Merritt Centennials
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The Merritt Centennials ended September on a high note, and look to continue that momentum into October as the Spruce Kings come to town. 

The Cents will face a team that's already gotten the better of them once this season. The Spruce Kings were able to come back and top the Cents at the BCHL Showcase just a week ago. The Centennials learnt some lessons over that showcase, and started to get some chemistry going that has paid off in this homestand where they're starting to find the offensive side of their game. It's paid off on this homestand as Colten Gerlib, Alex Bourhas, Matthieu Gosselin, and Ashton Stockie have all gotten their first goals of the season and now know what it takes to score in the BCHL.

The 2-1 win over the Surrey Eagles on Wednesday saw the Centennials finally get a goal on the powerplay, and they carried that into yesterday's game against the Cowichan Valley Capitals where they went 4/11 on the powerplay. The team finally seems like they have a set plan on the powerplay, and even on powerplay attemptswhere they didn't score the Cents had good puck possession and good puck retrieval. 

The Prince George Spruce Kings still remain first in the Mainland Division with 11 points and a 5-2-0-1 record, but since playing the Centennials at the Showcase they were shut out by the Victoria Grizzlies 5-0, they lost to the Surrey Eagles 4-1 on Friday night, and beat the lowly Coquitlam Express last night 5-3. The Spruce Kings are back to their winning ways coming into the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, but since the last time these two teams met the Spruce Kings have come down to earth a little bit. 

After the offensive output, and strong defensive play throughout the season, the Centennials are working back towards an even goals for and goals against differential. Defensively, the teams are similar, with the Spruce Kings only allowing one less goal this season. 

The Cents are also buoyed by the play of Jake Berger. He came into action in relief for Vincent Duplessis during the game against the Surrey Eagles, and didn't allow a goal, and only allowed a single goal last night to improve his numbers yet again. His save percentage is now above 90% and his goals against average is just over 3. He will need to continue to be solid as the Spruce KIngs present the stiffest test so far on this homestand. 

Looking ahead to the matchup this afternoon, Head Coach Joe Martin says that Prince George does a number of things well.

"They're big up front, they can move pucks well from the back end, and they can attack off the rush, so if we're not good positionally,and we're not putting pucks in the offensive zone we will be on our heels."

Puck drop is at 2pm this afternoon, with Jared Thomas and the Pre Game starting at 6:45. Listen live at 101.1 FM, stream us online at q101.ca, or download the Q101 Merritt app on your mobile device. 

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The Cowichan Valley Capitals came into town on the heels of an 11-1 defeat against the Wenatchee Wild hoping to change their fortunes, but the Centennials got to the Capitals early and often as they ended up getting their biggest offensive output of the season 7-1. 

Along with being a battle between two teams that were on the bottom of their respective divisions, it was a battle between brothers as Matthieu Gosselin of the Centennials was facing off against his older brother Raphael Gosselin of the Capitals. It was Raphael who went to the box at 1:42 of the first period, and the Centennials were able to get on the board on the powerplay for their second time of the season, and first time of the game. Henry Cleghorn got the party at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena started after Colten Gerlib held at the left side line, rung it around the back of the net to Zach Zorn who played it out front to Cleghorn who put it past Yann Derry of the Capitals for the first goal on the night.

2 minutes later the Centennials got on the board again, this time it was Jack Vincent who got a pass from Nick Wicks down low on the right side of net, he made a spin move with a backhand on net, it ended up deflecting in front and getting past Derry for the second on the night.

At the 7:03 mark, Joey Berkopec went to the box for interference, on a play 200 feet from his own net, and the Capitals were able to cut the lead to one on the powerplay. 

From that point on it was all Cents on the scoreboard. Nick Wicks got a goal on the second powerplay opportunity for the Cents at the 8:23 mark after a scramble in front of Derry. Nick Wicks got two kicks at the goal, the first was stopped, te second rippled the twine past Derry, and the score was 3-1 after 20 minutes of play. 

The second period started where the Cents left off offensively with Alex Bourhas pushing the puck past the line after a point shot from Tyrell Buckley caused all kinds of havoc in front, it bounced around the slot with Cleghorn and Zorn getting in on the assists. Alex Bourhas scored his first in the BCHL and first of the season, with his dad watching on from the stands, after making the trip across the country from Montreal.

Zach Zorn added a second goal in the second period shorthanded after Henry Cleghorn got out of the box when the Cents were down 2 men. Cleghorn skated on to the puck and took it to the left side corner and drew 4 Capitals to him before feeding a wide open Zach Zorn in front who made no mistake.

The third period was quiet until the 13:50 mark when the Capitals were in a midst of a parade to the penalty box, Matthieu Gosselin unloaded a cannon of a slapshot going top corner over the glove of Derry for his first in the BCHL. He wasn't the last Cents to get the monkey off his back as Ashton Stockie got the final goal of the night at the 16:12 mark, and was probably the best Centennial on the team who hadn't found the scoresheet yet in the game.  

It was a full team effort, and the offense is finally firing on all cylinders with chemistry starting to develop throughout the lineup. 

Coach Joe Martin credits the preparation, and early start with the win. 

"I think we were prepared, and ready to play tonight and had a good start to the hockey game."

They'll need a good start and a strong finish to get past the Mainland Division leading Prince George Spruce Kings Sunday afternoon at 2pm on Q101. 

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The Cents have won their first game of the season, after defeating the Surrey Eagles 2-1 on wednesday night, courtesy some late game heroics and a powerplay goal from former Surrey Eagle Colten Gerlib. However, this matchup is a battle of two teams who are still in the basement of their respective divisions. The Cents are looking to continue their trend upward, and the Capitals have their only win against the lowly Coquitlam Express who, after the Cents win the other night, are now the only team in the BCHL without a win.

There will be a familiar face on the other side of the ice for one Centennial, as the Capitals acquired Raphael Gosselin from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, if that name sounds familiar it’s because his younger brother Matthieu is playing for the Centennials. Both played for the Champlain St. Lawrence Lions before moving to Junior A hockey this year, but it was younger brother and Centennial Matthieu who led the team in scoring, followed by his brother.

Cowichan is coming off their biggest loss of the season, 11-1 at the hands of the Wenatchee Wild, while the Cents are coming off their first win. The Capitals have scored 5 more goals than the Centennials over the season, but their defensive play isn’t nearly as good as 3 times already this season they’ve allowed over 8 goals or more. By comparison the Centennials have only allowed 5 goals once, and their biggest losses on the year have only been by 2 goals.

Cowichan is also 0-2 on the road to start the year, with only 2 goals scored in each game, and while the Centennial home record isn’t sparkling they’ve been competitive in every game in front of the fans at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. It’s a great opportunity for the Cents to continue their momentum, and Coach Joe Martin hopes that the Cents learnt from their last game.

“We shortened the bench late in the game to hang on, and I hope that the players learnt from watching and when we have a similar situation down the road we can use more of our bench.”

Puck Drop is at 7pm tonight, and the Pre Game Show starts at 6:45 with Jared Thomas. You listen to 101.1 FM, stream us online, or get the Q101 Merritt App.

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For the first time since game 6 of the playoffs last spring, the Cents can call themselves winners in a game that matters. 

The win came over the struggling Surrey Eagles, whose losing streak extends to 5 games. In a game that saw a lot of ups and downs, the Cents came out on top by a score of 2-1. Offense was hard to come by, but the Cents managed to get one more than their opponent in the lone game on a wednesday night on the BCHL schedule. 

The first period started with a powerplay goal for the Eagles. At the 8:15 mark just as a penalty was about to expire to Joey Berkopec, the captain for the Eagles Jordan Robert got a puck past Vincent Duplessis after he kicked out a rebound to the slot. For Duplessis, it was his second start of the season, and first at home, as he last saw action against the West Kelowna Warriors in a 3-1 loss. 

It didn't take long for the Centennials to answer, as 3 minutes later Sam Miller came out of the far side corner and threaded a beautiful outlet saucer pass over the sticks of a couple Eagles' players on to the tape of Matthieu Gosselin on the right wing, who gained the line, and fed a streaking Chase Bell on the left side who ripped his second goal of the season low glove on Alex Horawski who got the start for the Eagles. 

That's how the teams would skate into the second period, where there wasn't much to report except an early injury to the starting goaltender Duplessis for the Cents. He ended up falling awkwardly after a centering feed from the Eagles came into the goal mouth and an Eagles forward made contact with him. Jake Berger would come into the game in relief, and didn't allow a goal for the remainder of the second period, but neither did the Eagles netminder as it went to the 3rd period in a 1-1 draw. 

In the third, the Cents killed off two penalties of their own before they finally got a chance on the powerplay at 14:13 with Jeffrey Stewart in the box for boarding after a dangerous hit on Jack Vincent behind the Eagles net. The Centennials had yet to convert on a powerplay so far this season, but Colten Gerlib, who played for the Eagles last season, provided the first powerplay goal of the season, and more importantly the first game winning goal of the season. Tyrell Buckley worked it up to Henry Cleghorn found Gerlib on the right side with a bit of room, and Gerlib fired a quick wrister upstairs over the shoulder of Horawski to make it 2-1 the eventual final. 

After the game, Coach Joe Martin said of the game winning powerplay goal, 

"As long as it was the game winner, I don't care if it was on the powerplay, shorthanded. We could go 0 for 100, as long as we get the win."

They'll hope the next win comes as early as this saturday night when the Cowichan Valley Capitals visit the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena for a 7pm puck drop.  

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The BCHL Showcase is in the rearview mirror, and both teams had aspects to their games that improved, but both would like to forget the week that was as neither team was able to come away with a win. The Cents still search for their first win of the season, and the Eagles are looking for their first win since their first game of the season. They haven’t managed to be on the right side of the scoreboard since an overtime win against the Langley Rivermen 5-4 on opening night. The next matchup the Eagles skated to a tie, but since then have only known defeat. Four times in a row to be exact, but they have company in that regard as the Cents are one of two teams in the league who haven’t known the taste of victory.

However, looking a little deeper at the numbers, these teams are pretty similar. Both Surrey and Merritt have the same goals for through 6 games that being 12, and Merritt actually holds the edge in goals against over Surrey. The Cents have surrendered 22 goals over 6 games while the Eagles have allowed 25. 

Special teams remain a factor as the Eagles have drawn 41 penalties over 6 games which leads the league, and for a Centennials team that has had it’s share of penalty trouble they will need to be at their clean checking best. Surrey has only converted on 5 of those opportunities or 12.2%, but along with searching for a win the Cents will be searching for their first powerplay goal.

Last season Merritt swept the season series taking both games. An early season matchup in November at home 6-3, and then a late season thriller 3-2 in South Surrey.

One thing the Cents can feel good about is that they finally found the offensive side to their game. After only scoring one goal in week 2 against the Vipers and the Warriors, the Centennials were able to score 3 goals in each game against the Rivermen and the Spruce Kings. Now they just need to score one more than their opponent.

Pre Game starts at 6:45 and Puck drop is at 7 with Jared Thomas at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. If you can't make it to the game, you can always listen at 101.1 on the FM dial, stream from the website, or download the Q101 Merritt App. 

 

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