Merritt Centennials
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The Merritt Centennials ended the season off just short of 1st place in the Interior, but one player is finishing with a bang.

Goaltender Austin Roden has been named the BCHL Player of the Week for his stand up performance, the league announced Monday.

Roden won all three of his starts last week, stopping 115 of 121 shots  for a .950 save percentage and a 1.90 goals-against average.

The Victoria native started off his week by making 38 saves on 39 shots in a 4-1 win over the West Kelowna Warriors. Friday night was his busiest of the week as he faced 46 shots and stopped 44 of them en route to a 3-2 shootout win over the Langley Rivermen. He was named third star of the game. Roden capped off his strong week on Saturday with a 33-save performance and another third star in a 4-3 overtime win over the Vernon Vipers.

The 20-year-old finishes the season with a record of 27-11-2. He is tied for the sixth-highest save percentage in the league at .912 and his 2.92 goals-against average is tied for ninth-best. He also has two shutouts while playing the fourth-most minutes in the BCHL. His 27 wins are the most in recorded club history, and he played in his 100th BCHL game on Saturday Vs Vernon.

Austin Roden joins Mathieu Gosselin as the only other Cent to be named the Player of the Week this season.

Sharing in the limelight is Cents forward Mathieu Gosselin who was named an honorable mention for last weeks work. In 3 games played 'The Goose' was flying high to take his season point total to 60 points.

On Tuesday in West Kelowna Gosselin was in on all the offense, scoring twice, and setting up two others as the Cents won 4-1. He also tallied the game winning goal while earning first star. On Friday in Langley, the Quebec City native tied the game at 2, and then recorded what would be the Shoot Out Game Winning Goal in a 3-2 victory over the Rivermen. He followed that up with the overtime winner in a 4-3 thriller in front of a sell out crowd at the NVMA to finish the season against the Vernon Vipers.

Merritt will host the Trail Smoke Eaters in Game 1 of their first-round series on Friday night. Tickets available at the Cents Marketing Office throughout the week from 10am -4pm or give Jared a call at 250-378-3604.

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The playoff schedule is set as the Merritt Centennials (2nd Int) face off with the Trail Smoke Eaters (7th Int).

Game 1: Friday March 1 - Merritt, Nicola Valley Memorial Arena

Game 2: Saturday March 2 - Merritt, Nicola Valley Memorial Arena

Game 3: Tuesday March 5 - Trail, Trail Memorial Centre

Game 4: Wednesday March 6 - Trail, Trail Memorial Centre

*Game 5: Friday March 8 - Merritt, Nicola Valley Memorial Arena

*Game 6: Saturday March 9 - Trail, Trail Memorial Centre

*Game 7: Monday March 11 - Merritt, Nicola Valley Memorial Arena

For advanced playoff tickets please call Jared at 250-378-3604 or drop by the Marketing Office at 2001 C Voght St (across from Canada Post, beside Interior Savings Insurance) from Monday to Friday 10am - 4pm

Tickets will also be available at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena on Friday from 3pm - 6pm and on Saturday from 1pm -6pm.

Let's make it a SEA OF RED for opponents to face us!

GO CENTS GO!

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The Merritt Centennials, fans, staff, volunteers, and supporters gathered on Sunday night to salute the Centennials record year.

While the Cents were unable to capture 1st place in the Interior division, their .675 win percentage and 35 wins on the season were the most the town has seen in over 30 years.

Below is a brief description of each award and the winners.

SKA-LU-LA AWARD

Every year Rusty Brewer and the Ska-lu-la wood working shop hires Centennials to work not only in the shop, but with special needs clients. The two players that most exemplified their willingness to work, and enjoyment with the clients are:

Mike Van Unen & Mattias Dal Monte

VOLUNTEER EXCELLENCE AWARD

The Centennials not only work hard at the rink, they work hard in the community. Whether it be food drives, or their after school reading program, some Cents were always ready, willing, and able to go the extra mile to put a smile on a face in the community. The two players that excelled in volunteering are:

Nick Wicks & Ben Ward

FAN FAVORITE AWARD

With the help of fans and Work and Play Clothing Company and voting across all social media channels and in the rink, a favorite player was chosen from among the Centennials. While many votes were cast, it quickly became a two horse race between last years Fan Favourite Joey Berkopec and the NEW fan favorite:

Matt Kopperud

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER

As explained by Head Coach Joe Martin, the Most Improved Player doesn't always have to be a rookie, or someone who pulled through adversity. This year it went to a player who rounded out his game, moved from the wing to centre, won a bronze medal, and went from 33 points last year to 60 this year. The winner of the Most Improved Player:

Mathieu Gosselin

ACADEMIC SCHOLAR AWARD

Every year the Centennials sign young players that still have to complete their high school education. Balancing hockey and school is a difficult task and there were a few Centennials that had to juggle that this season, but the one who still managed straight A's while maintaining a high level of play was:

Talon Zakall

MOST PROMISING PLAYER

This years recipient for Most Promising Player was another that made a huge step forward in his second year of Junior hockey. Last year he was a player that was in and out of the line up, but still managed to put up 9 goals and 17 points. This year he tripled his goal total to 27, finished with 51 points, and was a point-per-game player. The Most Promising Player:

Matt Kopperud

COACHES CHOICE AWARD

Having the full trust of the coaching staff isn't something that's earned overnight. You have to be a player that shows up and plays hard game in and game out, practices like your in game mode, and hits the gym to set the tone for the team. This years winner was someone who is key in all situations and is always a ball of energy. The Coaches Choice:

Brendan Schneider

MOST GENTLEMANLY PLAYER

Head Coach Joe Martin precluded this award by saying the Centennials had the 2nd most penalty minutes in the league behind only the Cowichan Valley Capitals so he doesn't know how much it applies. However, the player that embodies the gentlemanly spirit, around the room, in practice, and on the ice this year is:

Brad Cocca

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

The Cents came into this season with 13 returning players. With such a veteran heavy roster, it was tough to crack into playing big minutes for any rookies on the team. While there was a solid crop across the board for the Centennials, one player was able to make the smart decisions under pressure, play some tough match ups and almost always put the Cents in a better position on the ice. The Rookie of the Year:

Talon Zakall

LEADING SCORER

This one is no secret. He's been leading the team in points almost from start to finish. Improving on his first season in the BCHL where he tallied just 23 points in 44 games, Brad Cocca refocused over the summer and came back a man possessed this season. He finished 6th in BCHL scoring with 68 points in all 58 games played, and will be leaned upon for offense in the Playoffs. The Cents leading scorer:

Brad Cocca

BEST DEFENSEMAN

The Centennials have gotten solid performances from their D-core all season long, but there's one player who's stood out above the rest. Whether he's lacing an outlet pass tape to tape, or leading the rush himself with his solid skating and puck skills, he's a force to be reckoned with because of his toughness and his Hockey IQ. Doubling his point total from 13 last year to 27 this year. The Cents best defenseman:

Mike Van Unen

UNSUNG HERO AWARD

Every year there's always someone who flies under the radar, he helps the team refocus, play the right way, and leads by example while never looking for the limelight. This year that player has quietly played up and down the lineup, done what was asked, and never questioned it once. Going from 15 points last year, to 37 this year and leading with a quiet confidence. The Unsung Hero:

Christian Sabin

LEADERSHIP AND ABILITY AWARD

Last year this award went to the team's two goalies, but this year with such a shining example there wasn't much doubt as to who deserved it. Leading the team from the pre-season to the post season, someone that has demonstrated both leadership when required, and ability when called upon. Playing in all situations and netting over a point per game with 59 this year. O Captain My Captain:

Nick Wicks

MOST VALUABLE LOCAL PLAYER

The team found this award sitting neglected in a closet and had to shine it up before presenting it. It's been 5 years since the team has had a local born and raised talent on the team, and there's still a bright future ahead for this guy:

Talon Zakall

BEST PLUS / MINUS AWARD

Some say this stat doesn't tell the full story anymore, but for a player who came to the team a day before the regular season and fit in like a glove it says a whole lot. The player that had the best plus / minus on the team with a +22:

Brady Ziemer

MOST GAME WINNING GOALS

When the game is on the line this player always had ice water coursing through his veins. He's said that he just tries to get open with his stick on the ice, and more than anyone else in the BCHL this season he did. There's a reason why his nickname is 'Game On,' The player with the most game-winning goals this season with 10:

Nick Granowicz

JOE TENANT TROPHY - MOST DEDICATED AWARD

Hockey is a game of dedication. To get to this level, players have already had to prove their dedication through every trial up to this point. So to be honored above them all is truly something special. This player has been leaned upon in all situations, has played over 100 BCHL games, and picked up 27 wins this season (a recorded history Cents record!). But he still wants to pick up 16 more. The Most Dedicated player on the Merritt Centennials:

Austin Roden

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

As Coach Martin described it, this player fell into his lap because of phone call he decided to take last spring. He liked what he heard, and decided to bring the young man aboard. Since day one he's impressed with his poise, his speed, his skill, and his never say die attitude. He brings a calming influence, and has been leaned on for leadership this season. It will be his first and only year in the BCHL, but he's not ready for it to end yet. Leading the Cents with 32 goals scored and 59 points. The Cents MVP:

Nick Granowicz

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The Merritt Centennials may not have finished at the top of the division, but they brought the fans to their feet in a thrilling OT victory 4-3 over the Vernon Vipers.

The first period started off all Merritt, but by the end they had nothing to show for it. Despite out shooting the Vipers 17-7 in the first, Bradley Cooper made some show stopping saves to keep it at zero's.

In the second period, the Vipers found the net first and it happened on a bit of a lucky play. Teddy Wooding cut in with an open wing, and he fired one off the shoulder of Austin Roden, the puck went flying up into the air, then fell off Roden's back and in to make it 1-0. Payton Matsui tied the game with a quick cut out of the corner, and pulled to the slot and fired one up high on Cooper to make it 1-1. The Vipers came back on the shot clock after 2 period of play to make it 28-23 in favour of the Cents.

The final frame saw the Cents get out to a two goal edge. Brad Cocca scored on the powerplay to make it 2-1, and then Nick Wicks broke in on the right wing and sniped up high short-side to make it 3-1. The Cents thought they had the game in the bag, but the Vipers got a goal from Logan Cash with just under 2 minutes to go, and Elan Bar Lev Wise scored with under a second to go to tie the game at 3-3.

In overtime the teams traded chances until Jesse Landsdell hauled down Nick Granowicz to give the Cents a powerplay in the final minute of OT. With 4 forwards on Nick Wicks and Mathieu Gosselin played give and go before 'The Goose' launched one top corner to send the home town crowd into a frenzy for the 4-3 victory.

The only sad note on the night was that the Penticton Vees won their game against Salmon Arm and secured top spot in the Interior Division, but the Centennials head to the post season to play the Trail Smoke Eaters. The first playoff games will be on Friday March 1st and 2nd at home before travelling to Trail. Pick up your playoff tickets from the Cents marketing office at 2001 C Voght St or call Jared at 378-3604.

Energy Player of the Game: Nick Granowicz 0G 0A

3RD STAR: Austin Roden 33/36

2ND STAR: Bradley Cooper 45/49

1ST STAR: Mathieu Gosselin 1G 0A

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The Merritt Centennials (35-15-4-3) will sport their new 3rd jerseys tonight against the Vernon Vipers (26-21-7-3).

The Cents are coming off a gutsy win in Langley to keep their hopes of finishing first in the division alive. The Rivermen scored on the powerplay before Frazer Dodd poked in a Joey Berkopec shot from centre that squeaked past the netminder to tie things at 1. In the second period, Mathieu Gosselin got the Cents their first lead of the game when he converted on a drop feed from Brad Cocca with a shot low glove to make it 2-1. The Rivermen tied it up 3 minutes later, and the tie held up through 60 minutes and overtime to take the game to a shootout. Fortunately for Austin Roden after making 44 saves on 46 shots throughout the game he didn't have to make one in the shootout as the Rivermen missed the net on both their chances. Matthieu Gosselin and Matt Kopperud made good on both of theirs to ensure a 3-2 shootout victory for the Cents.

Vernon are 3-2 in their last 5 and are coming off a 4-1 win vs the Coquitlam Express. Coleton Bilodeau, Teddy Wooding, Trey Taylor, and Logan Cash all cashed in for the Vipers who have had an amazing turnaround to their season. Early on in the year they were on the wrong side of one-goal games and overtime losses, but still managed to pick up points along the way. They've managed to barter that into a 4th place finish in the Interior Division regardless of tonight's outcome.

The Cents will need a favour from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks if they expect to finish first place in the division. The Penticton Vees will need to lose in regulation or overtime, and the Cents would need to win in regulation or go to overtime to secure first place. The Vees just hold the tie breaker with a 1 win edge, and the edge in the season series. Whoever finishes first goes on to play the Cowichan Valley Capitals, whoever finishes 2nd will travel to Trail.

Merritt has the slight edge in the season series 3-2. The teams traded 5-2 wins early in the year. The Cents won 4-3 at home before being topped 3-2 in November. In early January the Cents won a thriller 3-2 in overtime with just 8 seconds to go that kicked off a stellar second half for the Cents. The Cents will look to secure the season series with a victory tonight.

The Centennials will need all hands on deck for the final game of the year. Brad Cocca leads the way with 67 points - still 6th in the league. Nick Granowicz and Mathieu Gosselin are tied with 59 points on the year, and after a crazy night in the BCHL Nick Wicks is no longer in the top 20.

The Vernon Vipers have just 3 players with over 40 points on the season. Matt Kowalski has 42 points, Josh Latta has 40 and Connor Marritt has 40 as well.

The special teams battle sees the Vipers with the more dominant penalty kill.

Powerplay:                                    Penalty Kill:

Vipers - 18% (15th)                  Vipers - 81.6% (6th)

Cents - 18.6% (12th)               Cents - 77.4% (13th)

The Cents continue to ride red hot Austin Roden who has now won 4 in a row, and will play his 100th BCHL game tonight. Roden is 26-8-3 with a .911 SV%, a 2.95 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Vincent Duplessis is back behind Roden and is 9-5-3 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA.

Aiden Porter leads the way for the Vernon Vipers and is 19-17 with a .908 SV%, a 2.59 GAA, and 4 shutouts. Bradley Cooper has giving the Vipers a solid second option and is 7-13 with a .906 SV%, a 2.73 GAA, and 3 shutouts.

Head Coach Joe Martin knows that the Vernon Vipers will play with pride.

"The Vipers won't have much to play for in the standings tonight, but they're a well coached team, and a team that puts the sweater on and tries to win every night. We will have to push hard for the win."

The Cents will hope to make Merritt proud tonight.

Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.

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