The Merritt Centennials will have to wait to get back in the win column as they were bested by the visiting Penticton Vees 6-3 on Humboldt night.
Despite a moving opening ceremony that saw the Humboldt Broncos, Nicola Valley First Responders and long time bus driver Steve Rose honored, it was the Vees who were able to get out to the hot start. Just 2 and a half minutes into the game, Mason Snell scored his first in the BCHL with a shot off the boards at the half wall that squeaked through to beat starter Austin Roden. The Cents then started to push back, but a bad stretch that started with a Brendan Harrogate goal off a rebound at 12:19 of the first was followed up within a minute by another marker from Matthew Byrne; both first goals in the BCHL. The hole got deeper after a late powerplay marker in the period from Ryan Sandelin made it 4-0. Roden stopped 13/17 shots in the first, and wouldn't return to the crease in the game as he was hooked in favour of Vincent Duplessis. Derek Krall stopped all 10 shots he faced in the opening frame.
The second period was much more intense, but newcomer from the OHL Harrogate tallied another before Brad Cocca finally broke the goose egg for the Merritt Centennials. Cocca finished off a beautiful rush up the right side by Matt Kopperud, who swung it wide to Mathieu Gosselin before hitting Cocca in stride in the slot. That tally gave the hometown crow of over 800 strong something to cheer about, and the Cents trailed 5-1 heading into the third.
The final frame saw stretches where the Centennials had chances, and they finally converted just over halfway through. Rylan Van Unen was firing off shots, and after missing the net twice, finally found the mesh on the third attempt after Nick Wicks and Nick Granowicz found rebounds and fed Van Unen again making it 5-2. Brendan Schneider then got the first short-handed goal of the season and a brief stint of belief in the building to make it 6-3, but the Vees dashed the hopes of the hometown faithful with a late powerplay goal by Andre Ghantous.
The Cents powerplay struggled to convert despite good looks and went 0/7 while the Vees went 2/5. Vincent Duplessis wasn't very busy after coming into the crease, only facing 10 shots, while Derek Krall picked up his first win of the season with a 36 save effort on 39 shots.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said he liked the teams effort in the last 40 minutes, but a lack of focus in the first cost them.
"I think there were just some mental mistakes out there in the first period. The Vees were outworking us, and we had players in position, but they forgot what their job was and then the puck was in the net."
The Cents will look to return to the win column after dropping 2 in a row against the Vernon Vipers tomorrow night.
The Merritt Centennials are set to host the Penticton Vees tonight, and are set to honor the Humboldt Broncos, First Responders, and long-time bus driver Steve Rose in a pre-game ceremony.
Puck drop will be at 7pm, but fans and families are encouraged to come out early from 6pm onward to check out the team bus, first responder vehicles, and Toby Forrest's Humboldt Broncos themed local stock car. The first fans to enter the NVMA will be treated to Humboldt Strong stickers as they last, can get a first look at a Humboldt Broncos jersey that will be available through a raffle all season, and can bid on a Centennials team signed stick.
There is also a hockey game going on and the Centennials hope to get back in the win column against a struggling Penticton Vees club. The Cents sit tied for first in the Interior with a 4-3 record, while the Vees sit 7th at 2-3. The Cents last outing was a loss in their BCHL Showcase finale to the Langley Rivermen. During that contest they ran into a hot goaltender, and some bad puck luck as shots destined for the back of the net were hitting posts or pads, and glorious chances in the slot hopped over sticks. Despite goals from Nick Granowicz and Christian Sabin, the Cents were overcome 4-2 and had their win streak halted at 4 in a row.
Last season the Cents couldn't muster a win over the Vees as despite many close games, and games in which they led, they went 0-6. The biggest loss came at the SOEC where the Cents faltered 4-1, but the Vees and Cents skated to 3 one goal contests last year.
The perennial contender Penticton Vees are off to their worst start in 9 years dating all the way back to their 2010-11 season where they started 3-3. The Vees started the season going 1-2 on the Island road swing with a season opening loss to Langley, followed by a win against Cowichan, but finished with a loss against Victoria. They followed that up with a split at the Showcase topping Surrey 4-1, and falling to Prince George in their most recent contest 3-2. Along with being at the bottom of the Interior Division, the Vees are also at the bottom of the league in terms of scoring with 15 goals for, however, they have played 2 fewer games than the Cents. Penticton has made some moves this week looking to get more experience in the lineup: they acquired Andre Ghantous from the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for Ryan Miotto, Henry Shreifels and future considerations, and they also added Brendan Harrogate from the OHL. Ghantous provided 44 points in 58 games played last season while Harrogate had 25 points in 54 games played for the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL.
Leading the way for the Cents this season are 2nd year forwards Brad Cocca, Mathieu Gosselin and Matthew Kopperud. Cocca seems to be the set up man on the Cents second line with 1 goal and 8 assists while Gosselin is the finisher with 5 goals and 3 assists. Kopperud is fresh off a commitment to Arizona State University and the Sun Devils, and has anchored the third line but also enjoyed his time on the powerplay for 4 goals and 4 assists. Newcomer Nick Granowicz has been a welcome addition with 3 goals and 5 assists and appears to be adjusting to the BCHL game. All told the Centennials has 6 skaters scoring at a point-per-game pace when you add in Brendan Schneider and Nick Wicks.
The Vees have gotten a solid return in off-season acquisition David Silye: he leads the team in points with 9. He's complimented by Ryan Sandelin with 5 points and Lukas Sillinger, James Miller, and Mason Snell who all have 4.
The Centennials have started to improve in their special teams numbers, and they'll have some company in the Penticton Vees in looking to continue to improve. The Cents and Vees are tied on the powerplay conversion rate at 13.6% and sit at 11 and 12. The Penalty kill sees the Cents with the advantage at 12th in the league with 78.3% while the Vees are 15th with a 75% kill rate.
The goaltending battle leaves both teams wanting a little bit more. Austin Roden has the most wins out of both teams with a 4-1 record a 3.64 GAA and a .885 SV%. Vincent Duplessis is 0-2 but sports the same save percentage as his teammate at .885 SV% and a 4.03 GAA. The Vees have leaned on newcomer Jack Lafontaine so far between the pipes as he's started 4 of 5 games, but sits at 2-2 with a 2.77 GAA and a .883 SV%. Derek Krall is 0-1 with an .800 SV% and a 4.10 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin says that maintaining the high level of play the Cents have started with will be key to topping the Vees.
"Right now we're playing good hockey... We just have to at least match what we've been doing lately and we'll have a good chance."
The Cents will hope for more good hockey, and another good result tonight versus the Penticton Vees.
Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and online at q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Centennials announced today that forward Matthew Kopperud has earned himself a commitment from the Arizona State University Sun Devils.
Kopperud is in his second year with the Merritt Centennials and has found some early success scoring 4 goals and adding 4 assists through 7 games. Last season he compiled 9 goals and 8 assists over 40 games played. Before joining the Centennials Kopperud spent time with the Pursuit of Excellence program in the CSSHL and scored at a rate of 1.20 points-per-game.
Head Coach and General Manager says that despite the early success this year, this pact has been a couple years in the making.
"It goes back a couple years for Matt, he's slowly gotten to know their staff. They've kept on him and done their homework, and Matt's had a great start to the season, a really good summer, and has taken advantage of the ice time given to him. So it might seem quick, seem like it came out of nowhere, but they've had their eye on him for quite a while."
Kopperud will join Cents alumnus Jake Clifford as the only other Cent to date that has committed to Arizona State.
The Merritt Centennials have completed a trade with the Nipawin Hawks of the SJHL.
The Cents have sent defenseman Colten Gerlib to the Hawks in exchange for future considerations. Colten Gerlib tallied 12 points in 44 games last season, and was held off the score sheet in 2 contests this year. Gerlib was acquired by the Centennials last season before the BCHL Showcase, and has spent time with the Surrey Eagles and Tri-City Americans of the WHL in his junior career.
The Centennials continue the regular season without Gerlib on Friday night against the Penticton Vees.
The Merritt Centennials couldn't convert with regularity on the powerplay and fell to the Langley Rivermen 4-2.
The first period started with a couple chances with the extra man for the Rivermen, and they converted on their second attempt with Mattias Dal Monte in the box for hooking. Ethan Leyh was able to beat Vincent Duplessis down low for the first goal of the game, and the Rivermen would add another just over 30 seconds later when Trevor Ayre converted a centering feed. The Cents then got 4 opportunities with the extra man, but couldn't convert any chances across the goal line. A big part of that was the play of Braedon Fleming in net who stopped 12 in the first to Duplessis' 6.
The Cents wouldn't find the score sheet until late in the second period where they converted their lone powerplay marker of the night. Nic Granowicz powered in solo on the right side, dipped below the goal line, then shot out front of the net and made a move backhand to beat Fleming over the blocker-side. Christian Sabin then evened the score at 2 when he poked the puck across the goal line in a crazy scramble in front. After 2, the teams were tied at 2.
Heading into the third the penalty pendulum started to swing back and forth, Langley went off, then Merritt, then Langley again. Ultimately, the go-ahead goal came 4-on-4 when Carter Stephenson skated from the defensive end to the right circle uncontested then dropped a pass for Ethan Leyh who ripped one top corner over the blocker of Duplessis to make it 3-2. The Cents were looking for the equalizer late with Leduc in the box for Langley, but despite having the goalie pulled to make it a two man advantage the Cents were outworked by Tanner Versluis who scored an empty net short handed goal to ice the game 4-2.
In the end, the Centennials went 1/10 on the powerplay while the Rivermen went 1/8. Duplessis made 25 saves on 28 shots, and the Cents fell for the first time in 5 games to see their win streak halted at 4.
The post-game was so busy with chats with scouts that coaches were unavailable for comment.
Next game will be a home contest against the Penticton Vees on Sept. 28th at 7pm. It's Humboldt Night, and the Cents will be honoring the Humboldt Broncos by raising a banner, and paying tribute to Nicola Valley first responders.