The 7th place in the Interior Division Merritt Centennials enter tonight's contest just one point back of the 6th place club the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The Cents have played one less game than the 'Backs and have an opportunity to leap frog them with a regulation win. However, the last time Merritt was in a position to catch Salmon Arm they suffered their most complete loss of the season 7-4 in early October. In mid-October, the Cents were able to win a special teams battle against the Silverbacks in which the Cents scored 2 on the powerplay, 1 short handed, 1 at 4 on 4, and 1 at 3 on 3, for a 5-4 victory in Double OT.
The Cents will look to extend their unbeaten streak to 5 games in their lone game this weekend, while the Silverbacks come into this game on a 3 game losing streak. The Cents streak started two weeks ago on Sunday against the West Kelowna Warriors who they were able to dominate 5-1, then carried that momentum into BC's capital where they trounced the Victoria Grizzlies 6-0, had their lone tie of the year to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 3-3, and finished strong against the Surrey Eagles 5-4.
After the weekend, in which the duo of Henry Cleghorn and Zach Zorn were red hot, Zorn moves into the team lead in points with 18, followed by Cleghorn and Wicks at 17, all of whom are in the top 35 in league scoring. The Cents now boast 10 skaters who have at least 10 points as well. The Silverbacks have 13 10-point scorers on their squad, led by Rhett Kingston who has 19 points.
However, the Cents team defense is something that seperates them from other teams in the league. Despite being two games under .500, the Cents still have a positive goal differential at +3, while the Silverbacks who have scored the same amount of goals as the Centennials have a -21 differential with 90 goals against.
The Cents continue to crawl up the league standings in regards to special teams where they are now 6th in the league on the powerplay, but will have to be wary of the top ranked powerplay in the league from the 'Backs who scored 4 powerplay goals the last time out against the Cents. Despite being tops in the league on the powerplay, the penalty kill for the Silverbacks in hovering down at the bottom of the league at 76.4%, while the Cents are in the middle of the pack with an 81% kill rate, but a league second best 7 shorthanded goals for.
In net, the Cents will turn to the man who's seen more starts than any goaltender in the league, Jake Berger. He's 7-9-2-0 with a 3.03 GAA and a .916 save percentage with 1 shutout on the year. He will most likely be squaring off against Bo Didur for the Silverbacks who is 4-8 with a 4.18 GAA and a .867 save percentage.
This will be the final game at the Shaw Centre before the season series switches over to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. You can catch the action live at 7pm, with the Pre Game Show starting at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or on your desktop or device at q101.ca.
Merritt Centennials have made a deal with Interior Division rival Penticton Vees sending the CHL/ BCHL rights to defenseman Jordan Henderson for future considerations.
The 1997 born Henderson has spent 158 career games in the WHL with Spokane, Saskatoon, and Medicine Hat and has 7 goals and 29 assists for 36 points over that time.
After the trade was completed, Henderson signed with the Vees.
The trade is the second this week from General Manager Joe Martin after Alex Bourhas was sent to the Nepean Raiders for future considerations.
The Merritt Centennials announced today that they have traded forward Alex Bourhas to the Nepean Raiders of the Central Canada Hockey League for future considerations.
With the acquisition of Brad Cocca earlier in the year, the Cents have been carrying an extra forward on the roster.
Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin said that the move was made to make room for a veteran.
"“With Chase Bell coming off injured reserve, we needed to make room on our roster for a forward.”
The move means that Chase Bell will most likely draw into the lineup against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Friday night, where the Cents have a chance to catch the Silverbacks in the standings.
The Cents snagged 5 of a possible 6 points on their Island Road Trip this past weekend, and many players could've been up for league distinction.
However, it was Zach Zorn who got an honorable mention in this week's Player of the Week from the BCHL. With 3 goals, including one short handed against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on saturday, and 1 assist over the three games. Zorn is now tied for the team lead in points with Nick Wicks with 17 so far this season.
Head Coach Joe Martin says Zorn is one of the big cogs for the Cents attack.
"He's had a tremendous year, and had a big weekend for us."
Zorn and the Cents are now one point behind the Salmon Arm Silverbacks who they face on Friday night with an opportunity to catch in the standings.
The Cents finished their road trip on a high note with a comeback victory over the Surrey Eagle 5-4.
The Cents started the game short a man after Jack Vincent spent too much time on the ice after warm ups had expired incurring a delay of game call, and on the early powerplay the Eagles were able to convert with a shot from the slot from Jeffrey Stewart that beat Berger to make it 1-0.
Just two minutes later at the 3:29 mark John Wesley scored his 17th of the season, and the Cents found themselves trailing by two early in the first.
At the 5:38 mark of the first, Rylan Van Unen was sprung on a breakaway by Matthieu Gosselin, and streaked down the left wing gained the zone and as he cut to the net roofed it over the glove of Nic Tallarico who got the start for the Eagles to cut the lead in half.
The Cents found themselves in penalty trouble midway through the frame, and Henry Cleghorn was able to breakaway after a block at the line. He drove wide on the left side before making a move to the backhand that froze Tallarico, and Cleghorn was able to flip it over the left pad to tie the game at 2.
Just 2 minutes later at the 12:37 mark, after a dump in, Tallarico went out to play the puck behind the net, and after a forecheck from the Cents he gave a pass to the tape of Brendan Schneider who took the gift, and put it into the gaping net to give the Cents their first lead 3-2, and that chased Tallarico from the net, the second time the Cents completed that feat on this road swing. Daniel Davidson came into the game in relief and played strong for the remainder of the first.
The second period was much quieter on the penalty front with no minors committed by other team, but a lone goal from Caige Sterzer of the Eagles who scored on a breakaway of his own to score over the shoulder of Berger to tie the game at threes.
The Cents got an early powerplay after a string of penalties, and some four on four play. The Cents were able to get three kicks at the can as Jackson Munro unleashed a shot the line that didn’t get through, Nick Wicks got a second chance, and Davidson made the save, but Cleghorn was there for the third crack and backhanded it past Davidson for his 6th of the season.
The teams traded chances before Zach Zorn was able to convert on one of the craziest goals so far this year. After pressure off the faceoff, the Cents threw a shot on net, and Zorn who wasn’t facing the net was knocked to his knees, and as he went down was able to backhand the puck off a bounce, and chip it over the left shoulder of Davidson top corner to give the Cents a 5-3 lead.
With 5 minutes remaining in the game the Eagles were pressing to get back in the game and on an off angle shot, Berger kicked the puck into the slot where it went off the back of Buckley and in to make it a nail biting finish. The Cents managed to hang on for the win, and took it 5-4.
After the game Head Coach Joe Martin said that despite crawling back into the standings in the Interior Division, the focus remains internal.
“A lot of people will be focusing on the game next week, and what will happen if we win, but I think what’s important for this team is to focus on ourselves and continue to grow as a hockey team together.”
The Cents will have 5 days to prepare for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Friday for a matchup in Salmon Arm at the Shaw Centre.