for goaltender interference. The period ended with a 4-1 score.
The Cents came out with more jump in the third, and got an early goal from Daniel Tkac to give them a shot in the arm. Payton Matsui streaked down the right wing, pulled to his backhand and centered for Tkac who threw the puck past Buskey to make it 4-2 just 2 minutes into the third. Despite good pressure and repeated chances, the Cents couldn't muster any more offense in the period. There was a stretch of 9 minutes of play where the Cents couldn't get a whistle and despite the free flowing play, and the chances it created, it ate up too much of the clock. The Smoke Eaters would add an empty netter for the 5-2 victory.
The Cents now trail 2-1 in the best of seven series, and one of the league's best offenses has been held to 8 goals over 3 games. The Smoke Eaters have scored the most goals in the Interior Division bracket of the playoffs, and have the best goal differential of plus 4. Every other series is either even, or plus or minus 1. The first shift after a goal is so important throughout the year, but it's magnified in the playoffs. The Cents need to be able to quickly seize momentum back, and answer with a goal of their own after a Smoke Eaters goal. They can't afford to allow 2, let alone 4 goals unanswered. Goaltending needs to bounce back, and the Cents could be helped out immensely if for the first time in the series they could score the first goal of the game.
History shows that this season the Cents have only lost 3 games in a row once, and that loss came in overtime. They'll need to show resilience, play a little more physical, and play with the confidence we're used to seeing from the Cents.
Matt Kopperud continues to lead the charge for the Centennials in the playoffs with 3 goals and 1 assist, Nick Granowicz has a goal and a helper, and Payton Matsui has set up two goals.
The Smoke Eaters have gotten big games from Tyler Ghirardosi who has 2 goals and 4 assists, Kent Johnson has 3 goals and an assist, and Mack Byers has 2 goals and 2 assists.
The special teams battle becomes all the more crucial in the playoffs with the referees hesitant to call anything that isn't blatantly a penalty.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Trail - 33.3% (4th) Trail - 75% (11th)
Cents - 25% (8th) Cents - 66.7% (13th)
The goaltending battle sees the Cents between a rock and a hard place. Austin Roden is in need of a bounce back, and the Cents don't really have anyone else to turn to. Vincent Duplessis is still recovering from injury, and AP Jackson Glassford is an unproven commodity. Roden has been the teams rock all season, and will need to prove why he got a late commitment from Nebraska - Omaha. He's now 1-2 with a .868 SV% ad a 4.11 GAA. Donovan Buskey has stolen the starters position for now and is 2-1 with a .929 SV% and a 2.67 GAA.
Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw says that he is feeling more confident about the group after game 3 than game 2.
"I can see the resolve in the team, I can see the heart, and I can see the effort. We just need to put it all together for Game 4."
The Cents need to use the confidence they've had all season to pull out a series tie tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
Catch a watch party in Merritt at the Grand Pub and Grill.
The Merritt Centennials came into game 3 looking to take the series lead, but instead got their goaltender chased in a 5-2 loss.
For the first time in the series, there were no goals and no penalties after the first period of play. Early on it looked to be a goaltending duel with Austin Roden stopping 10 shots, and Donovan Buskey keeping all 13 he faced out of the net.
The goaltending battle didn't last into the second period, the Smoke Eaters scored 3 goals in the first 6 minutes to chase Austin Roden from the crease and force affiliate player Jackson Glassford into action. Glassford took a while to adjust to his first taste of BCHL action, and allowed a goal in his first 6 minutes of action, but from then on the Cents started to seize back momentum. Jackson Munro took a high sticking call after the goal against, and the Cents situation seemed to go from bad to worse. Then Brad Cocca happened. On the penalty kill, Head Coach Joe Martin elected to put Cocca and Nick Granowicz on the ice, and after a Cocca steal he broke in from the left wing side with a move to the back hand tucked it past Buskey to get the Cents on the board. The Cents would go 4-on-4 shortly thereafter because Chase Stevenson repeatedly ran young Glassford. The Cents would finish the period trailing by 3, 4-1. Shots after 2 were 28-18.
The Cents got a breath of life early in the third period when Payton Matsui flew down the right wing, and centered onto the tape of Daniel Tkac who beat Buskey upstairs to get the Cents within 2. Despite pouring the pressure on, and creating chances, the Cents would go unrewarded and the Smokies would ice the game with an empty netter to make it a 5-2 final. Final shots were 42-27.
The Cents now trail the best of 7 series 2 - 1 and will play a pivotal game 4 tomorrow night at 7pm. A win and they head back to Merritt tied, a loss and they find themselves in a 3-1 hole.
Puck drop tomorrow night from the Trail Memorial Arena at 7pm.