Merritt Centennials
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The Merritt Centennials got a 40 save performance and plenty of offense to return to the win column on Wednesday night against the Express 5-0.

The powerplay has been a bit of a question mark all season long, but it had answers early in the goings of the first. Matt Kopperud clapped a one-timer from Nick Granowicz upstairs, bar down to make it 1-0. The offense took a while to arrive as shots after 1 were only 8-7 in favour of the Express. Kolby Matthews got the nod for the Express while Austin Roden got the start for the Cents.

In the second period, the Cents and Express traded chances but it took until the 12 minute mark for the offense to arrive. Austin Roden was the best penalty killer by a long shot, and it led to some good things at the other end of the ice. Brad Cocca and Jackson Munro combined for one of the nicest rushes of the season. Cocca gained the line on the right side, dropped for Munro, and then got open on the other side of the ice. Munro made a move, saucered a pass over, and Cocca made a move to the backhand past a sprawled out Matthews to make it 2-0. Shots after 2 were 20-19 Cents.

The Cents had a third opportunity on the PP when the third period began with just 30 seconds to work. Merritt hit pay dirt in the first 20 seconds after Brendan Schneider found a rebound and batted it home to make it 3-0. The Cents then weathered an Express storm and Austin Roden captained the ship killing off a couple penalties and a total of 6 on the night, once again it led to opportunities for offense. Mathieu Gosselin had a steal at the offensive blue line, and came in all alone, his initial shot was stopped by Matthews, but he collected the rebound and waited for reinforcements and found Cocca out front to make it 4-0. Nick Wicks got the final goal of the night, after Rylan Van Unen did the heavy lifting and found him in front to make it 5-0. From there the team switched gears to the defensive side to help reward Roden for his efforts. The Cents netminder turned aside 21 shots in the final frame, and 40 overall for the shutout.

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said that there was a lot to like.

"The powerplay was good, Roden was great, the offense was there. We took a few too many penalties, but there's always small things to look at after a game like this."

ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Joey Berkopec 0G 2A 2PIM

3RD STAR: Jackson Munro 0G 2A

2ND STAR: Brad Cocca 2G 1A

1ST STAR: Austin Roden 40/40

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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.

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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

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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.

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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 

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