The 1st in the Interior Division Merritt Centennials (10-6) have a date down under with the 5th in the Interior Wenatchee Wild (6-6-1) tonight.
The Cents are coming off their most complete game of the year, and third win in a row against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Over their 3 game win streak the Cents have combined for 22 goals, including 5 on Wednesday night against the 'Backs. Vincent Guy kept and sniped on a two-on-one, Nick Granowicz used his size, speed, and skill to get behind the D and out wait the goaltender, Mathieu Gosselin flew across the crease and snuck one five hole, Ben Ward had his first of the season, and Captain Nick Wicks scored his first goal since the second game of the season as the Centennials blanked the Silverbacks 5-0. Austin Roden turned in his best effort of the year stopping all 34 shots for the shutout.
The Wild are coming off a shutout of their own against the Langley Rivermen defeating the out of division opponents 3-0. That halted a skid of 3 in a row for the Wild, including a 5-4 overtime loss to the Clippers in their only other home game of the year.
The last time the Wild and Cents met was in the second week of the season where the Cents were just finding their offensive form, and were able to come back in a game that saw a few lead changes and the Cents come out on top 7-5. Rylan Van Unen, Matt Kopperud (2), Brett Roloson, Brendan Schneider, Mathieu Gosselin, and Nick Granowicz all lit the lamp for the Cents in that contest, but were victimized early by the Wilds powerplay that went 3/3 in their first 3 opportunities. However, the Cents were able to stem the flow and finish 3/8 on the kill while going 1/3 on the PK. Austin Roden would pick up the W in the game.
Bradley Cocca stands alone as the top point producer in the BCHL with 24 points through 16 games, Mathieu Gosselin and Nick Granowicz are tied for 5th with 20 points a piece, and Brendan Schneider rounds out the top 10 with 17 points.
Captain Lucas Sowder leads the way for the Wild with 14 points, rookie Chistophe Fillion has 13 points, Matt Gosiewski and Christophe Tellier each have 12 points.
The special teams battle sees the Cents coming off back to back games where they've been perfect on the PK and they'll need to be strong against a very skilled Wild club. The Wild are 3rd in the league on the powerplay at 24%, but slide to 13th on the penalty kill with a 78.4% rate. The Cents recent success on the penalty kill has seen them move up to 15th now at 74.7%, and the powerplay also continues to improve now at 11th with a 16.4% conversion rate. Despite not having the best percentage in the league, the Cents have scored the most powerplay goals with 17 as they've drawn over 100 penalties already this season.
The battle in the crease sees Austin Roden coming off his best performance of the year - a 34 save shutout. He improves to 7-3 with an .894 SV% and a 3.36 GAA. Vincent Duplessis should see a start over the weekend and is 3-3 with a .885 SV% and a 3.57 GAA. The Wild have leaned on Austin Park this year and he is 4-3 with a 2.84 GAA and a .874 SV%. Rookie Cal Sandquist is 2-4 with a .862 SV% and a 3.13 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin says the Cents will have to ignore all the extra fan fare in the Wild's barn.
"The pre-game ceremony always seems to go on forever, but that's the case for both teams. We have to make sure that we're ready to jump out of the gates when the puck finally does drop and play our brand of hockey."
Puck Drop 7:05pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca.
The Merritt Centennials offense may not have filled the net to the same degree as they have in the last couple games, but they turned in their best defensive effort of the year and shutout the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 5-0.
The first period saw the Centennials and Silverbacks feel eachother out for the first 10 minutes before Vincent Guy found himself on a two-on-one with Rylan Van Unen. Guy elected to shoot, and found the top corner for the first goal of the game at the 14:26 mark. 3 minutes later, Nick Granowicz was sprung behind the defense, used his body to protect the puck, and then used his skill to out wait Ethan Langenegger with a move to the forehand to tuck it into bed behind the sprawled out netminder. Austin Roden was sensational while his team got into gear as the shots after 1 were 14-13 in favor of the Cents.
The middle stanza saw the Cents playing defence early. The spent a large part of the first 10 minutes killing off penalties including two 2 man advantages, and the last line of defense was solid throughout - Austin Roden. The Cents got their own opportunity late in the second with the extra man, and they converted once, but the goal was called off. They then got a no-doubter off the stick of Mathieu Gosselin who cut out of the corner, and drove hard to the net, flying through the air as he slid the puck five hole on Langenegger for the lone goal of the second period to make it 3-0. Shots after 2 were 26-25 Cents.
In the final frame, the Cents didn't sit back and let the Silverbacks get settled in the offensive zone, they went to the attack and youngster Ben Ward, who has been one of the hardest working Centennials on and off the ice, converted for his first in the BCHL. Then at the 12 minute mark, Granowicz and Van Unen provided a steal in the slot, and Nick Wicks found the rebound and put it home for his first goal since the home opener as the Cents went on to win 5-0.
Austin Roden stopped all 34 shots he faced to earn his first shutout of the season, and third win in a row, while Langenegger stopped 37/42 in a losing effort.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said it really all came down to one word.
"Compete. That's what our team does well, and what has given us the edge in the last few games."
The Cents look to bring the same compete that's seen them win three in a row against Interior Division rival Wenatchee Wild on Friday night.
The Merritt Centennials (9-6) welcome their division rivals the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (6-5-1) to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena for a midweek matchup tonight.
The Cents are coming off an impressive weekend that saw them score 17 goals over 2 games. They stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to down the West Kelowna Warriors 8-4, and they stormed out to a 3-0 lead in the first 3 minutes against the Cowichan Valley Capitals and didn't look back winning 9-1. Brad Cocca and Mathieu Gosselin earned honorable mentions in the BCHL's Player of the Week honors. Cocca had 4 goals and 3 assists and has moved into 1st place in scoring league-wide with 22 points. Mathieu Gosselin had 1 goal and 5 assists during a stellar offensive week for the Cents. A number of rookie Centennials also got on the scoresheet for the first time: Brady Ziemer scored his first goal in the BCHL on Friday, Vincent Guy had a goal and an assist as well. On Sunday, Mattias Dal Monte had his first goal of the season, and rookie Ben Ward got two primary assists for his first points of the year. With all the scoring on the weekend, everyone who doesn't man the crease now has a point on the roster.
The Salmon Arm Silverbacks have gone 3-2 in their last 5 games, but last weekend they went 1-1. They defeated the Penticton Vees in a shootout on home ice 3-2, but got soundly thumped by the Prince George Spruce Kings 5-0 the following night. The Silverbacks have proven they can beat top clubs this season, but haven't been able to get on a roll as they haven't won more or lost more than 2 games in a row this season.
The Cents and Silverbacks have already clashed twice this season. The Cents lost the season opener in Salmon Arm 4-2 before getting some revenge the following weekend in a 5-2 victory. This game will be the first to be played at the NVMA, and for a much younger Silverbacks squad it may prove to be a difficult place to play as we saw with the West Kelowna Warriors and the Cowichan Valley Capitals this weekend.
The Cents now have 3 players in the top ten in BCHL scoring: Brad Cocca sits in first with 22 points, Mathieu Gosselin is 6th with 18 points and Nick Granowicz is in the 10 spot with 16 points.
The Silverbacks are led by rookie Matthew Verboon and veteran Justin Wilson who each have 12 points, followed by Noah Wakeford who has 10.
The special teams battle sees the Cents starting to make up some ground, but the edge will still go to the Silverbacks. The 'Backs are 6th in the league with a 20% conversion rate on the powerplay,and are 8th in the league on the penalty kill at 84.1%. The Cents improve to 11th on the powerplay with a 16.5% conversion rate, but have gotten out of the basement in regards to the penalty kill at 73.2% edging the West Kelowna Warriors.
In net the Cents are starting to get some solid performances from both goaltenders. Austin Roden has rattled off two wins in a row and is now 6-3 with an .880 SV% and a 3.74 GAA. Vincent Duplessis is 3-3 with a .885 SV% and a 3.57 GAA. The Silverbacks have really leaned on rookie Ethan Langenegger in net as he's 5-5 with a 2.96GAA and a .917 SV%. Devin Chapman has only seen the net in two games going 1-1 with a .875 SV% and a 3.75 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin says the Cents will have to be ready for the size of the Silverbacks and the youth they have in the line up.
"The Silverbacks definitely have the size to play a solid game here at the NVMA, and they've got a lot of younger guys that are just excited to play so they'll make for a hard game."
Tonight is Fortis BC night at the arena, and their events team will be on hand giving out free swag to attendees who come visit their booth in the Mezzanine.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM or online at Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials may have been snubbed from the BCHL's Player of the Week honor, but two Cents earned honorable mentions for their efforts over the week that was.
Brad Cocca now paces the league in scoring with 22 points this season, and he picked up 7 across 3 games this week. He got an assist in Penticton as the Cents fell 6-2 last Wednesday, but saved his best games for home ice. Cocca rippled the twine twice on Friday against the Warriors while adding an assist for the games 2nd star, and followed that up with a repeat performance against the Capitals on Sunday afternoon getting 2 goals and an assist for first star.
Mathieu Gosselin was held off the scoresheet against the Vees on Wednesday, but helped power the offense on Friday scoring a goal and adding two helpers for his team leading 9th of the season and the games first star. On Sunday against the Capitals 'The Goose' played set up man providing 3 assists.
The Cents will have another chance to flex their top ranked offensive muscle on Wednesday night when they host Salmon Arm. Puck drop 7pm from the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.
The Cents unleashed another offensive explosion, but followed it up with a much more responsible defensive game to rout the Capitals 9-1 on Sunday afternoon.
The Centennials came out of the gate flying and drew an early penalty just 16 seconds into the contest. The boys would find pay dirt after a rebound found its way to the stick of Nick Granowicz who scored the first of the game.Daniel Tkac would add one a minute later, with Ben Ward picking up his first assist of the year, and Brad Cocca would convert just over 30 seconds later to give the Cents a 3-0 lead just over 3 minutes into the game. Cowichan would answer at the 12:26 mark with a goal from Ryan Moon, but it would be all Centennials from there as Brendan Schneider sniped one, and Daniel Tkac would add another on the powerplay to give the Cents a 5-1 lead after 1. Matthew Waite made the start for the Caps, while Austin Roden made his second in a row for the Cents. Shots were 16-7 Centennials through 1.
More offense would come in the third as Christian Sabin found a rebound off the end boards from a Jaydon Fetter shot for his second of the year to make it 6-1 at the 5:02 mark. Cocca would add another form Gosselin and Schneider at the 10:40 mark, and not to be left out Rylan Van Unen converted on a centering feed from Nick Granowicz to make it 8-1 throught 2 periods of play. After the 8th goal, Waite gave way to Blake Wood who'd see the crease for the second time in as many games. Shots through 2 were 37-11 for the Cents.
The final frame saw the Cents just look to guide the game home. They avoided the rough stuff for the most part, and Mattias Dal Monte scored his first of the season to make it a 9-1 final. Roden would stop 14/15 for his second win in a row.
7 Centennials combined for multi-point efforts: Granowicz had a goal and an assist, Tkac had 2 goals, Ward had 2 assists, Fetter had 2 assists, Cocca had 2 goals and an assist, Mathieu Gosselin had 3 assists, and Frazer Dodd chipped in 2 helpers as well.
After the game Head Coach Joe Martin applauded his teams play at both ends of the ice.
"It's important in lopsided games like this when the offense starts to run away, that the team doesn't forget that there's a goalie on our end who needs help. I felt like today we made sure we still played solid defense for Rodin, and had a complete game."
With the win the Cents move back into first place in the Interior Division at 9-6 and await the arrival of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Wednesday night.