The Merritt Centennials scored beyond the first period for the first time this season, and had a great 40 minute effort, but nearly saw it go for naught as the Surrey Eagles stormed back in the final frame to make it too close for comfort in a 7-6 win.
The game was delayed due to Surrey bus trouble, but it eventually got underway about 20 minutes behind schedule. The Surrey Eagles were the first to strike, courtesy a powerplay goal from Riley Hayles at the 3:45 mark. The Cents answered later on in the period with a goal from Mathieu Gosselin from Brad Cocca at the 14:25 mark to tie things at 1. Early on it seemed like a low-scoring affair was on the horizon. In the second, that changed.
The Centennials could do no wrong in the middle frame. Brendan Schneider and Rylan Van Unen scored just over a minute apart in the early goings of the second. Schneider slapped home a centering feed from out of the corner off the stick of Brad Cocca to give the Cents their first lead of the game, and their first goal beyond the first period. Moments later Rylan Van Unen got one past Davidson to make it 3-1 from Nic Granowicz and Joey Berkopec. But Van Unen wasn't done there as he was found by Nick Wicks from the right point charging towards the net on the left inside hash mark and one-timed it through to extend the Cents lead to 4-1. Schneider added his second of the period late, a wrister bar down and in to give the Cents a 5-1 lead and their best effort through 40 minutes of a hockey game to date in the season.
The final frame is when things got a little crazy. The Eagles wasted no time adding a goal just 2 minutes into the period. Daniel Tkac answered with his 1st goal of the season and in the BCHL at the 4:36 mark. The Eagles weren't deterred and put another two past Austin Roden to make it 6-4. Mathieu Gosselin restored the 3 goal lead by muscling one over the line to make it 7-4, but the Eagles answered with another two of their own and ended up making it a one goal game with just over 4 minutes remaining in the third. However, despite the Eagles empty net effort, the Cents hung on for their first victory of the BCHL campaign 7-6.
Austin Roden stopped 24/30 shots for his first win of the year while Daniel Davidson stopped 36/43 shots in his first game of the year. Once again the Cents struggled on special teams going 0/5 on the man advantage while allowing 2 goals on 9 opportunities against.
After the game, Head Coach and GM Joe Martin said there's plenty to work on.
"I think there's a lot of learning moments in this game, from our Captain Nick Wicks to our rookie Daniel Tkac, there's a learning moment for each and every player in the lineup and we will need to learn quickly while the season is young."
The Cents will hope to put their lessons to the test on Friday night when the reigning BCHL Champion Wenatchee Wild come to town.
The Centennials look for their first win of the season tonight as they host the Surrey Eagles.
The opening weekend didn't go to plan as the Cents saw two strong first period efforts undone by poor stretches of play that allowed the opposing team to take control of the game. In Salmon Arm, it was a 5 minute stretch of the second period where the 'Backs were able to use the powerplay to pull themselves out of a 2-0 deficit and into a 3-2 lead. At home against the Vernon Vipers, it was just a couple minor mistakes that were fully taken advantage of. However, neither game resulted in what the Cents were looking for - a win. Special teams played a factor in the result of both games with the Cents going 0/7 against the 'Backs and 1/6 against the Vipers with the man advantage while surrendering a total of 4 goals on the penalty kill throughout the weekend. The Cents lost 4-2 in Salmon Arm, and 5-2 at home at the hands of the Vernon Vipers. Bright spots throughout the weekend were newly minted Captain, Nick Wicks, line mate Rylan Van Unen, former affiliate Frazer Dodd and some encouraging play from rookies Daniel Tkac, Brett Roloson and Talon Zakall.
The Surrey Eagles find themselves in the same boat as the Merritt Centennials after the first weekend of the BCHL season. Despite out shooting the Coquitlam Express in their home-opener the Eagles also couldn't take advantage of the powerplay going 0/6 and falling 4-2. Similarly to the Cents, the Eagles also faced a much stiffer test in game 2 of the weekend when the Wenatchee Wild came to town. The Eagles led heading into the second period, but the Wild exploded for 5 goals to put themselves in the drivers seat. The Wild didn't look back in a 6-3 win. Much like the Cents, the Eagles are hungry for their first win of the season.
The Centennials and Eagles only meet 2 times during the regular season. Last year, the Cents took both matchups, including their first win of the year after starting 0-6 - a 2-1 victory with former Eagle, Colten Gerlib, providing the game winning goal. The Cents also took the game on the coast by a 5-3 final during an Island road trip that saw them kick start their season. Needless to say, the Centennials cemented some key victories over the Eagles last year, and hope to get another one tonight.
Special teams may be where the game is won and lost. Neither team has been spectacular so far, the Centennials have the worst percentage in the BCHL in terms of teams that have scored on the powerplay with 6.3%, and this comes despite having the most opportunities with the extra man with 16. The Eagles have yet to score a powerplay goal, and despite 6 opportunities against the Express in game 1 of their season, the clean-checking Wild only supplied them with one opportunity. On the penalty kill, the Cents and Eagles are tied at 71.4% over their two games, but once again the Centennials have also been the team with the most time spent in the box with 14 minors called against them.
Both goaltenders have seen the crease for the Centennials on opening weekend. Vincent Duplessis got the start in the season opener against Salmon Arm, but was pulled after allowing 3 goals in quick succession, however, it was a move made to stem momentum not necessarily because of poor play. He made 20 saves on 23 shots for .913 SV%, but because of his half game in net has a bloated 4.01 GAA. Austin Roden came into the season opener half way through the game and allowed one goal, but had 5 get past him in the home opener against Vernon and sits with an 0-1 record a 4.66 GAA and a .868 SV%. The Surrey Eagles have only had one goaltender suit up for them so far, former Wenatchee Wild puckstopper, Seth Eisele. He is 0-2 with a 4.05 GAA and a .871 SV%. Whichever team gets the better goaltending may get the better result.
After the game against the Vipers, Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin said that he needs the full 60 minute effort from the full lineup.
"We are getting a solid effort from some of the guys at the top of our line up, and we're getting a solid effort from some of the guys trying to make a name for themselves, but we haven't seen a full team effort yet, and we haven't seen a full game effort yet."
The Centennials will hope that after the full 60 minutes of play tonight, they're victorious over the Surrey Eagles.
Puck drop 7pm at the NVMA, Pre-Game at 6:45 on Q101.1FM and online at Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Vipers had their home opener spoiled by the Wenatchee Wild, and tonight at the NVMA they did the same to the Merritt Centennials.
Despite a good crowd in the building to cheer on the hometown side for the first game of the season, the Centennials once again couldn't pull out a full 60 minute effort.
Things started great when newly minted Captain Nick Wicks got the party started just over 5 minutes into the game with his first goal of the season, and the Cents first goal on the powerplay. The assists went to the twin brothers Rylan and Mike Van Unen. The Vipers were on their heels early, but managed to get a break on the counter-attack. Michael Young found a juicy, but uncharacteristic rebound from Austin Roden and potted that to tie the game 1-1. The Vipers followed the same formula 5 minutes later and Jesse Landsdell was the beneficiary of another big rebound to take the lead for the snakes 2-1. 3 minutes later the Captain arrived again to tie the game, finding a loose puck in front and potting it in with the assist going to Nic Granowicz.
For the second game in a row, the Centennials had a strong first period, but in the middle frame it was a much tighter checking affair. The teams managed to stay out of the box for the most part, but just over halfway through the period the Vipers pulled ahead with a quick snipe from Nicholas Wildgoose to regain the lead 3-2.
In the final frame, things started to unravel for the Centennials and it seemed to be one step forward, two steps back. Just when the Centennials were about to go on the powerplay, they took a penalty to go to 4-on-4 hockey. In the third, Head Coach Joe Martin started to throw the lines in a blender and it was the young guns that made the impression. However, Vernon was the only team that made an impression on the scoreboard adding 2 to pull away and spoil the opener 5-2.
After the game, Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin wasn't too high on his own teams effort.
"I think it takes a full team. And we're getting effort from the top of the line up, and from the bottom, but there's a lot of players in the middle that need to start showing up."
The Centennials will look to regroup and show up as a full team for the full 60 when they take on the Surrey Eagles on Tuesday night at the NVMA.
The Centennials announced their leadership group ahead of their Home Opener tonight against the Vernon Vipers.
Assuming the role of Captain will be forward and 3rd year Cent, Nick Wicks. The Assistant Captains will be second year Cent Brendan Schneider, and newcomer Nic Granowicz.
Nick Wicks takes over from Tyrell Buckley as Captain for the 2018-19 campaign. He is the highest scoring returning player for the Centennials after supplying 42 points in the 2017-18 campaign. During the summer his hard work was awarded with a commitment to the University of Alaska Anchorage Sea Wolves for the 2019-20 season.
Brendan Schneider will be leading through his hard nose, hard working play on the ice. Last year Schneider was the highest scoring rookie on the roster with 16 goals and 20 points for 36 points.
Nic Granowicz may be a new member of the Centennials, but he's no stranger to junior hockey. Now playing in his 4th year of Junior 'A', he served as the Captain for his team in the NAHL, the Topeka RoadRunners before transitioning to the USHL and the Cedar Rapids Roughriders.
The lettermen will take the ice officially as a leadership group for the first time tonight at the Home Opener against the Vernon Vipers. Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 online at Q101.ca.
The Merritt Centennials will hope for a better finish in their Home Opener against the Vernon Vipers, than the fate they suffered in their Season Opener against Salmon Arm last night.
Despite a strong first period that saw goals from Rylan Van Unen and Frazer Dodd, with assists from Nick Wicks and Matthew Kopperud, the Centennials lost focus in the early goings of the second period, and surrendered 3 goals. The story of the night was the special teams battle. The Centennials couldn't manage a goal with the man advantage despite a lengthy 2-man advantage and ended the night 0/7 while the Silverbacks scored 3 of their 4 goals with the extra man and finished the night 3/6. The brunt of the scoring came in the first half of the second period where the Backs were able to ride a momentum wave and score 3 unanswered in the first 10 minutes of the 2nd. To stem the momentum, the Centennials pulled starter Vincent Duplessis in favour of Austin Roden. Duplessis stopped 20/23 shots he faced while Austin Roden stopped 6/7 in relief as the Cents lost 4-2.
The Centennials didn't suffer from lack of chances in game one of the season. They hit numerous posts, and may have even had a goal from Joey Berkopec that bounced in and out fast enough for it to go unregistered on the ice. The missed marker, would've tied the game at 3 and given the Centennials something to build off of on the powerplay, but none of the officials or bench staff seemed to notice.
Discipline will remain a theme throughout the season, but many of the newcomers played well in their BCHL debut. Despite it not being his first BCHL game, Frazer Dodd registered his first BCHL goal. In 7 games as an affiliate player last season, he got on the score sheet, but only registered 4 assists. He was set up by a beautiful give and go with line mate Matt Kopperud. Talon Zakall, Brady Ziemer, and Jaydon Fetter didn't look out of place on the blue line, and Fetter's confidence seemed to go throughout the game jumping up in the rush and trying to create offense. Brett Roloson and Ben Ward had exceptional nights, but saw limited action as the Cents opted to go with 7 defenseman, and different players cycled in to play with them.
The veterans held their own as well seeing plenty of ice-time, time on the powerplay, and providing the scoring punch, but will need to stay consistent for the whole game to pull the Cents past the Vipers.
The Cents will have to put that behind them, try and learn from the game film, and move on as the Vernon Vipers come to town on the heels of a loss of their own. The Vipers Home Opener was spoiled by BCHL Champions, the Wenatchee Wild, as they also came back to win 5-3. The Vipers were also the victim of the special teams battle as the Wild ran wild on the powerplay going 3/4 while the Vipers went 0/1. With plenty of returning talent in the Vipers lineup the Centennials will face a stiffer test than the young Silverbacks squad. Both teams will be hungry for their first win of the year.
There will be plenty of festivities on hand for the Murray GM Home Opener. Free Hand Clappers for the first 150 fans through the door, giveaways in the first intermission, and the Murray GM Bungee Battle for an oil change in the second intermission. Tickets will be available at the door.
Puck Drop 7:05, Pre-Game 6:45 on the air at Q101.1FM, and online Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.