The Merritt Centennials (5-4) begin their Island road swing tonight against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (3-6).
Coming off their most successful September in terms of wins in 12 years, the Cents are looking to build another win streak after snapping a two-game skid with a 5-2 win against the Vernon Vipers on Saturday. That contest lived and died on the powerplay. In the first, the Cents got things going with a marker from Nick Granowicz, who got an early one with the man advantage, but the Vipers answered with a goal of their own on the PP. After starting the game 1/1 on the PP, the Cents had a string of 4 chances that went unfulfilled in the second, and the Vipers were able to slow the game down and take advantage on a counter-attack to make it 2-1 heading into the third. The Cents offense, and their powerplay came back to life in the third period where they had goals from Brad Cocca, Daniel Tkac, Mathieu Gosselin, and an empty netter from Brendan Schneider to make it 5-2. The powerplay went 3/7 and Vincent Duplessis picked up his first win of the year stopping 25 of 27 shots.
Last season, the Cents skated to a hard fought 3-3 tie in the Bulldog's barn, and the Cents were able to top the Dogs on home ice 4-1.
The Bulldogs have gotten off to a rough start. After winning their first two games of the year against Cowichan and Nanaimo, the Dogs dropped 6 straight before winning their last contest against the Surrey Eagles 5-3.
Statistically, these teams are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to offense. The Cents lead the league when it comes to filling the net with 35 goals for while the Bulldogs are 17th with 16 goals this season. The Dogs are also last in the league in terms of goal differential with -16. However, in terms of team defense the Bulldogs have allowed fewer goals than the Centennials with 33 compared to the Cents 35.
Brad Cocca remains the Cents lone representative in the top 5 in league scoring with 13 points, but teammates Mathieu Gosselin, Brendan Schneider, Matt Kopperud, and Nick Granowicz still crack the top 20 with 10 points a piece. Early in the season, the Cents only have 3 players that have been held off the score sheet: Mattias Dal Monte, Ben Ward, and newcomer Vincent Guy. However, the Cents would like to see some more contributions from the defense, who despite helping set up many Cents goals, have only cached in once off the stick of Talon Zakall.
The Bulldogs are led by second year forward Keaton Mastrodonato who has 5 points, and Ryan Miotto, who came over from Penticton in a trade for Andre Ghantous, with 4 points.
The special teams battle sees the Cents improving with the extra man now at 10th with 15.5% while the Bulldogs are struggling out of the gates with a BCHL 16th and 11.8%. However, on the penalty kill the Dogs are among the strongest in the league at 87.5% which is good enough for 3rd league-wide. The Cents sit in 15th when short a man at 75.5%
In net you can expect both goalies to see some action in the 3-in-3 weekend. Austin Roden has led the Cents to a 4-2 record when between the pipes and sports a 4.12 GAA and a .874 SV%. Vincent Duplessis is fresh off his first win of the year at 1-2 with a 3.17 GAA and a .888 SV%. The Bulldogs have a decent tandem in net as John Hawthorne has seen the majority of the starts and is 3-4 with a 3.51 GAA and a .903 SV%. Former Interior Division rival from West Kelowna Cole Demers is 0-2 with a 4.03 GAA and a .855 SV%.
Head Coach Joe Martin says that the Bulldogs can't be taken lightly just because of their record.
"They're a fast team, a structured team. If we keep playing like we have been we should end up on top, but we can't afford to underestimate them."
The Cents look to keep the ball rolling tonight with a win against the Bulldogs.
Puck Drop 7pm from the Dog Pound in Port Alberni. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM or stream online at Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Centennials are back in the win column and find a measure of revenge against the Vernon Vipers as they even the season series 1-1 with a 5-2 win.
The first frame saw both teams skating well despite a depleted line up for the Vipers which saw them dress a lineup that was two short of a full compliment. The Centennials got an early powerplay opportunity and an early powerplay goal a night after they went 0/7. A shot from Matt Kopperud deflected off a defender and ended up on Nick Granowicz’s stick at the back door to put the Cents up 1 early. The Vipers were able to counter on their first powerplay opportunity as Jack Judson found the top corner from the blue line with a healthy screen in front.
The second period saw the whistle blown time after time in the Cents favour, but the Centennials couldn’t match their early success on the powerplay, and despite 4 opportunities with the extra man, couldn’t find the back of the net. The Vipers, however, would, and it was Teddy Wooding with the teams skating four-on-four who beat Vincent Duplessis on the third attempt after two huge saves by the Cents goalie. The Vipers would carry a 2-1 lead into the third.
After a sorry second, The Cents came out like a team possessed in the third and put themselves in the drivers seat early with a goal on the powerplay. Just under two minutes in Brad Cocca was able to wrist one far-side blocker on Aiden Porter to tie the game at 2. Within a minute, Daniel Tkac extended regained the lead with a beautiful individual effort. Cutting across the offensive blue line from right to left, he was given space by the Vipers D, and he walked in on the left side and roofed one blocker side on Porter to give the Cents the 3-2 lead. The Cents didn’t look back as Mathieu Gosselin added another on the powerplay, and Brendan Schneider iced the game with an empty netter to beat the Vipers 5-2.
The Cents had their best powerplay game of the season after a rocky start, and the offense continued to roll. The team will look to start up a streak as they head on an Island road swing next weekend with the first stop against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
The Merritt Centennials have added some offense to the lineup as they have signed Vincent Guy.
Guy spent time in the QCHL with the St. Lawrence Lions last season and had 10 goals and 13 assists in 35 games. However, the Centennials connection runs through Mathieu Gosselin who played with Guy in the QMAA with the St-Francois Blizzard, and the Goose also had a stint with the Lions before coming over to the Cents last year.
Guy will draw into the lineup tonight against the Vernon Vipers.
The Merritt Centennials search for their first win in three tries as they take to the road to face the Vernon Vipers.
The Centennials look to rebound after dropping two in a row, the most recent loss coming last night to the Penticton Vees. A moving opening ceremony to the Humboldt Broncos, First Responders, and long-time bus driver Steve Rose kicked the game off, but it was the Vees who kicked into gear first. An early goal from Mason Snell got the Vees started, and they didn't look back scoring 4 in the first period. Goaltender Austin Roden gave way to Vincent Duplessis after stopping 13/17 shots. Duplessis was far less busy than his counterpart as he only faced 10 shots throughout the rest of the game as the Cents began to turn it on in the final 2 periods. However, Derek Krall, the goalie for the Vees, was able to keep the Cents attackers at bay for most of the second as only Brad Cocca managed to beat him on the rush. In the third, the Cents tried to turn up the heat, and managed to get within two with goals to make things interesting. Rylan Van Unen and Brendan Schneider had the markers in the third, but Andre Ghantous scored a late one on the powerplay to make it a 6-3 final.
The last time the Centennials had dropped two in a row this season was at the hand of the Vernon Vipers in their home opener. Captain Nick Wicks provided the offense for the Centennials as they only managed 2 goals and fell victim to some timely scoring from the Vipers 5-2.
Last season the Cents only managed one win in five attempts, and couldn't best the Vipers on their home ice. However, the Vipers are short manned, last night they dressed ten forwards and 8 defenseman, and have lost the services of standout forward Josh Prokop to the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. Despite that, the Snakes still managed to top the Wenatchee Wild at home last night 2-0.
Head Coach of the Vees, Fred Harbison, described the Interior Division as a dog fight this year, and the Cents and Vipers are in the midst of that fight as only 4 points separate the top of the division from the bottom. The Vipers at 3-2-2 have crept above the Centennials for 3rd in the division, while the Cents have slipped to 4th with a 4-4 record.
Brad Cocca continues to lead the way for the Centennials after adding a goal last night for 10 points. Nick Granowicz, Matt Kopperud, and Mathieu Gosselin are all doing their part to supply some offense with 9 points a piece. Josh Latta and Jack Judson are the leaders for the Vipers with 5 points followed by Alex Swetlikoff, Michael Young, and Elan Bar Lev Wise with 4 points.
The special teams battle saw the Centennials take a step back as they went 0/7 with the extra man last night and are now 15th in the league at 11.6% while the Vipers are 11th at 13.8%. The Cents tallied their first shorthanded goal last night, but gave up 2 goals on 5 opportunities, and are 15th in the league now at 76.5%. The Vipers penalty kill is good enough for 8th in the BCHL at 82.1%.
The goaltending battle sees the Cents looking to put aside the troubles of last night and move forward. Austin Roden is now 4-2 with a .874 SV% and a 4.12 GAA. Vincent Duplessis is 0-2 with a 3.71 GAA and a .871 SV%. The Vipers have two new goaltenders in the crease this season and rookie Aidan Porter is 2-3 with a .918 SV% and a 2.40 GAA. Aidan Hosein is 1-1 with a 3.48 GAA and a 833 SV%.
Head Coach Joe Martin says that the Vipers may have lost some pieces but are still a great team that will provide stiff competition.
"They've lost Josh Prokop to the WHL, but I think just like we saw with Talon Zakall, they have players in their organization who can step up when given the opportunity for more ice time."
The Cents will look to be on top after ice time concludes tonight against the Vipers.
Puck Drop 6pm, Pre-Game 5:45 on Hockey TV, Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials will have to wait to get back in the win column as they were bested by the visiting Penticton Vees 6-3 on Humboldt night.
Despite a moving opening ceremony that saw the Humboldt Broncos, Nicola Valley First Responders and long time bus driver Steve Rose honored, it was the Vees who were able to get out to the hot start. Just 2 and a half minutes into the game, Mason Snell scored his first in the BCHL with a shot off the boards at the half wall that squeaked through to beat starter Austin Roden. The Cents then started to push back, but a bad stretch that started with a Brendan Harrogate goal off a rebound at 12:19 of the first was followed up within a minute by another marker from Matthew Byrne; both first goals in the BCHL. The hole got deeper after a late powerplay marker in the period from Ryan Sandelin made it 4-0. Roden stopped 13/17 shots in the first, and wouldn't return to the crease in the game as he was hooked in favour of Vincent Duplessis. Derek Krall stopped all 10 shots he faced in the opening frame.
The second period was much more intense, but newcomer from the OHL Harrogate tallied another before Brad Cocca finally broke the goose egg for the Merritt Centennials. Cocca finished off a beautiful rush up the right side by Matt Kopperud, who swung it wide to Mathieu Gosselin before hitting Cocca in stride in the slot. That tally gave the hometown crow of over 800 strong something to cheer about, and the Cents trailed 5-1 heading into the third.
The final frame saw stretches where the Centennials had chances, and they finally converted just over halfway through. Rylan Van Unen was firing off shots, and after missing the net twice, finally found the mesh on the third attempt after Nick Wicks and Nick Granowicz found rebounds and fed Van Unen again making it 5-2. Brendan Schneider then got the first short-handed goal of the season and a brief stint of belief in the building to make it 6-3, but the Vees dashed the hopes of the hometown faithful with a late powerplay goal by Andre Ghantous.
The Cents powerplay struggled to convert despite good looks and went 0/7 while the Vees went 2/5. Vincent Duplessis wasn't very busy after coming into the crease, only facing 10 shots, while Derek Krall picked up his first win of the season with a 36 save effort on 39 shots.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said he liked the teams effort in the last 40 minutes, but a lack of focus in the first cost them.
"I think there were just some mental mistakes out there in the first period. The Vees were outworking us, and we had players in position, but they forgot what their job was and then the puck was in the net."
The Cents will look to return to the win column after dropping 2 in a row against the Vernon Vipers tomorrow night.