The 2nd in the Interior Division Merritt Centennials (28-14-4-3) take on the Mainland's 3rd place Coquitlam Express (25-21-2-2) tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a light week of action with just 2 games, but are heading into their heaviest of the season with 4 games in 5 nights this week. The Cents were unable to get into the win column in the week that was, but did pick up one of a possible four points in a shootout loss. First up was the Wenatchee Wild last Wednesday, and the Cents had trouble breaking through a strong neutral zone of the Wild. Mathieu Gosselin was able to score in the first period, and Nick Granowicz was able to add a late goal to make things interesting, but the Cents fell 3-2 in regulation - their first regulation defeat in 2019.
On Saturday night against the Trail Smoke Eaters, the coaching staff elected to switch up the forward group hoping to add some life and some intrigue to lines that may have been getting too comfortable. It paid off early as the Cents were able to get two first period goals from Brendan Schneider and Brett Roloson for a 2-2 tie, but after that the offense dried up and the teams skated all the way through the last 45 minutes without a goal. That gave way to the shootout where the Cents were burned again, unable to score on three shooters and surrendering one to wiz kid Kent Johnson of the Smokies. The result was a 3-2 shootout loss.
The Cents now look to return to the win column against the Coquitlam Express, a team they just snuck past earlier in January 5-4. Payton Matsui and Rylan Van Unen scored to tie the game at 2's but the Express surged out to a 4-2 lead after 40 minutes. Que the comeback, Daniel Tkac would score with less than 5 minutes to go, and Nick Wicks would score with less than a minute to go to tie the game at 4. In OT, the Cents dominated and Wicks dangled in and was able to secure the OT victory with a snipe short side high.
The big news prior to that game against the Express was Coquitlam's acquisition of Surrey's Ty Westgard before the trade deadline. It was the biggest splash, and the biggest fish available on the trade market. However, in their last 5 the Express are 0-3-2 with their most recent loss coming to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks last night 2-1 in the shootout.
The Cents need a little more from their top weapons. Brad Cocca is up to 55 points which is 9th in the BCHL, but hasn't registered more than 2 points in a game in the new year. The same can be said for Nick Granowicz with 51 points, however he did get a goal and an assist against the Wild last week. Nick Wicks has been steadily picking up points and is now tied with Grano at 51, and Mathieu Gosselin is sitting on the precipice of 50 with 49 points.
The Express are led by Josh Wildauer up front with 49 points, newly acquired Ty Westgard has 45, Alex DiPaolo has 43 and Regan Kimens has 42.
The special teams battle sees the Express with the edge.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Coq: 19.6% (10th) Coq; 77.8% (12th)
Cents: 18.4% (14th) Cents: 76.5% (14th)
The goalie duel sees Roden coming off a pair of overtime defeats, and Duplessis hitting the win column in his last start. Austin Roden is 19-7-3 with a .903 SV%, a 3.11 GAA, and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis is 9-5-3 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA.
Both goalies for the Express are capable and have split time this season. Kolby Matthews is 13-13 with a .907 SV%, a 2.81 GAA, and 1 shutout. Clay Stevenson is 12-10 with an .880 SV%, a 3.77 GAA, and 1 shutout.
Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw says the Express will be a tough test.
"Coquitlam is a big team, a strong team, and a fast team. We will have to outwork them and make life difficult for them when they visit our barn."
The Cents will put their toughness to the test tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials were able to strike early, but weren’t able to get offense after that as they skated to a 3-2 shootout loss to the Trail Smoke Eaters.
The Cents found their way onto the scoreboard just 5 minutes in as Rylan Van Unen drove wide with a step down the left side, and as he crossed behind the net threw it back out front, Nick Wicks took a whack at it before Brendan Schneider slowly poked it across the line to give the Cents the 1-0 lead. The lead would last for all of 6 minutes before the Smoke Eaters tied things up with a Carter Jones shot from the high slot. Trail would add to their lead under 30 seconds later off a deflection in in front to give them a 2-1 lead. 2 minutes later Brett Roloson would pick up a partial turnover and snipe it home for his 5th goal of the season to tie things back up at 2’s. The Cents outshot the Smokies 17-10 in the first. With Austin Roden stopping 8/10.
The second period saw the teams amp up the physical intensity, but other than a couple penalties each way it didn’t result on anything on the scoreboard. The teams picked up just 6 and 7 shots respectively. The Cents had the edge 23-17.
The final frame saw a couple more chances for the Cents, but despite throwing 34 shots on net they needed to test Adam Marcoux even more as no one go any more offense in the third and it went to OT.
In OT, both teams felt each other out like a chess match trying to keep control of the puck. Trail threw 4 shots on Austin Roden to the Centennials 2, and the game needed a shootout.
In the shootout, Daniel Tkac, Christian Sabin, and Nick Wicks were all stopped while Trail got a goal from young gun Kent Johnson to win it.
The Cents return to the point column, but they will need to wait until Wednesday against the Coquitlam Express at home to return to the win column.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Kent Johnson SO Goal
3rd STAR: Mack Byers 0G 1A
2nd STAR: Brett Roloson 1G 0A
1st STAR: Adam Marcoux 32/34
The 2nd in the Interior Division Merritt Centennials (28-14-4-2) take on another division rival tonight, the 7th place Trail Smoke Eaters (18-21-7-3).
The Cents are coming off a frustrating game against the Wenatchee Wild at home. One in which their breakouts, and break-ins were constantly being turned aside by the active sticks of the Wild. The Cents were able to overcome early with a first period goal from Mathieu Gosselin, but had trouble adjusting to the game plan of the Wild. Wenatchee came back with 2 goals in the second period, before adding another in the third. Nick Granowicz would tally for the Cents to pull them within one, but there was no cardiac comeback for the Merritt Centennials who saw their point streak snapped at 11 in a row, before falling to Wenatchee 3-2 in regulation.
Merritt will have to regroup quickly against a plucky Trail club that's looking to move out of the Interior Division basement. Trail is 2-2-1 in their last 5 games while the Cents are 2-1-2. The Smokies are coming off a couple double-headers - one against the Wild, the other against the Silverbacks and they earned splits in each. They also faced the Vernon Vipers last night in what was their regular season series finale losing 6-3 against the surging Vipers who are now just a point behind the West Kelowna Warriors for 4th place in the Interior.
The Cents and Smoke Eaters have played some close games this season despite the scorelines being comfortable for the most part. Merritt is 3-0-1 against Trail this year with 4-2 and 5-3 wins at home. On the road they lost 2-1 in OT and picked up a 5-2 win just before the Christmas break.
Brad Cocca continues to lead the way for the Centennials with 55 points, but he has some new company in the 50 point plateau. With a goal and an assist in the last game, Nick Granowicz now has 51 points, and after picking up an assist on Grano's goal Nick Wicks now has 50 points. Mathieu Gosselin is just a point from making it to that level as well with 49 points. The Cents haven't had 4 scorers eclipse the 50 point mark in a season since the 05/06 season when Brandon Wong, Brandon Campos, Alan Mazur, Greg Tyshinski, and Casey Pierro-Zabotel all registered over 50 points a piece. With Matt Kopperud sitting at 42 points, there's a chance the Cents can equal that epic campaign of 12 years ago.
The Trail Smoke Eaters are led by Chase Stevenson with 45 points, Carter Jones has 43, and Trevor Zins with 39 points.
The special teams battle sees both squads struggling when short a man, but Trail holding the edge on the powerplay.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Trail - 21.5% (4th) Trail - 76% (14th)
Cents - 18.5% (14th) Cents - 76.2% (13th)
The goaltending duel sees Vincent Duplessis picking up the most recent victory on Sunday, a first star performance, against the Langley Rivermen. Duplessis is 9-5-3 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA. Austin Roden is looking for a rebound and is 9-8-2 with a .903 SV% and a 3.15 GAA.
The Smoke Eaters rely on Adam Marcoux between the pipes. He's 15-21 with a .891 SV% and a 3.16 GAA. Newly acquired goalie Donovan Buskey is 1-1 with a .859 SV% and a 5.00 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin says Cents will need to make the most of preparations before their tilt with the Smoke Eaters.
"We've had a couple days practice to prepare for the game. We know all the steps for getting to Trail. We just need to make sure that when the puck drops, we're ready to play."
The Cents will hope the prep pays off tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with the Voice of the Cents Jared Thomas.
For the first time in 2019 the Cents lost a game in regulation falling to the Wenatchee Wild 3-2.
The Cents started the game off right by scoring just 5 minutes in. Nick Granowicz took a Mattias Dal Monte feed up the far-side wall and banked it around the Wenatchee defenseman to himself before finding a streaking Mathieu Gosselin going to the net. That would be the only offense of the first period as the neither the Cents nor the Wild could convert on powerplay opportunities. The Cents out shot the Wild 10-9 in the first period with Austin Roden starting.
In the second, the Wild began to turn the tide and it started early. Just 53 seconds in Wenatchee would tally on a deflection from A.J. Hodges to tie the game at 1's. The Wild would confound the Cents with their active sticks through neutral ice, constantly turning promising rushes back at centre or the blue line. Matt Gosiewski would add another for the Wild off a broken play to give Wenatchee a 2-1 lead. After 2, shots were 22-17 in favour of the Wild.
The third saw the Wild quickly gain the two-goal lead when Gosiewski got a feed across the Cents blue line and sniped one upstairs on Roden. The Cents would try to push for more, but would continue to be stifled by the neutral zone positioning of the Wild. Nick Granowicz would figure in on the offense again, this time he found a shot from Nick Wicks that didn't get through the crowd, and fired it five hole to get the Cents within one. Merritt pushed for the equalizer, but the Wild hung on for the win. Roden stopped 30/33 shots in the loss while Austin Park stopped 22/24 in the win.
The loss is the first time the Cents have failed to pick up points in 12 tries.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said the Cents couldn't use their usual tactics.
"Credit to the Wild, they took away what usually works for us. We had to find a different way to operate, and some of our players did - others didn't. When you're facing a challenge like that you really need all 12 forwards figuring it out."
The Cents will try and figure their way back into the win column against a potential playoff opponent, the Trail Smoke Eaters on Saturday night.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Mike Van Unen 0G 0A 2PIM
3RD STAR: Nick Wicks 0G 1A
2ND STAR: Jacob Modry 0G 2A
1ST STAR: Matt Gosiewski 2G 0A
The 2nd in the Interior Division Merritt Centennials (28-13-4-2) take on their rival and 3rd in the Interior Wenatchee Wild (26-17-2-3) tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a week that saw them pick of 5 of a possible 6 points, and now have points in 11 straight games. The team their facing tonight is the team they kicked the week off against last Wednesday, and a strong start saw them through the game. Getting goals from Brad Cocca, Joey Berkopec, and Mathieu Gosselin in the first plus some solid goaltending from Austin Roden helped give the Cents a 3-0 lead after 1. They were able to coast on the merits of that first period while cashing in a two-on-one from Payton Matsui in the 2nd, a PP goal from Mike Van Unen in the third, and an empty netter by Matt Kopperud to keep the Wild at bay 6-3. That win was the first in regulation for the Centennials in 2019.
Merritt wasn't able to continue the regulations win streak on Friday against the Chiefs, but they did pick up an ever-valuable point in an OT loss. Despite never trailing the Chiefs until the final buzzer, the Cents managed two OT losses in the past two weeks. This time it was a much more defensive affair, as the Cents lost 3-2. Gosselin scored a highlight reel goal for the Cents in the 2nd period, but the Chiefs pushed hard early in the third, and the game was tied at 2's after the first 5 minutes. In extra time, the Chiefs were able to score on a 4-on-3 PP to pick up the win.
The Cents finished out the week against the Langley Rivermen, and despite the game having a hard edge, the Cents persevered. They went 3/11 on the powerplay, and were able to control the majority of the game simply by staying out of the box. Nick Wicks tallied two goals in the first period, Kopperud added one in the third, and Mattias Dal Monte registered a blast from the point as well as dropping the gloves in a late tussle. The 4-1 win was just the second regulation win for the Cents this new year.
The Wild come in on a bit of a skid. They looked human against the Centennials last week in the 6-3 loss. The usual fleet of foot Wild didn't apply the forecheck quite as heavily as in games passed, and didn't look as dangerous on the rush. A big part of that was the goaltending of Austin Roden however. Wenatchee have lost 4 of their last 5, and in two of those games they were the victim of the shootout. The Wild still represent a very skilled hockey club that is poised for a bounce back game, and the Cents need to have the effort required to make sure the bounce back doesn't come tonight.
The Cents continue to be led by Brad Cocca with 54 points which is 7th in the league, and Nick Granowicz has 49 points for 15th, but with his stellar play of late Captain Nick Wicks is up to 49 points, and Mathieu Gosselin is into the top 20 with 47 points. Matt Kopperud is also over the 40 point plateau with 42 points. All of these players are operating at over a point per game clip for the Cents.
The Wild are led by forward Matt Gosiewski with 45 points, Captain Lucas Sowder has 42, and Murphy Stratton has 40 points.
The special teams battle sees the Cents with a rare edge on the powerplay.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 18.7% (14th) Cents - 76.1% (14th)
Wild - 18.4% (16th) Wild - 82.1% (6th)
The goaltending duel sees both Cents netminders starting to heat up at the right time. Vincent Duplessis is coming off a first star performance against the Langley Rivermen and is 9-5-3 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA. Austin Roden is riding a point streak that hasn't seen him lose a game in regulation since mid-December. Roden is 19-7-2 with a .902 SV%, a 3.16 GAA, and 1 shutout.
Cal Sandquist has the slightly better stats than his counterpart Austin Park. Sandquist is 11-8 with a .883 SV% and a 2.56 GAA. Park is 15-11 with a .878 SV% and a 2.94 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin says the Wild still present a big challenge for the Cents.
"They're on a bit of a slump right now, but their team speed and skill can carry them through games. Our start will be key on Wednesday."
The Cents will hope to be up for the challenge tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.