The Merritt Centennials (21-11-1-1) lock swords with the West Kelowna Warriors (20-14-0-1) for the second time in a week.
The Centennials are coming off a great weekend that started with a win against the Warriors 5-4, and continued with success against the Nanaimo Clippers with a 5-1 victory on Teddy Bear Toss night. Christian Sabin set off the bear storm, Joey Berkopec added his 3rd of the season, Brad Cocca tallied his 15th, Matt Kopperud scored and has points in 3 straight, and Nick Wicks converted on a 5-on-3 to propel the Cents to victory. The lone blemish on Austin Roden's night came on a shorthanded breakaway from the Clippers, but Roden picked up both wins on the weekend, and is perfect against the Warriors this season, like the team, at 3-0.
Last week against the Warriors wasn't the one sided offensive tilt that we saw in games at the NVMA, but the Cents found a way to win nonetheless. After a strong starting period, that saw the Cents out to a 3-2 lead after 1 courtesy goals from Matt Kopperud (2), and Vincent Guy, the wind was sucked out of the game with penalties for both teams in the second period and the Warriors crawled back to lead 4-3 after two periods of play. The Cents came storming out of the gate in the third, out shooting West K 17-3 in the final frame and were rewarded by goals from Brendan Schneider and Brett Roloson to win the game 5-4.
Offense will loom large in the match up as it has all season. With scores of 8-4, 8-3, and 5-4 and an average output of 10.6 goals per game, baton down the hatches and prepare for another barn burning effort tonight.
The Centennials would like to extend a congratulations to forward Brad Cocca, on his commitment to Brown University for the 2019-20 season. The Centennials staff and Director of Scouting Brandon Shaw will have their hands full replacing a talented Cents lineup that will have up to 9 players moving on next season.
Brad Cocca paces the Cents offensively with 45 points, and is 3rd in BCHL scoring. Nick Granowicz is looking bust a mini-slump that has seen him held off the score sheet in the last 5 games. He still is hanging in the top 20 in league scoring but has slid to 13th with 38 points. Cents Captain Nick Wicks has been filling the void offensively. is coming off an honorable mention in the BCHL's player of the week, and now has 36 points on the season.
The Warriors have been turning it on offensively this season and are led by forward Mike Hardman who's tied for 1st in the league in goals-scored with 24 and 41 points. Willie Reim is tied with him in points with 41, and Chase Dubois had two goals against the Centennials last week and has 37 points on the season.
The Cents are coming off a rare game where they were perfect on the penalty kill, and will hope for a similar effort against a strong Warriors powerplay:
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
WK - 19.6% (5th) WK - 80.1% (11th)
Cents - 16.8% (15th) Cents - 77% (13th)
The goaltending duel sees Austin Roden coming off a pair of wins last weekend, while the Warriors had to use both goalies in the 5-4 game last week. Roden is 14-6 with a .901 SV%, a 3.22 GAA, and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis is itching at a return to the crease and is 7-4-2 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA. Brock Baier surrendered 3 goals on 7 shots and was chased in the last contest. He sits at 10-3 with a .905 SV% and a 3.63 GAA. Rookie Connor Hopkins came in and played well. He is 10-10 with a .909 SV%, a 3.23 GAA, and 1 shutout.
Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw says the proximity of match ups between these two clubs will spell more intensity.
"When you have a game against a rival with not much breathing room in between, it will mean a step up in the bad blood."
The Cents will hope the intensity will propel them to victory tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials announced today that forward Bradley Cocca has committed to Brown University for the 2019-20 season.
A native of Mississauga, Ontario, Cocca is having a banner year for himself in the junior hockey ranks. He's played in the OJHL and the USHL, but really started to find success when he came to the Merritt Centennials. Already in his 4th year of junior hockey, Cocca is currently 3rd in BCHL scoring with 15 goals and 30 assists in 34 games which nearly doubles last years total of 23 points in 44 games played.
Already earning a commitment from Harvard for stellar play in Minor Midget Triple A with the Don Mills Flyers, Cocca elected to switch to Brown siting a better fit personally.
"After talking it over with my family, we felt that Brown was the better fit overall. The education was a big factor too, I know I won't play hockey for the rest of my life so I wanted to go somewhere that I'd get the best education possible."
He adds that the staff at Brown has a soft spot for small, skilled forwards.
"Both the assistant coaches at Brown were smaller college hockey players, so I think they saw a bit of themselves in me."
Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw says that any program would be lucky to have Cocca because of the work he puts in academically and on the ice.
"Brad's a competitor, he comes to practice everyday and competes, he shows up for games, and he wants to be a difference maker every single night."
The Centennials still have 9 players committed to NCAA Div. 1 hockey for next season - a club record.
The BCHL announced their Player of the Week today, and once again a Centennials player was among the honorable mentions.
Captain Nick Wicks is starting to heat up offensively after a week that saw the Cents go 1-2, but Wicks pick up points in all three contests including a natural hat trick. He picked up where he left off by setting up two Cents goals against West Kelowna on Friday in a 5-4 victory, and then scoring a goal, adding an assist, and being named 1st star for his efforts against the Nanaimo Clippers in a 5-1 win on Saturday.
The Delta, BC native has moved into the top 20 in BCHL scoring with 9 goals and 27 assists, and joins 3 other Centennials team mates. Committed to play hockey next year for the University of Alaska Anchorage, Wicks has helped the Centennials move back into a tie for top spot in the Interior Division.
The Teddy Bear's were tossed early, and the Cents didn't look back as they continued the Clippers woes with a 5-1 victory at the NVMA.
The teams traded chances in the first before a goal mouth scramble saw the puck come to Christian Sabin who unleashed the teddy rain with a shot past Landon Pavlisin to make it 1-0. Once the ice was cleaned up, the Cents continued to push the pace. Joey Berkopec unleashed a shot from the right point that went top corner over the glove shoulder, blasting the water bottle off the netting to make it 2-0. The teams would trade a couple powerplay chances each in the first, but nothing would come of the man advantage. Austin Roden wasn't very busy in the first stopping all 5 shots he faced.
Once again the second frame proved to be the Centennials weakest, but with that said they didn't surrender a goal. The team did lose momentum after a series penalties for and against, much like last night and once again they couldn't get all hands on deck. A turning point of the period came with the Cents at the end of a long shift, stuck with the energy line on, iced the puck. However, a keen move from Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw to call for the BCHL media timeout gave the guys some rest, and after winning the ensuing draw, they got a quick change, and Brad Cocca came on with fresh legs and lit the lamp on a stuff play from below the goal line. A solid performance from Austin Roden kept the Clippers at bay, and the Cents took a 3-0 lead into the third period.
In the third, the Cents continued to push the pace, as the Clippers seemed content to back off to neutral ice. Matt Kopperud scored his 15th goal of the season after a turnover at the line, poking it into the slot, and taking a shot down low that fooled Pavlisin. The Clippers would then parade to the penalty box, and at first it paid off for them. Kovich scored on a shorthanded break away, but it would be the lone blemish against Roden. However, the Cents would finally connect with a 5-on-3 and Captain Nick Wicks would do the honors sniping one top shelf blocker side. Final shots were 34-23 in favour of the Cents as they took the game 5-1.
After the game Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw said there were a few things to clean up in a strong game.
"In a game like this you can nit-pick, but there's still some cleaner puck movement we could have out there. Overall though this was a great effort."
Energy Player of the Game - Brendan Schneider 1A
3rd Star - Brad Cocca 1G 1A
2nd Star - Austin Roden 22/23
1st Star - Nick Wicks 1G 2A
With the win the Cents pull into a tie with the Wenatchee Wild at the top of the Interior Division. Next game day is Friday against the West Kelowna Warriors.
The Merritt Centennials (20-11-1-1) welcome the Nanaimo Clippers (12-17) to the NVMA tonight.
The Cents are coming off a gutsy win in West Kelowna where they got off to a great start, had a difficult second period, but then came back with a vengeance in the third to win it. Matt Kopperud supplied the early offense, tipping in a shot from Mattias Dal Monte in front just 2 minutes into the game. After the game was tied on a Warriors powerplay, Kopperud would answer with the Cents up a man, but Jackson Munro did all the leg work, dangling in from the point, and putting the puck on a platter for Kopperud with an open net. Vincent Guy would expand the lead under a minute later after he was set up by Daniel Tkac from the corner. The Cents third goal would chase starter Brock Baier in favour of Connor Hopkins, but Chase Dubois would get the Warriors back within striking distance before the period was over at 3-2. The Cents would get into penalty trouble (both up and down a man) and couldn't get into a rhythm, and the Warriors stormed back to get a 4-3 lead heading into the third. However, in the third, it would be all Centennials as they outshot the Warriors 17-3, and got goals from Brendan Schneider to tie it, and rookie Brett Roloson to win it. Austin Roden picked up the win, and the Cents righted the ship on the road where they had lost 3 in a row.
The Cents return home looking to keep some of the momentum from the third period, and the last couple weekends alive. Overall, the Cents are the 3rd best team in the league at home with a record of 13-4, where they've outscored opponents 80-56. They'll look to give the Nanaimo Clippers the same treatment in their lone visit to the NVMA this season. Last year the Cents and Clippers split the season series, with both teams winning at home. The Cents won 4-2 on home ice, but lost to the Clippers 3-1 when they visited Nanaimo.
The Clippers are mired in a 4 game slump themselves. Their last win came against the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Nov. 20 5-4. Since then they've fallen 4-2 to Victoria, 7-5 to West K, 3-0 to Coquitlam, and 5-3 to Prince George last night. However, before this losing streak, the Clippers were on a 5 game winning streak, so they are capable of playing solid hockey. For an Island team with a lot of turnover it will be a trial by fire in the NVMA. The only teams to win in the NVMA this year are Interior Division teams: Penticton, Wenatchee, and Vernon so the deck is stacked against the Clippers tonight.
The Cents got a balanced scoring attack last night, but are still lead by the same stalwarts up front. Brad Cocca was held off the scoresheet last night as was Nick Granowicz so they remain at 43 and 38 points respectively. Captain Nick Wicks is starting to turn it on and is the next leading scorer in the absence of Mathieu Gosselin with 33 points.
The Clippers are scoring by committee and are led by Ethan Scardina with 28 points, Joshua Borne has 19, and rookie Aiden Hansen Bukata has 18 points.
The special teams battle favours the Clippers on the powerplay, but the Centennials on the penalty kill:
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Nan- 20.6% (4th) Nan - 75.6% (17th)
Cents - 16.4% (16th) Cents - 76.3% (15th)
In net, Austin Roden is coming off a win and is now 13-6 with a .899 SV%, a 3.34 GAA and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis is 7-4-2 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA. The Clippers have two options. Jordan Naylor is 8-11 with a .898 SV% and a 3.35 GAA. Landon Paylisin is 4-6 with a .887 SV% and a 3.99 GAA.
Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw says the Cents need to focus on the attitude they had in the third period against West Kelowna.
"I think if we channel that energy that we had in the third period and we should be fine against the Clippers tonight."
A reminder that it is Teddy Bear Toss tonight, so bring a teddy to the rink and be ready to toss after the first CENTS goal! All proceeds go to the local Nicola Valley and District Food Bank. SANTA will be in the building, and Save On Foods is giving you a chance to win your holiday turkey early in a Turkey Bonspiel in the 1st Intermission.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and q101.ca with Jared Thomas.