On a rare Wednesday night game, the Cents welcome the third place team from the Mainland Division, the 5-6-1-1 Chilliwack Chiefs.
Last season, the Chiefs swept the season series by a combined score of 8-4. Winning 4-3 in Merritt, and 4-1 in their home rink. In the preseason, the Chiefs defeated the Cents 2-1 in Double OT on a 4-3 powerplay. However, It's the first of two matchups this season, the second matchup won't go until mid February when the Cents will visit the Chiefs at the Prospera Centre.
The Chiefs come in to this one trending in the right direction. After a September to forget where they went 1-5-1-1, they've managed to turn things around with the flipping of the calendar, going 4-1 to start October. The Cents are starting to trend back in the right direction, and are 2-1-2-0 in October with two tough losses in overtime last week, before getting the win against the Wild.
The Chiefs are led offensively by Will Calverly, Corey Andonovski, and Tommy Lee offensively all with over 10 points, but Calverly is the only Chief with over a point per game. Now the Cents can boast a player who's scored more than 10 points with Nick Wicks reaching 11 after a goal and assist effort against the Wenatchee Wild, setting up Tyrell Buckley for the game winner.
The Centennials have seen a healthy bump to the special teams numbers after a great performance in Wenatchee in which they were perfect on the powerplay and penalty kill. They now sit 14th in the league, one spot behind Chilliwack, with a 15.8% conversion rate on the powerplay, and are now over 80 percent on the penalty kill with a 81.4% kill rate. Conversely, the Chiefs are 16.4% with the extra man, and are 8th in the league on the penalty kill with 82.6%.
Head Coach Joe Martin says that despite seeing the Chiefs in the preason, that won't be part of the game plan.
"The focus will be on us, we'll talk a little bit about what they do well as a team, but the focus will be on us and what we're trying to do as a team and getting better everyday."
The Cents will continue their quest to get better when the Chiefs come to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena tonight. Puck drop at 7, Pre Game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas. Listen live at Q101.1 FM, stream on q101.ca, or take the game with you on the Q101 Merritt App.
Jacob Berger was an honourable mention earlier this season, but now the honour is all his. After a week in which he stopped 121 of 129 shots, backstopped the Cents to a win and two overtime losses, Berger has been named the BCHL's Player of the Week.
Berger now is 4-6-2-0 with the most minutes seen of any goaltender in the league. He has a save percentage of .914 and a goals against average of 3.13. He's been forced into an increased workload due to the injury of Vincent Duplessis, and continues to perform at a top level.
Head Coach Joe Martin says that Berger is one of the biggest competitiors on the club.
"Jake expects himself to be great, and I don't think there's a goal out there that Jake doesn't think he can make a save on. He'll be good for us every night he plays."
The next opportunity for Berger to make his league leading 13th start will be tomorrow night against the visiting Chilliwack Chiefs.
The Merritt Centennials ending a few running streaks last night. They ended the Wenatchee Wild's 3 game win streak, they ended their own 3 game losing streak, a 3 game drought on the powerplay, and they ended a streak that had been running since the beginning of the season, they got their first road win of the season.
The Centennials got started early in the first when Bryce Defazio went to the box at the 2:30 mark, and the Cents went to the powerplay. The man advantage had been snake bitten for the past 3 games, but got a bump when Alex Bourhas broke down the left side and then saucered a perfect area pass forward for Ashton Stockie who skated onto it and threw a quick shot on Seth Eisele and it managed to beat him low to get the Cents off their powerplay slump.
The Cents then took a pair of penalties against the potent powerplay of Wenatchee, who came into the game ranked second in the BCHL, but were able to kill both off. However, at 5 on 5, Sam Morton was able to get one past Jake Berger to tie it 1-1.
The Wild took a late penalty against the Cents, and once again the Centennials were able to convert. This time it worked down the right side, Zach Court took it out of the corner below the goal line, and found Nick Wicks in the high slot who rippled the mesh behind Eisele to get the 2-1 lead, and that's how it ended after 20 minutes of play.
The second period saw the Cents merely trying to survive defensively for a large portion. At the 4:42 mark, Joey Berkopec went off for a double-minor, and then a minute into that penalty Henry Cleghorn went off for a slashing minor, so the Cents had to face down the daunting task of killing off a full 5 on 3 powerplay. Jake Berger even had to stop a penalty shot, after Josh Arnold got behind the defense and Berkopec had to haul him down. Arnold deked in on the right side and tried to pull backhand, and Berger soundly denied him with the glove hand. They managed to survive it, and managed to score a goal against the grain when Nick Wicks gained the left side and played it to the line to Tyrell Buckley who teed it up and the puck found a way through Eisele to make it 3-1. After 40 minutes of play, the shots were 29-14 in favour of the Wild.
The Wild got back within one early in the 3rd from their leading goalscorer Jasper Weatherby. Despite the tough start to the period, the Cents managed to hang on with strong defensive play, and some key saves from Jake Berger to get their first road win of the year 3-2.
It's a busy week ahead for the Cents as they take on the Chilliwack Chiefs on Wednesday at home, The Vees in Penticton, and the Silverbacks in Salmon Arm.
Head Coach Joe Martin says that the focus will change slightly between the games.
"Against Chilliwack the focus will be mainly on our game, but against Penticton and Salmon Arm who we have some history with we're going to make adjustments to certain things they showed us in the games we've played."
All games are 7pm starts, all are on Q101.
The Centennials will look to rebound tonight after a heart breaking loss in OT to the only remaining undefeated team in the BCHL the Penticton Vees. It marks the 3rd loss in a row after their 3 game win streak, and their second straight overtime loss. So far the Cents haven’t found the magic formula to pick up the extra point in OT, but hope they won’t need to go to the extra frame tonight against the Wild.
The Cents have 2 wins and 3 losses in their last 5 while the Wild are 3 and 2 in their past 5, and on a 3 game win streak. The Wild sit 5th in the super competitive interior division with 15 points and a 7-3-0-1 record while the Cents sit last in the Interior with 8 points and a 3-7-2-0 record.
Once again special teams will be a factor with Wenatchee near the top of the league when it comes to the powerplay with a 24.7% conversion rate while the Cents have struggled in the last 3 games they haven’t managed to find the back of the net despite some good looks with the man advantage. If they can bump their powerplay slump, they may be able to bump their losing skid as well.
The Wild are coming off a win last night against the team that led the Interior Division coming into the weekend, the West Kelowna Warriors, 4-2. It was tighter than the score line shows as they hung onto a 3-2 lead late into the period before icing the game in the empty net as the Warriors were searching for the equalizer.
The Wild and Cents have met once before this season with the Wild coming out on top. Despite an early two goal lead in the third period, the Centennials got into penalty trouble and ended up surrendering 3 powerplay goals as the Wild went on to win 5-3. The Cents got a late marker from Tyrell Buckley after the Wild had iced the game into the empty net.
Head Coach Joe Martin says his team needs to forget last night and get some rest.
“The bus won’t leave until just before 11 o’clock, plenty of time to get some rest, forget about tonight and be ready to go for the Wild.”
Puck Drop is at 7pm from the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee. Pre Game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1 FM, online at q101.ca, or the Q101 Merritt app.
In a game that had a playoff atmosphere, the Merritt Centennials played their best 55 minutes of the year, before they fell into a defensive shell in the final 5 minutes and the Vees came back to win it 3-2.
The first period skated to a scoreless draw with the goaltenders stealing the show. Nolan Hildebrand stopped all 9 shots he faced, while Jacob Berger stopped all 12 he faced.
The second was very similar to the first until the 11:38 mark when Colten Gerlib held the puck at the right point by gloving it down, and wasted no time teeing up a blast that beat Hildebrand on the blocker side to make it 1-0. Despite penalties on both sides that remained the score after 40 minutes of play.
The Cents started the third behind on the shot clock, and that trend continued. However, they were able to find the back of the net first after Rylan Van Unen blocked a shot and went off to the races joined by Jackson Munro on a 2-on-1, Van Unen opted to keep and shoot and roofed it over the shoulder of Hildebrand to make it 2-0 halfway through the third. After the Cents scored they went into a defensive shell, and as Head Coach Martin would later say after the game, they looked "afraid to win." In the final 5 minutes with the Cents trying to buckle down offensively, Jonny Tychonik held the line, and unleashed a shot that deflected off a sprawling Henry Cleghorn who was attempting to block the shot, and in past Berger.
The turning point came late in the game after a Vees goal was dissallowed. It was ruled that Berger was interfered with, but there was no penalty to the Penticton Vees on the play. After the play, Berger squirted some water at a Vees player, and he ended up getting a penalty. On that powerplay, it was Tychonik who got his second of the game with another blast from the point. This time there was no deflection on the play, just a clean shot up high to tie things up at 2. The teams were content to skate 2-2 to the overtime frame.
In overtime, the Cents couldn't convert on their offensive rush, and on the counter attack Grant Cruikshank was able to roof it on Berger to get the OT winner.
After the game, Coach Martin said that he could stomach the loss a lot easier if his team played their game until the end.
"If we gave more, and played our game in the final five minutes I'd be talking about how we ran into a good team that found a way to win. It's stil a good opponent that found a way to win, but we didn't enough of what we should've in the last five minutes"
The Cents have now lost three straight, two in overtime to salvage points, but they'll look to get 2 points against the Wenatchee Wild with no strings attached tomorrow night at 7pm on Q101.