(Photo credit – Garrett James)
The Cents 2019-20 season can be told as a tale of two, or even three, d-cores.
Gone from the opening day roster are veterans Joey Berkopec to Coquitlam, and Olson Werenka to the AJHL. Offseason acquisition Troy Quinn wasn’t long for Merritt and rookie Colton Sun was dealt as well.
Mid-season pickups like Doug Scott have come and gone, and the young Tyson Galloway is back in the WHL.
In their place has come Merritt local Chase Cooke, along with fellow rookie Brody Johnston and the WHL’s Braydon Clark. Not to mention a gaggle of APs that have been called up along the way.
Throughout it all two men on the back end have stood tall, Talon Zakal and the subject of this week’s Five (more like 10) Good Minutes, Brophy Dunne.
The big defenceman discussed the change in his role and some lessons he learned from the departed veterans.
“It was a big step. It’s what every rookie wants, to play the big minutes, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job of doing it,” said Brophy. “I’m making sure I take in some of what Joey and Olson did, the energy players on the back end. That’s my role and that’s what I’m going to stick to. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
“Me and Joey had a really tight connection, even before I made the team at camp. He was telling me what junior hockey is like and what you need to do. He always told me if you have a bad shift you have to make sure to don’t dwell on it. You have to have a way better follow-up shift,” said Brophy. “We had a really tight bond; we were brothers and it was sad to see him go.”
As for the new defensive unit, Brophy likes how they’re trending.
“The d-core, we’re young, we’re fighting in there. Brody has been great for us. Chase, probably the hardest worker I’ve ever met in my life. He and Talon make a great pair” added Brophy. “We may be young, but I feel like we fit the league perfectly.”
Thanks to the massive turnover, Brophy has gone from a 5/6 defenceman to a top pairing blueline stalwart playing huge minutes and every situation. For most of the year, he has been eating major minutes on the Cents penalty kill, a role he enjoys, but recently he’s even found himself patrolling the point on the power play.
“Derek believes in me at the top, making the plays and getting my shot through,” began Brophy. “When I get a chance of the power play, I try to make an impression so I can stay out there. Try to get a puck in the net.”
If you look at the stats sheet Brophy still has a 0 in the goal’s column, but you don’t have to tell him that…his parents have it covered.
“I’m waiting for it. I’ve talked with my parents and they’re making fun of me for not scoring,” joked Brophy. “It’s going to happen soon, I’m feeling it. I’ve been feeling it for about a month though, so we don’t know”
Brophy continues the hunt for that first goal and a big team win tonight in Penticton. Catch the pregame right here on Q101 at 6:45 with Jared Thomas.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt
The Merritt Centennials had the best performance on the powerplay of 2020, but the 2/7 performance wasn’t enough to get past the Trail Smoke Eaters as they fell 4-3 in regulation.
The Cents turned in a dominant first period performance on the strength of 5 powerplay opportunities, but they were only able to cash in on one of them as Chase Nameth poked it across the line after a Daniel Tkac shot during a goal mouth scramble. The Cents were outshooting the Smoke Eaters 17-3 before they made a push late in the frame. A point shot from Cody Schiavon got through the crowd to beat Emergency back up Blake Pilon to make it 1-1, and then Diarmad Dimurro would score on a back door feed with 8 seconds remaining to make it 2-1 Trail before the buzzer. Shots after 1 were 17-6 Cents.
The second period saw the Smoke Eaters quickly get out to a two goal edge with Michael Collela sniping a shot blocker side to make it 3-1. Chase Nameth was able to quickly score again on the PP after a set up by Buono and Orchard to bring the Cents within one. Once again with the period getting late the Smoke Eaters would restore the two goal lead with a play off the faceoff to make it 4-2. Shots after 2 were 29-22.
Evan Benwell scored his second goal in as many nights, cashing in on a rebound off a Brody Johnston point shot. It was the young Johnston’s second point in as many nights as well. That brought the Cents back within 1 4-3, but that is as close as they would come. Net empty they weren’t able to get the equalizer late. Final Shots were 38-36 Cents.
After the game, Assistant Coach Paul Barnes said the Cents had their best night on the powerplay, but if it had been slightly better the game may have been different.
“We had the powerplays in the first, but could only get the one goal. If we get another one, especially with those 5-on-3’s it may have changed the course of the game.”
After a West Kelowna win in the shootout, the Cents now trail the Warriors by 5 points for the final playoff spot in the league.
The Merritt Centennials (10-30-1-3) take the road to Trail for the final time this season to face the Smoke Eaters (28-14-2-1) tonight.
The Cents had a rough ride last night in Penticton where they were able to skate with the Vees for the first 20 minutes of hockey, but a 6 goal 2nd period led to a 9-1 route against the top team in the Interior.
In the first period the teams were evenly matched, but skill was on display. Top prospect Danny Weight took on the Cents defense 1-on-4 and dangled out the other side, then fired one tweener up and over the shoulder of Marshall to open the scoring 1-0. Evan Benwell was able to answer for the Centennials late in the frame with a slick move of his own, breaking in all alone, he faked forehand, pulled backhand and popped It over the shoulder of Stankowski to make it 1-1.
The Vees exploded for offense in the 2nd period. Bulging the twine 6 times to lead 7-1, they got goals from Jay O’Brien, David Silye, Jackson Niedermayer, another from O’Brien, Tristan Amonte, and Jack Barnes. The Cents found themselves behind 2 just 3:30 into the second, and had an opportunity on the PP at the 5:30. They were unable to score with the man advantage, and even with a time out couldn’t turn the tide of momentum that the Vees had seized. The game slipped away there, and never really came back.
Local Merrittonian Bryce Garcia started the third with Tanner Marshall leaving the ice with injury. He was able to hold his own stopping 11/13 and was only beaten by goals in the final minute. The Vees were able to add a couple late, one of them coming off a Centennials skate for an own goal to make it a 9-1 final. Add to that the fact that the Cents may have lost Tanner Marshall and Braydon Clark to injury, with Talon Zakall also taking to the ice gingerly this game doesn’t look to rosy.
The Smoke Eaters are coming off a 5-1 win against the Vernon Vipers where they had the big guns firing. Kent Johnson scored a pair of goals, Captain Phillipe Lapointe, Carson Briere, and Michael Collela added the others to come away with the victory.
Your memory doesn’t have to be great to remember the hard fought 6-4 loss the Centennials suffered on Tuesday. Getting goals from Torzsok, Nameth, Van Unen, and Orchard – the offense wasn’t enough to get past the high flying Smoke Eaters and former Cent Matt Osadick put the nail in the coffin with the late empty netter. The season series now sits 0-5 for the Cents with them looking to pick up one win in Trail before the Smoke Eaters will visit on the last home date of the year.
The Cents are still looking for the top of their lineup to contribute more. Christian Buono is stalled on 30 points, Payton Matsui has 28, and Daniel Tkac despite having 3 breakaways last night is still sitting at 24.
The Smoke Eaters have the 3 hottest hands in the BCHL. Kent Johnson has 83, Michael Collela has 53, and Owen Ozar has 55.
The special teams battle sees the Cents looking to get back to converting on the PP a night after going 0/7.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents -10.3% (17th) Cents – 73.4% (17th)
Trail – 24.4% (3rd) Trail – 86.2% (3rd)
The battle in the blue paint has become a little muddy for the Merritt Centennials. Tanner Marshall may be down with injury and the Cents will be either hoping for a miracle recovery, turning to emergency backup Bryce Garcia, or bringing in an affiliate.
The Smoke Eaters have young tender Logan Terness at their disposal as well as Matteo Paler-Chow. Terness is 21-8-2 with a .930 SV% and a 2.44 GAA. Paler-Chow is 10-10 with a .882 SV% and a 3.53 GAA.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter is hoping the Cents can replicate the effort they showed last time in Trail.
“If we can battle like we did on Tuesday. I think we will have a better result.”
The Cents will hope to battle their way to some points tonight.
Puck drop 7pm. Pre-game 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas.
The Cents were able to skate with the Vees for the first 20 minutes of hockey, but a 6 goal 2nd period led to a 9-1 route against the top team in the Interior.
In the first period the teams were evenly matched, but skill was on display. Top prospect Danny Weight took on the Cents defense 1-on-4 and dangled out the other side, then fired one tweener up and over the shoulder of Marshall to open the scoring 1-0. Evan Benwell was able to answer for the Centennials late in the frame with a slick move of his own, breaking in all alone, he faked forehand, pulled backhand and popped It over the shoulder of Stankowski to make it 1-1. Shots after 1 were 15-11 Vees.
The Vees exploded for offense in the 2nd period. Bulging the twine 6 times to lead 7-1, they got goals from Jay O’Brien, David Silye, Jackson Niedermayer, another from O’Brien, Tristan Amonte, and Jack Barnes. The Cents found themselves behind 2 just 3:30 into the second, and had an opportunity on the PP at the 5:30. They were unable to score with the man advantage, and even with a time out couldn’t turn the tide of momentum that the Vees had seized. The game slipped away there, and never really came back. Shots after 2 were 33-17.
Local Merrittonian Bryce Garcia started the third with Tanner Marshall leaving the ice with injury. He was able to hold his own stopping 11/13 and was only beaten by goals in the final minute. The Vees were able to add a couple late, one of them coming off a Centennials skate for an own goal to make it a 9-1 final. Final Shots were 46-29 Penticton. The Cents went 0/7 with the extra man, but held the Vees to one goal on 5 powerplay opportunities.
After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter said the Cents just couldn’t slow down the Vees momentum.
“You could feel the game starting to turn. I tried to call a time out to slow the game down, but the Vees could smell blood in the water and came at us hard.”
The Cents will look for a better fate tomorrow night in Trail.
The Merritt Centennials (10-29-1-3) take on division rivals the Penticton Vees (33-11-1-1) tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a hard fought loss to the Trail Smoke Eaters on Tuesday where they were in it until the final buzzer. 2 forwards short of a full deck, and with 2 defensive APs in the lineup, the team was able to take one of the best teams in the Interior Division down to the wire. Despite being down by 2 goals heading into the second frame, the Cents battled back with Torzsok scoring the first PP goal of 2020, and Nameth sniping top corner to make it 3-2 after 2. Captain Rylan Van Unen led by example in the third and tied the game up early on. The Smoke Eaters were able to get a two goal swing in the middle of the period with one of the goals being of the own goal variety to make it 5-3, but Jerzy Orchard answered right back to keep the Cents in it 5-4. Former Cent Matt Osadick scored the empty netter to ice the game and make it a 6-4 final. Tanner Marshall gave his team a chance to win stopping 40 of 45 shots.
The Penticton Vees come into this one pretty hot, and are feeling good about their play in the new year as they've gone 6-1 to start the year, and are 4-1 in their last 5. On Wednesday they were able to squeak by the Vipers in overtime 2-1, and split a double header against the Trail Smoke Eaters winning 5-1, and falling 4-3 Before that they piced up a 3-1 win versus Langley, and an 8-4 drubbing of the Victoria Grizzlies. Surprisingly, the 4 goals against from Victoria is the high water mark of the new year, the Vees have used solid team defense to keep opponents to 3 or less for the remainder of games and have held their opponents to just a goal in 4 of those contests. Offense will be hard to come by for the Cents if they're not willing to work for it and go to the dirty areas.
The season series sits 4-0 in favour of Penticton. The Cents have lost 7-3, 4-1, and 4-1 at home and in the lone contest in Penticton to date lost 5-0. In the season series, they've been outmanned 20-5. The Cents will need to bring the effort that we saw earlier in the week against the Smoke Eaters to stand their own in hostile territory.
The Cents need their top scorers to come through. Christian Buono leads the team with 30 points, Payton Matsui has 27, and Daniel Tkac if he's healthy has 24.
The Vees have solid team defense, but they also have a score by committee approach up front. Captain David Silye and Jay O'Brien lead the team with 48 points while Lukas Sillinger has 47, and top prospect Danny Weight has 45.
The special teams battle sees the Cents trying to build off their first goal with the extra man in 2020.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 10.4% (17th) Cents - 73.1% (17th)
Vees - 19.7% (6th) Vees - 82.6% (7th)
The goaltending duel sees Marshall as the go to guy, with the Centennials forced into an emergency back up situation with Winter on the shelf. Merritt's Bryce Garcia will be waiting in the wings should Marshall get hurt, but Marshall is 6-16 with an .883 SV% and a 4.75 GAA.
The Vees have got one of the best goaltenders in the BCHL in their back pocket. Yaniv Perets is 19-7-1 with a .916 SV% a 2.20 GAA and a league high 5 shutouts. Carl Stankowski is 9-3 with a .908 SV% and a 2.12 GAA.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says if the Cents bring the kind of effort they did the last time out they won't be on the outside looking in.
"The guys really gave a great effort against the Smoke Eaters and you love to see that battle. If they keep bringing that battle, they'll start seeing results."
The Cents are looking forward to their first win of 2020.
Puck drop 7pm. Pre-game 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas.