The Cents are looking for their first win of their 45th annual campaign as the Vernon Vipers come to town. So far the Centennials haven’t been able to overcome the Penticton Vees or the Wenatchee Wild, losing 4-2 and 5-3 respectively.
Discipline has been the biggest obstacle through two games for the Cents, as they’ve racked up a league leading amount of penalty minutes with 34. Head Coach Joe Martin says that his team needs to be better at recognizing what the referees are calling on the ice, and adjusting accordingly.
“A lot of that is in our hands to fix, they’re calling the right call, but we don’t have to put ourselves in those situations.”
Offensively the Cents have gotten contributions from some old and new players. Zach Zorn has had a goal in each game, Zach Court, and Tyrell Buckley are names you may recognize from returning players, but they’ve been helped out by newcomers: Jack Vincent, Alex Bourhas, Matthieu Gosselin, Brendan Schneider, and Ashton Stockie through two games.
The Vernon Vipers come into Merritt as the Interior Division leaders early in the season. They won both their games over last weekend in a double header against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and lead the division with 4 points. They posted 5-1 and 6-5 wins over the ‘Backs, and were led offensively by Jagger Williamson and Jesse Landsdell in game one. Williamson had a goal and two assists, while linemate Landsdell had two goals and one assist. In their second game, Jimmy Lambert put the team on his back tallying 5 points on 6 goals for the Vipers, 2 goals and 3 assists respectively, on his way to being named the BCHL Player of the Week. The offense for the Vipers is already humming, and the Cents will need to be at their tight checking best to mitigate the number of quality chances on their goaltender.
Coach Martin expects the Vipers to present the same challenge as the Vees and the Wild.
“They have a deep forward group, some veteran defenseman returning, and quality goaltending. They’re no different than the other two teams we’ve seen.”
In the season series last year, the Cents bested the Vipers by getting wins in four of the matches they played, with a tie, and one loss. If not for a game seven loss to the Penticton Vees in the playoffs last season, we could have been talking about a Cents & Vipers 3rd round series a year ago.
The Centennials didn’t drop a game on home ice to the Vipers last season, winning 4-1, 3-0, and a 3-3 tie. Jake Berger played phenomenal in all three contests stopping 114 of 118 shots for a sparkling .966 save percentage. If Berger is able to replicate that kind of success for tonight’s game, it will go a long way to the Cents earning their first win of the season.
Puck drop will be at 7pm at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena for the first of six contests between these two clubs. Remember if you can’t make it to the game, you can listen on the radio, online at Q101.ca, or on your mobile device with the Q101 Merritt app.
For the second time in two nights, the Merritt Centennials were in action, this time against the newcomers to the Interior Division and last years league leaders, the Wenatchee Wild.
The Cents appeared to learn their lesson from the night before against the Vees where they got down two goals early. They were skating with pace, and actually had the speedy Wenatchee Wild on their heels for the first 5 minutes of the game.
On a play that started in their own end, Mike Van Unen was able to collect the puck behind goaltender Jacob Berger, skate up the left side to his own blue line then laced a nice cross ice pass to new forward Mathieu Gosselin. Gosselin then blew passed his man at the Wild blue line, pulled the puck to his backhand and saucered a beauty centering feed right on to the stick of a streaking Jack Vincent who collected on his forehand made a quick move to the backhand and slid it five hole to make it 1-0 within the first 3 minutes.
Just a minute later at the 3:52 mark, Ashton Stockie gained the zone, and after a battle in the far side corner was able to slide it down the boards to winger Brendan Schneider. Schneider then started to skate behind the net, then threw out a nifty pass into the slot onto a waiting Zach Zorn's stick who sniped it from the left hashmark past an out strecthed Seth Eisele's left toe to make it 2-0.
Then just as in the game against the Vees, the penalty troubles began, and the Wild were able to crawl back into the game. The Cents went unscathed on the first minor penalty to Mike Van Unen, but when Jack Vincent went to the box for hooking at the 8:57 mark, Sam Morton of the Wild converted on the powerplay.
The woes continued when Mike Van Unen went back to the box for interference, and captain of the wild AJ Vanderbeck was able to score unassisted to tie the game up. Vanderbeck scored later in the period on a 5-on-3 powerplay with Court and Buckley in the box to put the Wild in the lead, and that's how the first would end. 3-2 for the Wenatchee Wild.
The second period of play saw some good chances for both sides. The Cents had some opportunities on the powerplay, but again were unable to convert. They ended up going 0/3 on the powerplay. Eisele made some key saves in the Wenatchee Wild net, and Berger stood tall through the full 20 minutes of the second.
The third started with the lone penalty going to the Wild, and the Cents had a glowing opportunity to tie the game, but couldn't make good on the powerplay. Then in the final ten minutes of play at the 13:56 mark, Jack Weatherby was able to convert on a turnover at the Cents blue line. He was fed in tight by Brady Bjork, and made a good move to get his stick around a sprawled out Berger, and that was the eventual game winner.
The Wild got an empty net goal in the final minute of play to make it 5-2, but with 20 seconds left the captain, Tyrell Buckley, ripped a shot from the line and it had eyes, finding it's way through traffic and through Eisele to make it the 5-3 final.
Eisele ended the game with 25 saves on 28 shots while Berger made 34 saves on 39 shots.
The next team to come to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena will be the Vernon Vipers on Friday, and then the Cents will go on the road for the first time this season to West Kelowna on Saturday.
The Merritt Centennials embarked on their 45th anniversary season by honoring one of the best Cents over the course of their history: Eddie Beers.
Despite the emotional raising of Beers' number 16 to the rafters, the Cents couldn't draw inspiration and came out in the first period flat footed.
It didn't take long for the Vees to capitalize as Rylan Van Unen had his pocket picked defensively by Cassidy Bowes who found a streaking Owen Sillinger on the partial 2-on-1, and Silinger was able to put the puck past an outstretched Berger to make it 1-0 at the 1:40 mark of the 1st.
Just 7 seconds later it was Sillinger's younger brother, Lukas who converted on a strange scramble in front of the net after an off angle shot from Ben Allen.
That prompted Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin to burn his time out, and give his team a tongue lashing. The Cents managed to steady the ship from there, but slowly started the march to the penalty box. Over the remainder of the first, the Cents went to the box 3 times without suffering any ill effects.
The Cents started the second period a lot better than the first and it was the current Centennial who wears Eddie Bears' number 16, Zach Court, who started the scoring. He got a feed from Joey Berkopec, and managed to snipe it top corner glove side on Nolan Hildebrand at the 2:09.
6 minutes later it was the other Zach on the team, that being Zach Zorn, who got the Cents back to even ground with the Vees, working up the short side he ripped a shot top corner blockerside, annihilating the water bottle over Hildebrand's shoulder.
After the Zorn goal, Ashton Stockie and a Sillinger marched off with coincidental minors for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the parade to the penalty box continued for the Cents. It was Court who was in the box when Jonny Tychonik wired in a point shot unassisted past Jacob Berger to restore the 1 goal lead.
The Vees rode that one goal lead all the way into the final minute of the 3rd period, where they got some late insurance on another bizarre goal, this time by Taylor Ward.
They ended up winning the game 4-2. The Cents were a little undisciplined in the game as they were shorthanded 8 times, but managed to kill 7 of them. However, they couldn't convert on the powerplay where they went 0/5. Berger played decently stopping 34/38 shots, and looked sharp throughout the contest.
Coach Martin said that discipline will be the name of the game come tomorrow night against Wenatchee.
"A lot of that is in our hands to fix, there's a lot of calls that don't have to be called."
The Cents will see if they can channel some discipline come Saturday night against the Wenatchee Wild. Puck drop at 7pm.
MERRITT CENTENNIALS 2017-18 RADIO BROADCAST SCHEDULE
|Friday, September 8||vs Penticton Vees||6:45|
|Saturday, September 9||vs Wenatchee Wild||6:45|
|Friday, September 15||vs Vernon Vipers||6:45|
|Saturday, September 16||@ West Kelowna||6:45|
|Thursday, September 21||@ Langley Rivermen (BCHL Showcase)||12:45|
|Friday, September 22||vs Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL Showcase)||9:45|
|Wednesday, September 27||vs Surrey Eagles||6:45|
|Saturday, September 30||vs Cowichan Valley Capitals||6:45|
|Sunday, October 1||vs Prince George Spruce Kings||1:45|
|Friday, October 6||@ Salmon Arm Silverbacks||6:45|
|Wednesday, October 11||@ Prince George Spruce Kings||6:45|
|Friday, October 13||vs Penticton Vees||6:45|
|Saturday, October 14||@ Wenatchee Wild||6:45|
|Wednesday, October 18||vs Chilliwack Chiefs||6:45|
|Friday, October 20||@ Penticton Vees||6:45|
|Saturday, October 21||@ Salmon Arm Silverbacks||6:45|
|Friday, October 27||vs Trail Smoke Eaters||6:45|
|Sunday, October 29||vs West Kelowna Warriors||1:45|
|Friday, November 3||@ Victoria Grizzlies||6:45|
|Saturday, November 4||@ Alberni Valley Bulldogs||6:45|
|Sunday, November 5||@ Surrey Eagles||3:45|
|Friday, November 10||@ Salmon Arm Silverbacks||6:45|
|Friday, November 17||vs Vernon Vipers||6:45|
|Saturday, November 18||vs Alberni Valley Bulldogs||6:45|
|Friday, November 24||@ West Kelowna Warriors||6:45|
|Saturday, November 25||vs Trail Smoke Eaters||6:45|
|Friday, December 1||vs West Kelowna Warriors||6:45|
|Saturday, December 2||@ Trail Smoke Eaters||6:45|
|Friday, December 8||vs Wenatchee Wild||6:45|
|Saturday, December 9||vs Salmon Arm Silverbacks||6:45|
|Tuesday, December 12||@ Trail Smoke Eaters||6:45|
|Friday, December 15||@ Vernon Vipers||6:45|
|Sunday, December 17||vs Nanaimo Clippers||1:45|
|BCHL HOLIDAY BREAK|
|Friday, December 29||vs Coquitlam Express||6:45|
|Wednesday, January 3||@ Coquitlam Express||6:45|
|Friday, January 5||@ Vernon Vipers||6:45|
|Saturday, January 6||vs Salmon Arm Silverbacks||6:45|
|Wednesday, January 10||@ Penticton Vees||6:45|
|Friday, January 12||vs Vernon Vipers||6:45|
|Saturday, January 13||@ Trail Smoke Eaters||6:45|
|Tuesday, January 16||vs Wenatchee Wild||6:45|
|Friday, January 19||@ Penticton Vees||6:45|
|Saturday, January 20||vs Powell River Kings||6:45|
|Friday, January 26||@ Wenatchee Wild||6:45|
|Saturday, January 27||@ Wenatchee Wild||6:45|
|Wednesday, January 31||@ Vernon Vipers||6:45|
|Friday, February 2||vs Penticton Vees||6:45|
|Saturday, February 3||@ West Kelowna||6:45|
|Friday, February 9||@ Powell River Kings||7:00|
|Saturday, February 10||@ Alberni Valley Bulldogs||5:45|
|Sunday, February 11||@ Cowichan Valley Capitals||1:45|
|Wednesday, February 14||vs Langley Rivermen||6:45|
|Friday, February 16||@ Chilliwack Chiefs||6:45|
|Saturday, February 17||vs Salmon Arm Silverbacks||6:45|
|Sunday, February 18||vs Victoria Grizzlies||1:45|
|Tuesday, February 20||vs Trail Smoke Eaters||6:45|
|Friday, February 23||vs West Kelowna||6:45|
|Saturday, February 24||@ Langley Rivermen||6:45|