The Merritt Centennials had their best first period of 2019 on route to their first win that didn’t require overtime against the Wenatchee Wild 6-3.
The powerplay was a big question mark coming in going 0/13 the week previous, but the Cents silenced the critics early in that regard. Scoring on their first opportunity just 1:29 in from leading scorer Brad Cocca. Cocca netted the goal off a Nick Wicks feed, and toe-dragged to the slot and sniped it top corner blocker-side to give the Cents the early lead 1-0. They’d keep up the pace with a pretty passing play between Matt Kopperud, Mathieu Gosselin, and Joey Berkopec. Berkopec went to the net with his stick on the ice and finished the play to make it 2-0 8:22 into the frame. The Cents got another PP opportunity, and seized the opportunity at the 12:29 mark. Matt Kopperud loaded up for a point shot that deflected off a defender but Gosselin batted it out of mid-air and past Austin Park to make it 3-0. Austin Roden held the fort in the first, turning aside 12 shots while the Cents had 8.
The second period saw the Cents weather storm on the defensive side of the puck. Wenatchee would score on a PP to make it 3-1, but Daniel Tkac and Payton Matsui teamed up on a two-on-one to restore the 3 goal lead 4-1. Matsui finished off the perfect dish from Tkac. Roden stopped 23/24 through two periods of play.
The Cents were spared the intensity of the ‘minute to win it’ in Wenatchee as they started the period on the powerplay. They wouldn’t convert on that attempt, but when they got another chance after an early Wild penalty in the 3rd they would. Mike Van Unen unleashed a boomer from the point to give the Cents a 5-1 lead. The Wild would cut it down to 5-3 with goals from Murphy Stratton, but with just over two-minutes remaining Kopperud used his speed to beat out an icing call and took the rebound off the end-boards into the net with a quick shot to ice the game 6-3. Roden finished with 27 saves on 30 shots while Park was beaten 5 times on 25 shots.
A week after going 0/13, the powerplay went 3/5 and looked impressive with new units. Head Coach Joe Martin said after the game it was something they put work into.
“Coming into the game, and going down the stretch we know that the powerplay needs to get going. We put the last 2 days into it, with a couple different looks, and got some reps in and it paid off tonight.”
With the win the Cents are now 3 points clear of the Wenatchee Wild, but still trail the Vees by 4 points.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Murphy Stratton 2G 0A
3RD STAR: Mathieu Gosselin 1G 2A
2ND STAR: Matt Kopperud 1G 2A
1st STAR: Austin Roden 27/30
The 2nd in the Interior Division Merritt Centennials (26-13-3-2) face off in a rivalry match up against the team chasing them in the standings, the Wenatchee Wild (26-15-2-2) tonight.
***PUCK DROP 6PM***
The Centennials are looking to pick up points for a 9th game straight, but are looking to snap their first 3 game slide of the season with all losses coming in heart breaking OT fashion. Last week they fell to the Chilliwack Chiefs 4-3 in overtime. Ben Ward, Frazer Dodd, and Brendan Schneider tallied for Merritt, but the Chiefs tied the game in the final minute and then got a Cents own-goal to win it in extra time. The heart break continued on Sunday night with the Penticton Vees in town. The goaltender duel saw Austin Roden and Jack LaFonataine go toe to toe each making huge saves throughout. Brad Cocca scored his first goal of 2019, but once again the opposition tied things up in the final minute to send it to OT. Both goalies made sure nothing would be solved 3-on-3 and the shootout went 10 rounds before the Vees finally persevered on a shootout goal by Jack Barnes. Roden made 38 saves, plus 8 denials in the shootout in a second star performance.
The Cents and Wild have been evenly matched this season with both teams splitting the season series 2-2, and both teams picking up a wins on home ice and away. The first game of the season saw the offense erupt for a 7-5 final, then the Cents won a 4-3 thriller in OT, the Wild took the 2nd game of the back-to-back 6-1, and the most recent contest at the NVMA on Nov. 14th saw the Wild win 3-2 in regulation.
The Wild are a team that relies on their team speed, and team depth to win them hockey games. They're tied with the Centennials in the goals-for department with 167, but there offense is a little more spread out as 15 players have more than 20 points. Comparatively, the Cents have 10 players with over 20 points. The Wild have played their last 5 games at home, and are 2-1-2 over that span, dropping 2 games in the shootout including their most recent against the Trail Smoke Eaters 4-3.
The Cents are still waiting to break out offensively in 2019, as they haven't scored more than 5 goals in a game. Brad Cocca busted his mini-slump on Sunday vs the Vees and is 7th in the league with 53 points. Nick Granowicz has been silent since the 2nd game of 2019 and is 12th league-wide with 48 points, and Captain Nick Wicks has been chipping in with regularity and is now 20th with 45 points.
The Wild only have one scorer in the top 20, but have a deep lineup that comes at your in waves with 15 skaters recording more than 20 points. Matt Gosiewski has 45 points and is 18th in league scoring, Captain Lucas Sowder has 41 points, and Murphy Stratton has 37 points.
The special teams battle sees both teams struggling with the extra man, but the Cents are coming off a week where they went 0/13.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Wild - 18% (15th) Wild - 84% (4th)
Cents - 17.9% (16th) Cents - 76.2% (15th)
In net both goaltenders are coming off overtime losses, but Austin Roden was an absolute beast in the Cents latest effort against the Vees. Roden is now 18-6-2 with a .903 SV%, a 3.17 GAA and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis is 8-5-3 with a .904 SV% and a 3.34 GAA. Austin Park and Cal Sandquist both split the net pretty evenly for the Wild. Park has more wins at 15-9 with a .883 SV%, a 2.81 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Sandquist is 11-8 with a .884 SV%, and a 2.56 GAA.
Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw says that the Cents have seen Wenatchee enough times to know the strength of their game.
"We know what they like to do offensively especially in their own building, we have to be ready to make quick decisions with the puck, and match their pace."
The Cents will look to put the strength of their game on display tonight.
Puck Drop 6pm. Pre-Game 5:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials renewed rivalries with the Penticton Vees for the first time in two months, but the result didn't go their way - a 2-1 loss in a shoot out.
The goalies were on full display in the first period. Jack Lafontaine was the busier in the first frame turning aside 17 shots, while Austin Roden was equal to the task of 9 shots.
The 2nd period saw the tenders continue to be the main attraction, but the Cents were able to get to Lafontaine 5 minutes into the frame. The Vees started the period with all kinds of pressure on the Cents, but with their first escape out of the zone the Cents were able to make it count. Nick Wicks broke up the right wing with Brad Cocca streaking to the net. Wicks hit Cocca with the pass, and Cocca found a hole in Lafontaine to open the scoring in the game. However, the goaltending duel quickly resumed and no more goals would be found in the 2nd. After 2, the shots were 27-24 Cents.
The final frame saw the Cents try and ride the storm out, but the Vees kept coming wave after wave. Penticton got a late powerplay, and opted to pull the goalie for the extra attacker. The Cents killed off the penalty, but with 40 seconds remaining a shot from Cassidy Bowes found its way through the crowd past Roden.
In overtime the teams traded chances with the extra man, but nothing was solved so the game went to a shootout. Final shots after regulation and extra time were 40-39 in favour of the Cents.
Through the first 3 shooters no one could beat the goalies. In the 4th round, Nick Wicks beat Lafontaine, but Lukas Sillinger was able to beat Roden to make the shootout carry on. It went all the way until the 10th shooter when Jack Barnes finally beat Roden to make it a 2-1 final.
After the game, Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw said that the game came down to a tough break.
"It looked good towards the end, but it's controlled chaos in those final minutes and we ended up having one go through, but you can't hang your head on it."
The Cents have now picked up points in 8 straight games, but have lost in OT in the last 3.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Christian Sabin 0G 0A
3RD STAR: Brad Cocca 1G 0A
2ND STAR: Austin Roden 38/39
1ST STAR: Jack Lafontaine 39/40
*** REMINDER PUCK DROP 6PM ***
The Merritt Centennials (26-13-3-1) 2nd in the Interior get set to take down the 1st in the Interior Division Penticton Vees (29-12-1-2).
The Cents are coming off another trip to overtime in 2019 on Thursday night. A game against the top team in the BCHL in the Chilliwack Chiefs, and a game that the Cents were in the drivers seat for the majority of the game. In his first game of 2019, Ben Ward got the Cents on the score sheet early in the first period, and the Cents rode that lead into the 2nd. The Chiefs would tie it, but again the Cents would regain the lead - this time Frazer Dodd would ripple the mesh in his first game since a return from injury on Dec. 1st. In the third, the Chiefs would tie it once again, but Brendan Schneider would lift the team ahead with just over 2 minutes remaining in the game. The Chiefs would tie it late with the net empty, and then score in OT on a bizarre own goal to take the game.
The Cents haven't seen the Vees in nearly 3 months as the season series was heated early in the year. Merritt trails in the season series 0-3-1, and are looking for their first victory against Penticton since the 2016 playoffs. The last time these two teams met was the closest the Cents have come in that near 2 year span. The Cents led 3-1 in the third period before Penticton crawled back to tie the game at 3's, take the game to a shootout, and prevail in OT for the win.
The Vees have been getting plenty of practice in the shootout lately. Their last two games have gone the distance, with wins over Wenatchee and Prince George, and they've been able to pull out victories in 5 straight.
The Cents have been using their depth scoring in recent games to pull out victories. Aside from some assists, and a two goal game from Granowicz and a two goal game from Wicks, the Cents have been getting their offense from other sources: Matsui, Tkac, Ward, Dodd, Van Unen, Kopperud. The Cents will need a solid performance from their top guns to end the Vees win streak at 5. Brad Cocca has 52 points and is 7th in the BCHL scoring race, Granowicz is 10th with 48 points, and Nick Wicks is tied for 17th with 44 points.
The Vees top scorer is also the top point-getter among defenseman - James Miller. He has 52 points and is 5th in overall scoring, and has also done a ton of damage against the Cents. In the season series he has 9 points in 4 games. Eric Linell has 51 points and is 8th, and David Silye is 17th with 44 points.
The special teams battle sees the Vees with the edge.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Vees - 19.6% (5th) Vees - 81.2% (9th)
Cents - 18.3% (14th) Cents - 75.5% (15th)
The goaltending duel will see the Cents run into one of the hottest goalies in the league, and Merritt's netminders are both coming off overtime losses. Austin Roden is 18-7-1 with a .900 SV%, a 3.26 GAA, and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis is 8-5-3 with a .904 SV% and a 3.34 GAA. Jack LaFontaine has carried a heavy workload this season, but is handling it well. He's 22-9 with a .918 SV%, a 2.20 GAA and 2 shutouts. He's first in the win column, and 2nd in the GAA category league-wide. To his credit, Roden is 6th in the win department in the BCHL. Derek Krall is 7-4 with a .901 SV% and a 2.64 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin says he's heard enough about how good the Vees are, it's time to prove how good the Cents can be.
"I feel like we still haven't played our best game against them, and we're going to need our best to win."
The Cents will be running into another top team that is playing their best hockey, but one of the most impressive stats for the Cents this season is that they haven't dropped 3 games in a row. Something has got to give tonight.
Puck Drop 6PM. Pre-Game 5:45 on Q101.1FM or Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials have gone the distance in every game played in 2019, but no longer liking the results as the Chilliwack Chiefs scored in OT to win 4-3.
The Cents shuffled the bottom six to start the game, and it paid dividends early. Daniel Tkac caused a turnover in the blue paint of the Chiefs net and Ben Ward found the loose puck and batted it down low to beat Daniel Chenard and give the Cents the early 1-0 lead. The Cents couldn't score on a lengthy 5-on-3 powerplay, but they ended up taking the 1-0 lead into the 1st intermission. Vincent Duplessis was perfect in the first period stopping 13 shots, while the Cents threw 19 shots on Chenard.
In the second, the Chiefs would level the score on the powerplay. After a 5-on-3 advantage, gave way to a 5-on-4 the Chiefs would score by just throwing the puck on net, and Carter Wilkie would tie the game 1-1. Frazer Dodd didn't let the game stay tied for long, as he'd score 2 minutes later. Finding the puck in between the hash marks, he spun and fired a shot that fooled Chenard mid-blocker to give the Cents the 2-1 lead.
Early in the final period, Harrison Blaisdell danced in and was denied by Duplessis, but Matt Holmes found the rebound to tie things 2-2. Brendan Schneider would give the Cents a late lead after Nick Wicks circled the zone twice then fed Schneider in the slot and he blasted a shot top shelf over the glove of Chenard. That gave the Cents a 3-2 lead with 2:29 to go, but the Chiefs wouldn't go away and would tie things with 38 seconds left with the net empty from a shot from Marcus Tesink from the middle with a huge crowd in front.
The Cents headed to OT for the 5th time in 2019, but wouldn't come out on the winning end. The Cents took a PP into extra time after Tesink took a penalty with no time remaining, but Mike Van Unen took the team off the advantage with a hooking call. The Chiefs would get confused and get caught with a too many men on the ice call, but with things returning to 3-on-3 hockey Matt Holmes would throw a shot on Duplessis who'd make the save, but it would deflect off a Cents defender and in for the heart breaking loss.
The Cents picked up a point in the losing effort, and now are 3 points back of the Penticton Vees who they'll play on Sunday night at 6PM.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Ben Ward 1G 0A
3RD STAR: Frazer Dodd 1G 0A
2ND STAR: Vincent Duplessis 37/41
1ST STAR: Daniel Chenard 38/51