The Merritt Centennials and Langley Rivermen meet for the first time this season tonight, and for the second year in a row that first meeting will happen at the BCHL Showcase.
Last season it was the Rivermen who edged the Cents in the first game of the showcase winning 4-3, but the Centennials got revenge later on in the season at home with a 4-1 win. The Cents closed their season out against Langley last season, but the game was a bit of a wash as the Cents had a billet house burn down, were without the services of their Captain Tyrell Buckley, and had already secured the top possible playoff berth.
Needless to say today's afternoon match up will have different undertones than last years clash at the Showcase. The Cents are 4-2 to start the year where last year they came in to the Showcase sporting a 0-4 record, and the Rivermen added to their woes. The Cents have one of the healthiest crop of returning players in the BCHL with 14, comparatively the Rivermen have 11 players who wil suit up once again. The Cents boast the leagues top offense, where last season they were struggling to score goals. The Rivermen are in the middle of the pack in regards to offense, but defensively have better numbers than the Cents and sit 3rd in the league with only 12 goals allowed. However, the Cents just pulled off their most impressive defensive effort of the season holding the Victoria Grizzlies to a late goal and protecting a lead for 55 minutes of the game.
The Cents roll into this one with momentum on their side. Winners of four straight, the Cents aim to keep the streak alive against a Rivermen squad that has been up and down to start the season. After winning their opener against the Penticton Vees and following that up with another win against Coquitlam, the Rivermen dropped two to the Chilliwack Chiefs before getting back in the win column in their first game of the Showcase against Trail. The Rivermen are led by young returnee Ethan Leyh, who has 4 points, but have a pretty balanced attack as rookies Mark Gallant and Chase Pletzke are tied with many others with 3 points a piece.
The Cents sit atop the Interior Division in the early season, and look to their improved defensive play to help them stay there. In their last game against the Grizzlies, the Cents were able to shut down phenom Alex Newhook, and stymie the Victoria offense through 59 minutes of the game. However, they still had enough offense from Matt Kopperud on the powerplay, and Nic Granowicz finishing a great passing play with line mates Nick Wicks and Rylan Van Unen in the first. Brad Cocca picked up another point to continue to be in the running for the league lead in points, but now trails Lucas Sowder of the Wild by one with 9, Mathieu Gosselin and Matt Kopperud are two off the pace with 8 points.
The Rivermen have the edge in the special teams battle and are 7th on the powerplay with a 22.2% conversion rate, and 9th on the penalty kill with a 80% kill rate. The Cents are steadily improving in both categories and are now 11th with the man advantage with 14.7% and 14th on the PK with 76.9%
In net, the Centennials will turn to Vincent Duplessis for the first time since the season opener. He is 0-1 with a .875 SV% and a 5.98GAA. The Rivermen have seen both their net minders get into action. Braedon Fleming is 3-1 with a .931 SV% and a 1.75 GAA and 1 shutout. Alex Rolfe is 0-1 with a .911 SV% and a 4.00GAA.
Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin says that the team needs to keep trusting the process.
"The leadership group is doing a great job of keeping the guys focused on the day to day, keeping things light, and staying in the moment."
The Cents will hope for another victory moment following the game this afternoon and continue their hot streak.
Puck Drop 4:30, Pre-Game 4:15 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca from rink 2 at the Prospera Centre with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials found their offense early, and then survived a late push by the Victoria Grizzlies to hang on to a 2-1 win for their 4th in a row.
The Centennials used the strength of their powerplay early on in the game to capture the lead. At 5:15 Matt Kopperud creeped in from the half-wall looked for a hole and found one down low past the far toe of Kurtis Chapman for the first goal of he game. Assists went to Jayden Fetter and Brad Cocca. The top line provided what is the highlight of the early season so far when Nic Granowicz was sprung on a partial break, but as he was getting caught on the back check, dropped a pass to Nick Wicks who fed it across to Rylan Van Unen, who then returned the feed in front to Granowicz, who put the puck in the open net to complete the passing play giving the Cents a two goal lead that they'd carry into the first intermission.
Neither team found the back of the net in the second period, but they traded chances on the powerplay. However, whenever the Grizzlies found themselves on the powerplay they took themselves off the man advantage with a penalty of their own. After 2, Austin Roden had stopped all 16 shots he faced.
Heading into the third the Centennials continued to have their chances. Mathieu Gosselin came as close to a goal as you could come as he rung it off the inside off the crossbar down and out. The Grizzlies made a push late and were rewarded with the net empty late, after Riley Hughes deflected a point shot from Carter Berger to make things interesting in the final minute of play. The Centennials closed the door from then on and hung on to win 2-1 for their fourth victory in a row.
After the game Head Coach Joe Martin applauded the play of Austin Roden and his players.
"I think we saw Roden turn in his best performance of the year, and the rookies: Roloson, Ward, and Tkac even though they didn't play much provide that valuable breathing room for our more experienced players when their facing down some of the tougher matchups. Overall, I thought it was a gutsy defensive performance."
The Cents and fans will enjoy having their name at the top of the Interior Division Standings before they look for a 5th win in a row against the Langley Rivermen on Saturday for an afternoon game.
The Merritt Centennials and Victoria Grizzlies lock horns for the first time this season as they'll do battle at the BCHL Showcase.
A reminder for eager fans that despite being a 'home' game, the action will take place at the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack at 7pm.
The Cents and Grizzlies are rare opponents as they only see each other twice during the regular season, but last season the edge went to the Centennials. In game one of the season series in Victoria, the Centennials were able to explode in the first period for a 4-0 lead, and didn't look back from there as they ended up taking home one of their most lopsided wins of the season 6-0. The game was a coming out party for Matt Kopperud as he had his first BCHL goal, and first BCHL Gordie Howe Hat trick, registering a goal, an assist, and a fight. When the season series resumed in mid-February, the teams skated to a rare 2-2 tie. However, in both games last season the Centennials avoided facing Grizzlies phenom forward from St. John's, Newfoundland, Alex Newhook. In game one of the season series, Newhook was away at the World Junior A Challenge with Head Coach Joe Martin, and late in the season Newhook suffered an arm injury that kept him out of action. The Cents will have no such luck tonight, as Newhook is healthy and looking to impress the number of college and NHL scouts that will be in attendance. In recent draft rankings, Newhook is slated to go in the early to mid-first round of the NHL draft. Fellow teammate Riley Hughes is also a draft pick of the New York Rangers.
The Centennials come into the Showcase with plenty of momentum on their side and the reigning BCHL Player of the Week in the lineup, as Mathieu Gosselin and the Cents exploded for 19 goals over 3 games in last weeks action. The Cents won a 7-6 nail biter over the Surrey Eagles, a sound 7-5 victory over the Wenatchee Wild, and a resounding 5-2 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The Cents second line, which Gosselin centres, figured prominently in each victory as Gosselin and linemates Bradley Cocca and Brendan Schneider combined for 23 points over the 3 contests. Coming into the Showcase, the Centennials have 5 players featured in the top 10 in BCHL scoring with Gosselin and Cocca tied for first with 8 points, Schneider and Kopperud tied for second with 7 points, and Nick Wicks tied for 9th with 6 points. Despite the scoring punch, the Centennials have also started to have their defensive game round into form as the leagues highest scoring offense looks to shut the door with more frequency.
The Grizzlies have started the season 2-1. They lost their season opener 5-3 to the Powell River Kings, thumped the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 5-1, and then edged the Penticton Vees 4-3 in their home opener. Alex Campbell and Alex Newhook are tied for the team lead in points with 4, followed by Riley Hughes and Marty Westhaver with 3. The Grizzlies also had the benefit of a strong returning crop of players as they enjoy 11 returnees, and hope for a season that sees them advance farther than the Island Division Finals where they lost in 5 games to Powell River.
The special teams battle sees the Grizzlies with the edge. On the powerplay they sit 9th in the league with a 18.8% conversion rate with the Cents have improved to 13th with 13.3%. On the penalty kill the Grizzlies sit at 10th in the league with an 81.3% kill rate while the Cents are 14th with 74.3%
In net the Centennials will look for another strong performance as Austin Roden has rallied off 3 wins in a row and now sits at 3-1, but would like to see his underlying numbers improve as he sports a .868 SV% and a 4.22 GAA. However, in the last game against Salmon Arm after a shaky opening goal, Roden looked to return to the form Cents fans grew accustomed to last season and looked a lot more confident and comfortable in net. Vincent Duplessis should see some time at the Showcase as well, but hasn't seen time in the crease since the opening game of the year and sits at 0-1 with a .875 SV% and a 5.98 GAA. The Grizzlies have relied on goaltender Kurtis Chapman this year as they wait for Zachary Rose to recover from injury. Chapman is 2-1 with a .924 SV% and a 2.67 GAA.
This is has been voted the most anticipated matchup of the BCHL Bauer Showcase, and the Centennials hope they can live up to the hype, impress the scouts, but most importantly the hometown faithful who will be watching and listening for a 4th Cents win in a row.
Puck drop from the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack 7pm. Pre-Game on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca at 6:45 with Jared Thomas.
Merritt Centennials forward named BCHL Player of the Week.
Mathieu Gosselin was instrumental in the Cents success throughout the week as he netted 5 goals and added 3 assists. The 2nd year forward and his line mates finally broke their offensive silence in game 3 of the year against the Surrey Eagles during a 7-6 victory, a game in which Gosselin scored twice, including the game-winner, and added two assists. Against the defending champion Wenatchee Wild Gosselin chipped in with a goal and an assists as the Cents won 7-5, and the following night against Salmon Arm he added 2 more goals in a 5-2 win
Line mates Brad Cocca, and Brendan Schneider were among the leagues honorable mentions. Cocca is tied with Gosselin for 2nd in league scoring with 1 goal and 7 assists for 8 points, while Schneider is just behind his linemates output with 3 goals and 4 assists for 7 points.
The Centennials hope the offense continues this week at the BCHL Showcase against the Victoria Grizzlies on Thursday and the Langley Rivermen on Saturday.
Make it three in a row for the Merritt Centennials as they delivered their most complete effort of the season to date and pulled past the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 5-2.
To start the game, it took a while for the teams to find their flow. The game lacked intensity and consisted mostly of limited chances in the offensive end followed by clearing attempts the other way for both sides. That ended at the 6-minute mark when Mathieu Gosselin found Brady Ziemer’s rebound in front to put the Cents ahead by 1. The Silverbacks answered at the 12-minute mark with a goal on the rush from Trevor Adams, but the intensity seemed to build from there. Austin Roden and Ethan Langenegger both were exceptional in net, but Langenegger was the busier of the two throughout the game. Roden stopped 5/6 in the first while Langenegger stopped 14/15.
The middle frame saw the Cents start to exude their will on the game After starting the period with a string of penalties against, the Centennials finally got some opportunities of their own including a 5-on-3 once Gosselin joined his teammates from the box, and he scored his second of the game to make it 2-1. The Centennials expanded their lead in the second courtesy hometown boy Talon Zakall who slapped a knuckler from the line that fluttered up and down and in past the blocker side of Langenegger. The Cents continued to throw rubber on net outshooting the ‘Backs 17-11 in the second.
In the 3rd, the Silverbacks didn’t do themselves any favours taking a string of penalties that stretched from the 3-minute mark to the 8-minute mark, and Matt Kopperud was finally able to take advantage of the extra man finding the puck in the slot and putting it up over Langenegger and in to give the Cents the 4-1 lead. Brad Cocca was finally rewarded with a goal at the 14-minute mark after setting up his teammates for 9 leading up to that point, Gosselin found his linemate in the slot and he ripped it top corner to give the Cents a 5-1 lead. Austin Roden had to stop a penalty shot, and allowed a goal against late after an ill advised hit at the defensive blue line, but the Cents hung on for their 3rd win in a row 5-2. Roden stopped 19/21 shots while Langenegger saved 40/45.
After the game Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin said this was the best effort yet.
“There were times when we may have sagged during the game, but overall I felt it was the most complete effort of the year from our guys.”
With the win the Centennials move to 3rd in the Interior Division with a 3-2 record. The Centennials will travel to the BCHL Showcase with a lot of momentum on their side, but will need to have a good week of practice before they take on the Victoria Grizzlies and the Langley Rivermen in Chilliwack.
The next home game is September 28 against the Penticton Vees where the Cents will honor the Humboldt Broncos and First Responders before the game.