The Merritt Centennials and the Wenatchee Wild have had a night off to think about the series, but tonight playoff action resumes.
The mood around the Centennials during their off-day was surprisingly upbeat despite dropping the opening game of the series 4-0.
The Wild shot out to a 2-0 lead courtest of league leading scorer Jasper Weatherby in the first period. Weatherby's first goal came 9:30 into the frame when he cut out of the corner, and rode the goal line before forcing his way in front of the net and beating Jake Berger low shortside.
After a Zach Court slashing call, Weatherby found the back of the net on the man advantage by deflecting a point shot to make it 2-0 after 1. Berger was the busier of the two netminders turning away 9/11 shots, while Seth Eisele only had to stop 3.
In the second, the Wild continued to press. The Cents were having trouble getting out of their zone, and were having an equally troubling time spending extended periods in the Wild end. Zak Galambos ended up fooling Berger with a 5-hole shot on a powerplay with Mike Van Unen in the box for slashing.
Ashton Stockie dropped the mits against Nathan Iannone late in the second looking to spark his team, and the bout was spirited but shortlived as Stockie lost his footing and fell to the ice with the linesman jumping in shortly after.
The fight didn't provide the fire as Captain of the Wild, AJ Vanderbeck, added his first of the post season on a quick bing-bang-boom play, fed by Murphy Stratton and Weatherby behind the net. That would be the end of Berger's night, stopping 21/25 shots.
Austin Roden would relieve Berger in the late second and third and managed to stop all 16 shots he faced, despite the Cents making a parade to the penalty box late in the game. The Cents fell 4-0 while being outshot 41-14.
The Wild have only been outshot four times throughout the whole regular season, so that task may be a little out of reach, but they'll need to test Eisele a little more than 14 times in a game if they want to top the Wild.
The Cents will also have to engage their forecheck with a little more pace. The Wild were able to use their quick puck movement to escape pressure, and their zone too easily in game 1. However, the Cents were able to generate chances on the counter-attack, but just weren't able to convert. They'll look to do so tonight as they're they only team in the BCHL playoffs to be shutout in game 1.
The special teams battle in game 1 saw the Wild go 2/8 on the powerplay or 25%, the Cents were 0/2 on their opportunities.
Seth Eisele stopped all 14 shots he faced in net, and Bliss Littler, coach of the Wild, will likely turn back to his top netminder. Despite the low number of shots, Eisele did make a couple highlight reel saves to keep the Cents off the board. Jacob Berger stopped 21/25 for an 84 SV%, while Austin Roden stopped all 16 he faced in relief duty. On the postgame show, Head Coach Joe Martin said that his mind was made up about who would start game 2, but he wouldn't divulge that info.
The Cents will look to bounce back and earn the split in game 2 against the Wild. The key word being earn, Cents need to play with that desperation and desire to win.
Puck Drop 7:05, Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.
The Merritt Centennials started to show some fight late in the game, but the damage had already been done. The Wenatchee Wild scored 2 in the first and second, and that was all they needed to get by the Cents in the third as they won by a score of 4-0.
Jasper Weatherby, the league's MVP and leading scorer showed why in the first period with two goals. One 5-on-5 where he came out from the nearside corner, with a move along the goal line before cutting in front of the net and beating Jacob Berger down low short-side past the toe to make it 1-0. He added another on the powerplay on a deflection off a point shot from Sam Morton to make it 2-0. The powerplay was the Wild's first of the game.
In the second, the Wild added another on the powerplay from Zak Galambos, who walked in from the right point and fired one five-hole from the right dot to make it 3-0.
Wild Captain AJ Vanderbeck has the games final goal 5-on-5 with a nice tic-tac-toe play from Murphy Stratton to Weatherby behind the net, before it was put to Vanderbeck who fired it quickly on Berger. That would end Berger's night with 2 minutes to go in the second period.
Austin Roden came on in relief and stopped the 2 shots he faced in the second plus the 14 he faced in the third to go unbeaten. He made some huge saves late when the Cents started to get a little unruly, and were taking repeated trips to the penalty box. Nick Wicks had a shorthanded breakaway, and Mathieu Gosselin had a chance coming out of the box but neither could solve Seth Eisele who made 14 saves for the shutout.
The Cents have plenty of room for improvement as they head into game 2 of the series looking for a split. More shots, more time in the offensive zone, more determination, and more edge are in order. Head Coach Joe Martin said that whatever the reason was, his team has to move on.
"We can't change the past, we can't change what happened to us. We're here today, and we're down 1-0. Whether we lost 4-0 or 5-4 in overtime, a loss is a loss in the playoffs. Let's get over it, let's remember it, let's learn from it, and let's be better."
Game 2 goes Saturday night at 7pm, Pre-Game 6:50 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.
The votes are in and the BCHL has their year end award winners.
Only one member of the Centennials was up for consideration, Nick Wicks for the Most Sportsmanlike Award. Unfortunately, he lost out to Ben Poisson of the Prince George Spruce Kings.
Jasper Weatherby of the Wenatchee Wild won the BCHL MVP. Weatherby has the most points with 74 on the season and also captured the Brett Hull Trophy.
Alex Newhook of the Victoria Grizzlies won the Rookie of the Year and was in contention for the league MVP before a late season injury held him to 64 points.
Top Defenseman went to Cooper Zech of the Wild. He was fourth in overall scoring with 69 points on the year, and was 13 points above the next nearest defenseman.
The leagues top goaltender went to Ty Taylor of the Vernon Vipers, he led the league in all goaltender categories.
The Joe Tenant award for Coach of the Year went to Bliss Littler of the Wenatchee Wild.
The Wild came home with the most hardware with three winners, and those players and staff will be in the lineup for Game 1 tonight versus the Cents.
Puck Drop at 7 from the Town Toyota Centre in Wenatchee.
The 6th seeded Merritt Centennials boarded the bus early for a matchup tonight against the 3rd seeded Wenatchee Wild for the first game of round 1 action in the BCHL playoffs.
The season series has been close considering the difference in seeding, and these teams have played some very entertaining games against eachother. Throughout the season, the Cents went 2-3-0-1 against the Wenatchee Wild.
They first met on the first weekend of the season, despite 2 early goals by the Cents the Wild roared back and won 5-3.
Game 2 saw the Cents go down to Wenatchee and pick up their first road win of the year, a 3-2 nail biter where Jacob Berger had to come up huge, and the Cents had to defend against the waves of Wild offense.
The third installment was the only lopsided contest of the year, despite the Cents leading 3-2 early in the second, the Wild came back with 4 unanswered and won 7-3.
In early December, the Cents and Wild skated to a 3-all tie late into the 3rd before Jasper Weatherby scored a late heart breaker to give the Wild the 4-3 edge.
Then came a double-header down in Wenatchee in late January which may be the most accurate preview of these first two games of the playoffs. The Cents and Wild skated to a 2-1 double overtime thriller in game 1, with Zach Court tying the game in the final minute before Weatherby got the dagger in OT. In game 2, the Cents were in the driver seat for the majority of the game and scored 3 before the Wild tried to climb back but fell short 3-2.
Wenatchee has been the top team at home in the BCHL this season going 24-4-1-0, but of those 4 losses, two of them came to the Merritt Centennials, and that should give fans hope heading into these first two games. The goal differential in the season series was 21-16 in favour of the Wild, but if you take out that 7-3 game, it becomes just a one-goal edge for the Wild 14-13. The matchup on paper is a lot closer than you’d believe.
The Cents will have to be wary of the offensive prowess of the WIld, they boast the top scoring forward and defenseman in the league as well as the top scoring offense overall. Jasper Weatherby finished the season with 74 points, Cooper Zech was the top defenseman with 69 points, AJ Vanderbeck their Captain is no slouch in the scoring department tying Weatherby with 37 goals, and they have secondary threats like Lucas Sowder (60) and Sam Morton (54) Any of those players would be the leading scorer on the Centennials, but the Wild play a very different game style than the Cents.
Merritt hasn’t been slouches in the offensive department either, and with points in 7 straight games before a loss in a mean nothing game to end the season, the Wild have to have some healthy respect. Henry Cleghorn paced the attack with 48 points, Nick Wicks is one of the premier play makers on the team and finished with 46. Zach Zorn finished with the most game winning goals and tied with Cleghorn for the most goals on the team with 20 along with 22 assists. Zach Court (41), Brendan Schneider (36), and Zach Risteau (20) had a strong finish playing on a line together. The biggest hole will be felt on the back end as the Cents will try and play on without the services of their Captain Tyrell Buckley who took a hit late in the season that will keep him out of the early games in this series with concussion symptoms.
The special teams matchup heading in is very close as well. The Wild were close to the top in both categories all season, but finished 3rd in each. Their powerplay 21.1%, and their penalty kill 85.2%. The Cents saw a strong rebound at the end of the season, and their powerplay finished 5th at 19.8% while their penalty kill finished 4th at 84.6%.
In net, the wins and losses favour the Wild, but some of the underlying stats favour the Cents goaltenders. The Wild will look to Seth Eisele and Austin Park. Eisele is the only goaltender the Cents have seen this season and is 20-11 with an 88.7 SV%, a 2.64 GAA and 3 shutouts. Park is 16-9 with an 88.7 SV% and a 2.78 GAA. The Cents will turn to the same tandem that’s gotten them where they are to finish the season. Jacob Berger has the lion’s share of starts this season by virtue of being here all year and is 13-22-2-0 with a 90.5 SV%, a 3.45 GAA, and 2 shutouts. He also has the experience of guiding the team through the playoff run last year in high pressure situations. Austin Roden has proved himself more than capable throughout the season, and down the home stretch going 12-9-2-3 with a 93.1 SV%, a 2.40 GAA, and 2 shutouts. The Cents will have a decision on their hands.
That’s the story going into game one, but once the puck drops all those stats get thrown out the window.
Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.
The Playoff schedule has been released for Round 1 matchups as the Merritt Centennials are set to do battle with the Wenatchee Wild.
Games 1 and 2 will go in Wenatchee on Thursday and Saturday Night at 7pm.
Due to the distance between the two clubs they've settle on the 2-3-2 format to limit travel.
The 3 games at the NVMA will be the following Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday - March 6th, 7th, and 9th.
If games 6 and 7 are required, they will be played back in Wenatchee.