The Merritt Centennials pulled off a gutsy win to keep their dreams of a first place finish alive with a 3-2 win over the Langley Rivermen.
The Cents had to kill off 3 penalties in the first ten minutes, and succeeded on the first 2 but couldn’t kill off the third as Daneel Lategan scored on a backhand past Austin Roden to open the scoring.
Joey Berkopec helped the Cents even the score when he let go a shot from centre that trickled past Shayne Battler towards the net, and Frazer Dodd crashed the net hard to poke it past the line to tie the game 1-1.
Austin Roden stopped 16/17 shots in the first period.
The second period saw the Cents capture their first lead of the game when Brad Cocca gained the line on the left side, dropped for Mathieu Gosselin who ripped a shot just over the pad, glove side to make it 2-1. After the goal, the Rivermen replaced Battler with Braedon Flemming.
The Rivermen leveled the score just 3 minutes later on a low shot from Devin Leduc.
After 2 the shots were 25-17 in favour of the Rivermen.
The third period would solve nothing despite chances for both sides, and in overtime it was Roden who held the Cents in the game with 7 saves in the extra frame.
In the shootout, Roden didn’t need to make a save as both shots from the Rivermen went wide or high.
The Cents first shooter was Mathieu Gosselin who streaked up the middle with speed, deked hard to the backhand, got Flemming to bite, and then pulled it back forehand and in to give the Cents the edge.
Matt Kopperud sealed the victory with a move where he veered wide right, cut in, faked forehand, then went backhand past Flemming to win it.
The Penticton Vees won which means with the win the Cents keep pace, and keep the dream of a first place finish alive, but they need a Vees loss, paired with a Cents win or a trip to OT to seal the division title.
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Riley Wallack 2 PIM
3RD STAR: Austin Roden 44/46
2nd STAR: Braedon Fleming 17/17
1st STAR: Matt Kopperud SO Winner
For the first time in his career Head Coach Joe Martin has been nominated for the BCHL's Coach of the Year.
Martin took over as head coach of the Cents in 2015-16 and has steadily lead the team to point totals of 50 or higher. His previous high water mark was a 23-25-2-8 season in 2016-17 that netted the team 56 points and a round 2 playoff exit against the Penticton Vees. The most wins the Cents managed under Martin before this season was 24 achieved last year.
This season, with the help of a strong returning core of players, Martin has achieved career high in wins, points, win percentage, and goals for with 2 games left to play in the regular season. The Cents have 34 wins, 75 points, a win percentage of 67%, and 213 goals for this year, a huge turnaround from the 24 wins, 55 points, win percentage of 47.4%, and 185 goals for of a season ago.
Martin also served as an Assistant Coach on Team Canada West this year and captured a Bronze Medal with Centennials forward Mathieu Gosselin. Away from the ice, Martin has also helped 10 players move on to NCAA Division 1 scholarships this season which is also a team record. He also picked up his 100th career BCHL win this year against the Powell River Kings.
He is up against Brian Maloney of the Chilliwack Chiefs, and Tyler Kuntz of the Powell River Kings for the award.
The Cents still have an opportunity to put another feather in Martin's cap this season - their first Interior Division title in over 40 years, but the 2 games remaining will decide that.
The Merritt Centennials (34-15-4-3) square off with the Mainland's Langley Rivermen (26-26-2-1) tonight.
The Cents are coming off a tidy win against the West Kelowna Warriors. They gained the lead just 43 seconds in thanks to some work in front by Mathieu Gosselin and Nick Granowicz. Granowicz was able to find the rebound off a Goose shot to open the scoring. Gosselin would add to the lead midway through the first period after Talon Zakall made a well timed pinch at the right point, spotted Granowicz back door, and he found Gosselin in front for the tap in between the legs to make it 2-0. The Cents got a little undisciplined in the first and gave up a powerplay goal to the Warriors to bring them within one. After a scoreless second period, the Cents came to life in the third. Brad Cocca joined his linemates on the goal front by chipping one up and over Hopkins from inside the blue paint, and Gosselin added his 2nd of the night on a powerplay sniping short-side high to make it 4-1. Gosselin picked up 2 goals and 2 assists for the first star nod, while Austin Roden stopped 38/39 shots in net.
The Rivermen are on a bit of a slide of late. Since losing to the Cents on January 27th 4-1, they went on an 8 game losing skid before finally righting the ship against the Vernon Vipers with a 4-2 victory in their most recent contest. Despite the losing streak, the Rivermen are a team that's to be respected as they also have the size and grit to try and grind down opponents. Merritt will have to be careful to play clean, take advantage on the powerplay, and keep their heads up to avoid injury.
The season series between the two clubs sits a 1-1. The Rivermen won way back at the BCHL showcase 4-2, but in the most recent contest the Cents won 4-1. Wicks scored two goals late in the 1st period just over a minute apart, and Kopperud and Dal Monte added powerplay goals early in the third for the Cents to secure the victory. The Cents got 11 powerplay opportunities in the game, and converted on 3.
The Cents now have 5 players that have eclipsed the 50 point plateau, and have 4 players in the top 20 in scoring, the only team in the BCHL that can boast that stat. Brad Cocca leads the way with 66 points for 6th in league scoring. Nick Granowicz is 13th in the BCHL with 59 points. Mathieu Gosselin made a surge after a 4 point night on Tuesday to get to 58 points and 16th, while Nick Wicks has 57 points for 19th. Matt Kopperud is the other Cents scorer above 50 points with 51.
By comparison the Rivermen only have 4 skaters with over 30 points. Ethan Leyh leads the way with 39, defender Jake Livingstone has 36, and Trevor Ayre and Daneel Lategan are tied with 33 points.
The teams split the special teams battle as the Rivermen are a Jekyll and Hyde team depending on which unit is out there.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 18.8% (12th) LAN - 83.5% (3rd)
LAN - 17% (16th) Cents - 77.3% (12th)
Between the pipes, the Cents have been getting a string of stellar performances from Austin Roden. Roden is now 25-8-3 with a .910 SV%, a 2.96 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Liam McGarva was the backup on Tuesday as the Cents continue to miss Vincent Duplessis.
The Rivermen's Braedon Flemming is 18-19 with a .903 SV%, 2.82 GAA, and 4 shutouts. New back up Shayne Battler is 8-6 with a .906SV%, a 2.63 GAA, and 1 shutout.
Head Coach Joe Martin knows the Rivermen won't be an easy out.
"This is a team that makes life hard for opponents with their size and grit, we need to focus on our game of speed and skill."
The Cents will try and make it look easy tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101,1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials got a dominant display from their top line en route to a 4-1 win against the West Kelowna Warriors.
The game had just begun when Nick Granowicz found a rebound to the side of the net off a Mathieu Gosselin try and banged it home for his 32nd goal of the season just 43 seconds into the period.
The Cents survived a couple powerplays immediately after the goal before getting another one at the midway point of the period. After a face-off loss by the Centennials, Talon Zakall had an excellent pinch at the right point, through it cross-ice for Granowicz, and he one-touched in front for Gosselin who tapped it five-hole to complete the tic-tac-toe play to give the Cents the 2-0 lead.
The Cents took a penalty late in the period, that gave the Warriors a chance to get within one after a Mike Hardman goal to make it a 2-1 hockey game after 1 period of play.
The second period went scoreless as Austin Roden stood tall in the pipes for the Centennials. His efforts were rewarded in the 3rd period.
The Cents started to slowly pull away in the final frame, slowly building momentum until Brad Cocca broke open the game. Cocca got a feed in the blue paint and was able to elevate the puck from in tight up and over Hopkins to make it 3-1.
The Cents got a series of powerplays as the Warriors started to get undisciplined and Mathieu Gosselin was able to add his 2nd of the night and join the 20 goal club. Gosselin dangled in the on the left side and then sniped one from the sharp angle, shot-side, up and over Hopkins shoulder and in to make it 4-1.
Austin Roden stopped 38/39 shots throughout the game, as the Cents pulled even with the Penticton Vees in the Interior Division standings. However, Penticton has a game in hand.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said that the Cents continue to work on discipline.
“I felt there were two calls that we didn’t really need to take, and one of them ended up in our net. In the playoffs, you can’t afford to take those liberties, you don’t want to be the one in the box when it ends in a goal.:
ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Lukas Cullen
3rd STAR OF THE GAME: Brad Cocca 1G 2A
2nd STAR OF THE GAME: Nick Granowicz 1G 1A
1st STAR OF THE GAME: Mathieu Gosselin 2G 1A
The Merritt Centennials (33-15-4-3) lock horns with another Interior Division foe, the West Kelowna Warriors (27-27-0-1) tonight.
The Cents are coming off a weekend where they went 2 for 2 against two Interior Division teams. First up were arch-rival Penticton, and for the first time in nearly 2 years the Cents marched into Penticton and picked up a victory 4-2. Daniel Tkac broke the game open with a steal and a snipe to make it 1-0 after 1 period of play. Rylan Van Unen added insult to injury when he dangled in on a penalty shot and beat LaFontaine blocker side. Nick Granowicz showed no mercy on a move in tight to the forehand high-glove on Derek Krall who came in to replace LaFonatine to make it 3-1 after 2. Matt Kopperud added an early powerplay marker in the third before the Vees came storming back, but Austin Roden held them to just a single goal on 30 shots in the 3rd and stopped 53/55 overall in the winning effort.
The following night against Trail the Cents showed their resilience to the physical game, and their resilience to come back on the scoreboard in a 6-4 win. Trail opened the scoring but the Cents answered with a deflection goal from Brendan Schneider before Trail regained the lead 2-1 before the first was over. Nick Granowicz converted a slap-pass from Mathieu Gosselin to tie the game at 2 early in the 2nd period, but again Trail would regain the lead. Matt Kopperud would level the game at 3's with a head scratching goal that would last until the buzzer after 40. In the third, the Cents got their first lead of the game from a deflection by Payton Matsui, but again the Smoke Eaters tied it at 4. On a powerplay midway through the 3rd, Granowicz converted on another PP, this time by finding a soft spot in the slot, and then firing top corner. Captain Nick Wicks would add an empty netter to ensure victory late in the third.
Tonight's meeting is a clash of the two most offensive clubs in the Interior Division. The Cents lead the division with 209 goals for on the season, and West Kelowna is 2nd with 201. However, it's a clash of two teams that are heading in different directions. There was a time when West Kelowna was duking it out with Merritt for top spot in the division, or hot on their heels, but West K has lost 4 of it's last 5 and have fallen to 6th in the division with 55 points. The Centennials have an Interior Division banner in their sights, but need to continue to win, while hoping for the Vees to falter.
Merritt leads the season series between the two teams 3-1-1 with a chance to take the edge tonight. Early on it was all Cents with scores of 8-4, 8-3, and 5-4 before the Warriors picked up wins 6-3 and 4-3 in OT. This game will also feature some highly talented forwards, as both teams have 3 players in the BCHL's top 20 scoring race (only the Victoria Grizzlies have more with 4).
Brad Cocca continues to lead the way for the Cents with 63 points which is good enough for 7th in the league. Nick Granowicz is coming off a 3-goal weekend where he eclipsed the 30 goal mark, and netted 2 game-winning goals to extend his league lead with 10. Him and Captain Nick Wicks are tied in points with 57 on the campaign.
Mike Hardman is the top dog for the Warriors with 68 points for 3rd in the BCHL. Chase Dubois has 60 points for 11th, and Willie Reim has 57 points for 17th.
The special teams battle sees the Warriors with one of the leagues most potent powerplays.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
WK - 23.2% (2nd) WK - 76.8% (13th)
Cents - 18.9% (12th) Cents - 77.4% (12th)
The battle between the pipes sees Austin Roden continuing his stretch of dominant play. He's now 24-8-3 with a .908 SV%, a 3.04 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Vincent Duplessis is still nursing an injury, but should he be ready to return is 9-5-3 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA.
Rookie Connor Hopkins has shared the crease with Brock Baier this season with West Kelowna. Hopkins is 15-18 with a .912 SV%, a 3.24 GAA and 1 shutout. Baier is 12-8 with .894 SV% and a 4.17 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin expects another close game from the Warriors.
"The Warriors are still a dangerous team that you need to respect. We will need to be playing our best to get past them."
The Cents will try their best to ensure the Warriors don't come close tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV and Q101.1FM with Jared Thomas.