The Merritt Centennials needed the full 65 minutes and then some against the Prince George Spruce Kings as they needed the shootout to top the leagues top team 3-2.
The first period started with the teams trading chances, and powerplay opportunities - but neither team would take advantage and the goaltenders would be the story early. Shots were 9-8 after one in favour of the Spruce Kings as Logan Neaton and Austin Roden duelled between the pipes.
The middle frame saw a few more penalties but it didn't make a difference on the scoreboard. Logan Neaton had to make a few highlight reel stops, but Austin Roden pulled his weight too as the goaltenders continued to steal the show. Shots after 2 were 20-19.
The offense finally arrived with the 3rd period. Payton Matsui scored the 1st goal for the Cents in the New Year and his 3rd on the season 5 minutes into the frame. Converting on a 2-on-1 he opted to shoot and went top shelf on Neaton to break the goose egg and make it 1-0. However, the Spruce Kings' Nolan Welsh converted on a 2-on-1 on the following possession to tie the game up at one. The Cents would continue to press, but Prince George would get a late powerplay and Nick Poisson would score on a rush top corner over the line. That would give the Spruce Kings a 2-1 lead with 8 minutes remaining and put the Cents against the wall. Forced into a corner the Cents saved some of their best hockey for late in the game. With just under a minute to go, a shot from the line would be blocked by Nick Granowicz but he'd feed it Mathieu Gosselin, who found Matt Kopperud to the side of the net, and Kopperud batted the puck out of mid-air and in to force the game to overtime.
In overtime, it was the goaltenders chance to shine once again as Neaton and Roden came up with huge saves to keep their teams in it. Final shots were 36-31 in favour of the Cents.
The goaltender's battle went down to the wire as the teams would head to a shootout. Fresh off scoring the game-tying goal, Matt Kopperud continued to clutch up with a gorgeos penalty shot. Veering wide-left on the forehand, Kopperud cut to the middle with speed, made the move to the backhand, and then put it between his legs, and top shelf for the lone goal of the shootout. Austin Roden stopped all 3 shots he faced in the shootout and earned himself first star billing in the first win of 2019.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said the Cents came through when it counted.
"It was a great effort from Roden to keep us in it, and a great push from the team to push us over the top."
The Cents look to continue the streak against the Vernon Vipers on the road at 6pm tomorrow night.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jaydon Fetter 0G 0A
3RD STAR: Matt Kopperud 2G 0A
2ND STAR: Logan Neaton 33/35
1ST STAR: Austin Roden 29/31
The Merritt Centennials (23-13-1-1) kick off 2019 with a tough test against the BCHL leading Prince George Spruce Kings (25-9-1-2).
The Centennials went into the Christmas break and ended 2018 on a high note taking a home-and-home series with the Trail Smoke Eaters. There were some solid story lines heading into the holidays, some including 20 year old players. The Cents got some solid performances from Christian Sabin and Nick Granowicz in those two games. Sabin was playing his power forward style best putting up 3 goals over the weekend where he was driving hard to the net, and causing turnovers with his speed and size. Granowicz saw a return to form which earned him an honorable mention in the final BCHL Player of the Week nomination for 2018. He picked up 2 goals and 2 assists over the last weekend of action, one was the game-winning goal against Trail in game 1 of the double-header and he is tied for the league lead in that category with 7. The Cents will hope solid play continues up and down the line up into the new year.
Prince George is coming off a light end to 2018. They were unable to play one of their match ups in the final weekend due to a storm that ravaged the coast, and just managed a delayed puck drop against the Surrey Eagles. Due to that their last two games have actually been against the Eagles. Surrey took a rare win in Prince George 2-1, but PG returned the favour the following week by topping the Eagles 3-0 to finish the year.
The only time the Centennials and Spruce Kings have clashed this season was up in Prince George for a mid-week clash, and the Cents couldn't shake the road rust early enough. Prince George pounced with 3 goals in the first chasing Vincent Duplessis from the crease, and Austin Roden stopped the rest but the offense never arrived for the Cents. Mathieu Gosselin would provide the lone goal in the third period to bring the Cents within 2, but that would be as close as Merritt would come.
The Cents will hope that they will be able give Prince George a similar treatment as we've seen the home-side jump out to an early lead multiple times at the NVMA. In fact the Cents, with a 15-5 record at home, have the 2nd best home record in the Interior Division and are tied for the 2nd best home record in the BCHL. They're 95 goals on home ice are tops in the league as well, and out pace the nearest team by 10 goals, and they're goal differential of 29 is 2nd best in the BCHL. The Cents will hope to continue to use home ice to their advantage as they push for top spot in the Interior Division.
The Cents will look for more contributions from their leading scorers. Brad Cocca is 3rd in league scoring with 50 points, and 2nd in assists with 34. Nick Granowicz is back into the top ten in scoring - 8th with 45 points. Captain Nick Wicks has started to turn it on as well and is 18th with 40 points.
Prince George has a couple of representatives in the top 20 as well. Dustin Manz is 11th with 43 points, Ben Brar is 17th with 40 points, and their next leading scorer is Patrick Cozzi with 32 points.
The special teams battle favours the Spruce Kings:
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
PG - 18.9% (12th) PG - 79.7% (10th)
Cents - 18.1% (15th) Cents - 75% (16th)
The goaltending duel will see the Cents looking to match their counter part on the other side of the ice who has the top GAA in the BCHL. Austin Roden is 15-7 with a .897 SV%, a 3.34 GAA and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis is 8-6-2 with a .904 SV% and a 3.31 GAA. The Spruce Kings will likely turn to workhorse Logan Neaton who is 21-5 with a .915 SV%, a 1.87 GAA, and 2 shutouts.
Head Coach Joe Martin says the Cents are eager to get back into action.
"We've had a couple of good practices to get our legs back. Have worked on some x's and o's that were doing well before the break and we are ready to go."
The Cents and fans eagerly await the first win of 2019.
Puck drop 7pm at the NVMA. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
Nick Granowicz has been named an honorable mention in the final BCHL Player of the Week announcement for 2018.
After busting a mini-slump that saw the Cents forward start to slip in the BCHL scoring race the weekend prior, he soundly closed the door on that chapter of the season with a solid performance in a home-and-home series with Trail. He scored 2 goals, including the eventual game-winner, and an assist in a 5-2 victory over Trail on Friday night. Then he followed up that effort by setting up the third goal of the game in a 5-3 victory the following night to help the Cents rebound with a 2-win effort to end 2018.
The Macomb, Michigan and future University of Michigan commit, Granowicz is now back into the top 10 in BCHL scoring at 7th with 45 points, and he is 3rd in goals scored with 23 on the season.
In this his lone season of BCHL play, he has earned an honorable mention 4 times for his performance through 2018.
The Merritt Centennials finished off 2018 strong with a pair of wins over the Trail Smoke Eaters including tonight 5-3.
The game started with some rough stuff, but the Cents cooled things down by converting on the powerplay. Mattias Dal Monte blasted one from the top of the right dot after taking a dish from Matt Kopperud to make it 1-0. St. Nick Wicks would gift the Cents a 2 goal lead half-way through the first, but then the Smoke Eaters would start to crawl back. Kent Johnson and Powell Connor would add goals to tie the game after one period of play. Austin Roden made 9/11 and AP Logan Terness stopped 7/9 in the first.
The second started with the Smoke Eaters on the powerplay and they'd convert early with a shot from Diarmad Dimurro. Mathieu the Goose Gosselin would make a triumphant return to the lineup and tie the game at 3 after a shot from the right wing from Nick Granowicz created a big rebound. The shots after 2 periods were 23-20.
The Cents needed a big effort in the third, and would prove why they're one of the best teams in the BCHL on home ice. After battling through the first half of the period, the Cents would finally hit pay dirt. Brady Ziemer would walk into a perfect feed from Nick Wicks who was looking for the trailer on the play, and Ziemer made no mistake ripping a wrister top corner blocker side for the game winning goal. Christian Sabin would take a page from the same book, as he'd go top salami after a steal in the offensive zone to give the Cents some extra insurance at 5-3. Final shots were 38-30 and the Cents went 2/7 on the powerplay.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Brendan Schneider 1A
3RD STAR: Mattias Dal Monte 1G
2ND STAR: Brady Ziemer 1G
1ST STAR: Nick Wicks 1G 1A
After the game Head Coach Joe Martin said he is proud of his team through the first half of the year.
"I'm impressed by our scoring, I'm impressed by our depth at every position. The only thing that needs to improve is our special teams, and that will really help us as we head into the playoffs."
The Cents head into the Christmas break and will return to action on January 4th against the Prince George Spruce Kings.
The Merritt Centennials (3rd Int/22-13-1-1) return home for a rematch against the Trail Smoke Eaters (6th Int/14-18-5-3) tonight, in the second game of a home-and-home series in the final weekend of BCHL action of 2018.
The Cents are hoping to duplicate the effort from last night where they came away with a 5-2 win. A great start in the first period saw the Cents out to a 3-0 lead. Christian Sabin got the party started with a hard drive to the net, and was found flawlessly by Captain Nick Wicks. Rookie Brett Roloson extended the lead to 2-0 with a shot bar-down and in, while Nick Granowicz got the third goal by just throwing the puck on net. Vincent Duplessis was perfect through 2 periods stopping 21 shots in that time, but in the third the Smoke Eaters made it close crawling back to make it 3-2 before the Cents got more contributions. Another goal from Sabin where he was driving hard to the net gave the Cents some breathing room, and Nick Granowicz iced the game with an empty netter for a 5-2 final.
The Cents now lead the season series 2-0-1. Prior to the game last night, the Smoke Eaters had won against the Penticton Vees and the Wenatchee Wild. With the win the Centennials continue their streak of not losing 3 games in a row this season.
The Cents are looking to finish off a strong start to the season at home where they are 14-5 in 2018.The home record is good enough for 4th in the BCHL, and away from home they've been playing .500 hockey. The NVMA is one of the toughest buildings to play in, and it’s a place where things happen quickly. A turnover at either end can result in a chance before you know it so both teams will have to be sharp.
The Cents continue to be led by Brad Cocca who picked up an assist last night and is one shy of 50 ahead of the break and 3rd in the BCHL scoring race. Nick Granowicz is starting to collect points, and is up to 44 now, back into the top 10 at 7th. Captain Nick Wicks is third on the team with 38 points and remains in the top 20.
The Smoke Eaters can score in bunches and are led by veteran Chase Stevenson who has 34 points, Carter Jones has 31 points and their Captain Braeden Tuck has 29 points.
The special teams battle still favours the Smoke Eaters:
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Trail - 19.8% (7th) Trail – 76.4% (14th)
Cents - 17.7% (13th) Cents – 75% (17th)
The goaltending duel will see Austin Roden start the game for the Centennials. He is 14-7 with an .895 SV%, a 3.35 GAA and 1 shutout. New backup Logan Terness will go for the Trail Smoke Eaters the young goaltender has seen two games of action and is 0-1 with a 6.20 GAA and .860 SV%.
Head Coach Joe Martin says the Cents will need to get a couple things under control to have another victory over Trail.
“Our faceoffs and our penalty kill will need to improve. We started a lot of the 2nd and 3rd without the puck and you saw Trails shots go up. Tighten those two areas up and I like our chances.”
Puck Drop 7pm from the NVMA. It's Ugly Sweater night, rock an ugly sweater and get in for the price tier lower!
Pre-Game 6;45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.