Merritt Centennials
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The Merritt Centennials survived an up and down game, but came out on top in the end against the Trail Smoke Eaters 6-4.

The first period started with the Smokies converting on the powerplay on a long shot from Trevor Zins through the crowd. Brendan Schneider tied it up with a deflection of a Mike Van Unen point shot to tie the game 1-1. Owen Ozar regained the lead for Trail after Jaydon Fetter blew a tire as he crossed the blue line, gave it up to Carter Jones, and despite Austin Roden making the initial save the net was empty for Ozar to make it 2-1 after one. Shots were just 9-8 after the first period, and Roden made 7 saves.

The second period started a little stronger for the Centennials as they converted on the powerplay early. Mathieu Gosselin delivered a slap pass on the tape, back door for Nick Granowicz who put it home to tie the game at 2's. For Granowicz it was the goal that brought him to the 30-goal plateau. The Smokies would restore their lead on a powerplay of their own with Braeden Tuck finding a hole through the crowd to make it 3-2. Matt Kopperud would tie the game with a seeing-eye shot from beside the net, that got through Donovan Buskey and tied the game at 3. Shots after 2 were 19-18 in favour of the Smoke Eaters.

In the final frame, the Cents came to play and got an early goal from Payton Matsui off a deflection from a Talon Zakall point shot to make it 4-3 giving the Cents their first lead of the game. Chase Stevenson would level the game catching Roden cheating off the post short side. The Cents got a powerplay midway through the 3rd period, and Nick Granowicz found a soft spot in the high slot, received the feed from Nick Wicks, and sniped one glove side on Buskey to give the Cents the 5-4 lead. Nick Wicks would ice the game with an empty netter in the final minute to make it 6-4.

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said it definitely had a playoff atmosphere.

"It started with the crowd, it finished with our play. We took hits, we converted on the powerplay, and we picked up the win."

The Cents picked up their 2nd win in a row, and go 2 for 2 on the weekend. Next up the West Kelowna Warriors on Tuesday night.

ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Joey Berkopec 2 PIMs

3rd Star: Trevor Zins 1G 1A

2nd Star: Mathieu Gosselin 0G 2A

1st Star: Nick Granowicz 2G 0A

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The Merritt Centennials (42-15-4-3) get set for another Interior Division Showdown against the Trail Smoke Eaters (22-23-7-3) tonight. 

The Centennials are riding high after picking up their first win against the Penticton Vees in nearly two years last night. The Cents got a first period goal from Daniel Tkac after he stripped a defender and then ripped a wrist shot blocker-side on Jack LaFontaine to make it 1-0. The Cents would add some offense in the second on the rare penalty shot. Rylan Van Unen was hauled down as he went to the net, and took the defender, himself, and LaFontaine for a ride into the end boards. LaFontaine looked hurt on the play, but elected to stay in for the penalty shot. Van Unen showed him no mercy coming in with speed on the right side before making quick moves across the crease, finishing forehand and putting it over the blocker of LaFontaine for the 2-0 lead. LaFontaine would be replaced by Derek Krall shortly thereafter. The Vees got on the board off a lucky bounce, but Nick Granowicz regained the two goal lead before the end of the period with a nifty move in tight to make it 3-1 after 2. The Cents tallied early in the third period on the powerplay as Matt Kopperud and Jackson Munro played give and go before Kopperud deked backhand and upstairs to make it 4-1. The Vees then came at the Cents hard throwing 30 shots on net in the third period alone, but Austin Roden with the help of the defense, and some timely posts was able to hold the Vees to just one goal and the Cents hung on for the 4-2 win. Roden made 53/55 saves in the first star effort. 

The Trail Smoke Eaters are riding a bit of a high themselves, coming in on a three game win streak that included an overtime victory against Penticton on Wednesday. Trails most recent win came against the Langley Rivermen last night 4-2, young gun Kent Johnson scored two goals in the first period to set the Smokies up well moving forward. Dafoe and Jones added goals for Trail as they overcame some rough stuff against the Rivermen to win. 

The season series between the two clubs sits at 3-0-2 for the Cents with both losses coming in overtime, one in the shootout. The most recent game in Trail saw the teams get early goals in the first with Brendan Schneider and Brett Roloson scoring for the Cents to make it 2-2 after one. Then the teams were starved for offense all the way until the final horn, when OT solved nothing the teams went to the shootout and it was Kent Johnson who sealed the victory for Trail with a deadly move to give them the 3-2 edge. 

Brad Cocca should have gotten an assist last night on the Granowicz goal, but has yet to get credit so remains at 62 points. Nick Granowicz is now on the precipice of the 30 goal plateau with 29, and 55 points for 17th league-wide, and Nick Wicks is tied for 20th at 54 points. 

The Smoke Eaters are led by Carter Jones with 51 points, Chase Stevenson has 49 points, and rookie Kent Johnson has 44 points. 

The special teams battle sees Trail with one of the top powerplays. 

Powerplay                                    Penalty Kill:

Trail - 22.2% (4th)                        Trail - 78.3% (11th)

Cents - 18.6% (13th)                   Cents - 77.5% (12th)

In net Austin Roden is coming off a first star performance with 53/55 saves. He's now 23-8-3 with a .909 SV%, a 3.01 GAA, and 2 shutouts. AP Jackson Glassford continues to serve as back up in the absence of Vincent Duplessis.

Adam Marcoux has been the guy in Trail this year and is 16-22 with a .893 SV% and a 3.13 GAA. Donovan Buskey came in at the trade deadline from the WHL and is 4-2 with a .884 SV%, and a 3.67 GAA. 

Head Coach Joe Martin knows that the Smoke Eaters are a dangerous team. 

"They've got a good mixture of speed, size, and skill and can hurt you on the rush. They're on a bit of a run right now, and we need to be ready at home."

The Cents will try and prove how dangerous they can be tonight. 

Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas. 

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For the first time in 2 years if you count the playoffs, and the first in 5 if you count the regular season the Merritt Centennials won in Penticton 4-2.

Spurred on by 45 raucous fans that travelled on the Fan bus, the Cents had a strong opening period. Despite having a couple powerplay opportunities early on the Cents couldn’t convert, but thanks to a sneaky steal by Daniel Tkac in the offensive zone and a snipe blocker side on LaFontaine the Cents had the 1-0 lead after one period of play. Austin Roden made another start for the Cents stopping all 11 shots he faced in the first.

In the second, the Cents got a good start thanks to the hard play of Rylan Van Unen. He was streaking down on a breakaway when he was hauled down and went heavily into the net taking LaFontaine, a defender, himself, and the net into the end-boards in a crash. LaFontaine appeared hurt on the play but stayed in the game to face down the penalty shot that was awarded to Van Unen. Rylan veered right, and then cut across the net with a series of moves before putting it forehand and sniping high to make it 2-0. LaFontaine wouldn’t stay in the game much longer, as whether of his own volition or the coaches he was pulled in favour of Derek Krall. The Vees would pull within one on a lucky bounce on the powerplay, that came off the end board dasher right into the slot and Sandelin put it past a sprawled out Roden. Nick Granowicz would give the Cents another two-goal cushion after collecting a great pass up the middle from Cocca, and dangle in on the forehand glove-side to beat Krall and make it 3-1 after 2.  

The Cents got a boost in the final frame on the powerplay. Matt Kopperud and Jackson Munro caught the Vees on a change and then played give-and-go short side before Kopperud made a move to the backhand and past Krall to give the Cents the 4-1 lead. The Vees pulled within 2 on a one-timer from Jack Barnes and pushed with the net empty late, but couldn’t come any closer. Austin Roden and the Cents would hang on.

Roden stopped 53/55 shots in the victory.

After the game, Head CoCH Joe Martin said the traveliling fans gave the team the extra support they needed.

“The fans were great, and to have them in our end when we were trying to hang on to the lead made a big difference. They were definitely a factor tonight.”

The Cents are now just 2 points back of the Penticton Vees with 4 games remaining each.

ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cassidy Bowes 0G 0A

#RD STAR: Daniel Tkac 1G 0A

2ND Star: Nick Granowicz 1G 0A

1st Star: Austin Roden 53/55

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It's a battle of the top two teams in the Interior Division as the Merritt Centennials (31-15-4-3) take on the Penticton Vees (34-14-3-2) tonight. 

The Merritt Centennials are coming off a busy week where they played 4 games in 5 nights, including 3 in 3 on the Island Road Swing. 

The Cents started the week off against the Coquitlam Express at home last Wednesday and were able to reignite their offense while getting solid goaltending for the 5-0 win. Austin Roden stopped 40 shots on his way to the shutout, and the Cents got goals from Nick Wicks, Brad Cocca (2), Matthew Kopperud, and Brendan Schneider. It was just the Cents 2nd shutout victory this season, the only other coming against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks by the same score of 5-0. 

The Dad's Trip and Island Swing started on Friday night against the Powell River Kings and the Cents got through a rough game and pulled out the 5-3 victory. Vincent Guy, Matt Kopperud, Christian Sabin, and Brad Cocca tallied for the Cents before Nick Granowicz iced the game with an empty netter. 

Against the Nanaimo Clippers the Cents survived a sleepy first period with no scoring before storming out to a 4 goal second period on the way to another 5-3 win. The Cents got goals from Nick Granowicz, Matt Kopperud (2), Brady Ziemer, and Payton Matsui in the win. 

The road trip concluded against the top Island team the Victoria Grizzlies and the Cents ran out of gas. Alex Newhook who only had 1 assist against the Centennials coming in exploded for 3 goals and an assist, while Christian Sabin was the only one who managed to score for the Centennials unassisted in the 4-1 loss. 

The Cents have had a long week to stare down a couple key Interior Division match ups this weekend, but the first order of business is the first place Penticton Vees. They lead the Cents by 4 points in the standings and tonight's game will go a long way to determining who will finish top in the division. After this game, both teams will have 4 games remaining on the schedule with 3 of those coming against Interior Division rivals and the Langley Rivermen.

Merritt is looking for an effort that's seen them come to the razor's edge in the last two match ups to beating the Vees. Both games have gone to the shootout, and both games have been taken by the Vees. Merritt lost 4-3 in the shootout in November before the latest marathon shootout that went 10 rounds on January 20th at the NVMA. The Cents led 1-0 all the way down to the final minute off a goal from Brad Cocca in the 2nd period, but Cassidy Bowes came back to tie it in the dying seconds to send it to OT. Overtime solved nothing, and the teams skated through 10 shooters before the Vees finally came away with the victory. 

Penticton is coming off a 3-2 loss to the Trail Smoke Eaters in overtime on Wednesday night and are 2-1-2 in their last 5, while the Cents are looking to get back in the win column after a 4-1 loss and are 3-1-1 in their last 5. 

Brad Cocca is coming of an honorable mention in the BCHL player of the week and has 62 points. Nick Granowicz and Nick Wicks are tied at 19th and 20th in the league with 54 points.

The Vees are led from the back end by James Miller. The defenseman leads the team with 59 points, Eric Linell has 55 points, and David Silye has 54 points.

The special teams battle sees the Penticton Vees with the edge: 

Powerplay:                                           Penalty Kill: 

Pen - 19.4% (10th)                          Pen - 81.3% (8th)

Cents - 19% (12th)                         Cents - 77.4% (12th)

In net Austin Roden continues to be the guy with Vincent Duplessis out with injury. Roden went 3/4 last week and is now 22-8-3 with a .907SV%, a 3.04 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Affiliate Jackson Glassford will once again serve as the back up. 

Jack Lafontaine has been the go to guy in Penticton. He's now 27-12 with a .920 SV%, a 2.26 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Derek Krall has gotten some work in and is 7-5 with a .896 SV% and a 2.75 GAA. 

Head Coach Joe Martin knows that the Cents will need to focus on themselves against Penticton. 

"Coming into the game there's just been those 5 minute stretches where we lose our game. We need to focus on ourselves and make sure we're playing our way, and we can win this one."

The Centennials hope to focus through the 60 minutes to pick up the 2 points tonight. 

Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas. 

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After the Cents picked up 3 of 4 wins in the week that was the BCHL took notice of one players contributions.

Brad Cocca has earned another honorable mention this season.

The Centennials started the week off against the Coquitlam Express on Wednesday and Cocca was in on 3 of the 5 goals scored. He tallied two while setting up the other to help the Cents shutout the Coquitlam Express 5-0.

When the Cents began their Island swing on Friday against the Powell River Kings, Cocca added another 3 points night. This time he scored once, and set up two others as the Cents won 5-3.

The following night in Nanaimo, Cocca chipped in one assist versus the Clippers in another 5-3 win.

Cocca and every Cent save Christian Sabin were held off the score sheet in the road trip finale against the Victoria Grizzlies in a 4-1 loss.

The Brown University commit and Mississauga native had his dad Don Cocca on hand to watch a trio of the games, and the Cents now sit just 3 points back of the Penticton Vees for 1st in the Interior Division.

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