The Merritt Centennials are looking for to string their first winning streak of the season together as they hit the road to take on the Salmon Arm Silverbacks tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a clutch performance against the reigning BCHL Champion Wenatchee Wild. Despite giving up 3 goals on the powerplay in the first, the Cents kept pace with 3 goals at even strength from Rylan Van Unen, Mathieu Gosselin, and the first in the BCHL from Brett Roloson. In the second, the Cents capitalized on a powerplay courtesy Brendan Schneider, then the Wild tied it at 4 before Matt Kopperud helped the Cents pull away with 2 goals of his own. In the third, Nic Granowicz added his first of the year by popping one off the backside of Cal Sandquist who came into the game in relief for starter Austin Park. The Wild pulled within two, but thanks to some tenacious penalty killing from the Centennials late they hung on for the 7-5 victory.
These teams met in the first game of the year, and despite a strong start by the Centennials, the Silverbacks found a way back into the game. Rylan Van Unen had the first goal of the year, and he leads the Centennials in goals with 4, and Frazer Dodd added his first goal in the BCHL as well in a first period that was all Cents. However, in the second the Centennials ran into penalty trouble and the Silverbacks used the powerplay to tie the game up at 2, and used the residual momentum to take the lead on a play on the rush. That spelled the end of the night for Vincent Duplessis who hasn't seen the crease since, but may be poised for a return tonight. In the final frame, the Silverbacks added another on the powerplay past Austin Roden to take the game by a 4-2 final.
During those first two games of the season the Centennials were having trouble finding the back of the net, and finding it past the first period of play, but the last two wins have been a completely different story as they've put up 14 goals and early in the season have scored the most goals in the league with 18. Goals against continues to be something the Cents are working on, and as the team defense starts to come together with a little more confidence at the goaltending position that should take care of itself. After four games this year, the team finds itself at the .500 mark, something they seemed to be chasing all year long last season and never really managed to hang on to. To get ahead in the win column early would take a weight off the minds of players, coaches, and fans alike.
The Salmon Arm Silverbacks have had a lighter schedule than the Centennials so far to begin the season as they've only seen action in two games. Their second game of the year came last night against the Trail Smoke Eaters in Trail so they will be operating on short rest for tonight's match. Special teams loomed large as the 'Backs had both a powerplay and a shorthanded goal, however the Smokies had 3 powerplay markers and 1 shorthanded goal to outshine the 'Backs 6-3. Devin Chapman took the loss for the 'Backs making 22 saves on 28 shots while Adam Marcoux got the win for Trail.
The Centennials continue to struggle on special teams despite having some good looks with the man advantage are sitting at 8%, the lowest of any team that has scored a powerplay goal. The penalty kill seemed to turn a page last night against the Wild and looks to improve from a 72.7% which is 12th in the league. The Silverbacks are doing well on special teams in the small sample size. 5th on the powerplay with 30.8%, and 8th on the penalty kill with an 80.3% kill rate.
In net the Cents have been outscoring their opponents to capture victories so far. Austin Roden is 2-1 with a with an .855 SV% and a 4.55 GAA. Vincent Duplessis is 0-1 with a 5.98 GAA and a .875 SV%. The Silverbacks got a great performance from rookie Ethan Langennegger against the Cents who is 1-0 with a .931 SV% and a 2.00 GAA. Devin Chapman got shelled against the Smoke Eaters and is 0-1 with a .786 SV% and a 6.00 GAA.
After the game last night Head Coach Joe Martin said the teams will need to switch gears a little bit for the visit to Salmon Arm.
"We've had a good run at home here, and we've come away with a couple wins, but it's been a while since we've been on the road and we have to play a solid road style game against the Silverbacks to keep this streak going."
The Cents will aim to keep that win streak alive when they face off against the Silverbacks in Salmon Arm tonight.
Puck drop from the Shaw Centre 7pm. Pre-Game at 6:45 on Q101.1FM, or online at Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials offensive wheels continue to turn as they scored seven goals for the second game in a row, and used it to propel them to their second win in a row - this time over the defending BCHL Champion Wenatchee Wild.
The first period was a tale of two different teams. The Wild took full advantage of a 5-on-3 just over 6 minutes into the game. With Brendan Schneider and Joey Berkopec in the box the Wild punished the Cents early with two goals on the powerplay. The Cents managed to even things up 5-on-5 after goals from Rylan Van Unen and Mathieu Gosselin. Van Unen was the beneficiary of a Nic Granowicz fly by down the right wing that caught goaltender Austin Park committing to a post, and Granowicz was able to pull the quick wrap around and find Van Unen in the slot to get the Cents on the board. Gosselin continues to provide offense any way he can, and did so on a second opportunity in front. The Wild then answered with another goal, on their 3rd powerplay opportunity of the period, but were answered before the period expired by rookie Brett Roloson who got his first goal in the BCHL by way of a quick release from the slot. After 1, the Cents had 3 at even strength, and the Wild had 3 with the extra-man.
During the middle frame the Cents were the first ones to light the lamp, this time they took advantage of the powerplay and it was Schneider who found the rebound off the post from Brad Cocca, who found the rebound off the pad from Matt Kopperud to give the Cents their first lead 4-3. The Wild would tie things up at 7 minutes in with a goal from Avery Winslow, but under a minute later the Cents would regain the lead when Frazer Dodd protected the puck on a rush down the right side, went all the way around the net and the zone back to the top of the right circle before unloading a back hander that Kopperud was able to collect off a pad to bat in on a backhand of his own and make it 5-4. That would end starter Austin Park's night after making 10 saves on 15 shots, and give way to Cal Sandquist. However, Sandquist would be beaten by Kopperud as well, this time with him streaking down the right wing and ripping a wrister top corner, bar down to give the Cents a 6-4 lead into the third.
In the final stanza the Centennials weathered the early storm from the Wild and were rewarded when Granowicz was able to pot one off the back of Sanquist and in. On the goal, Talon Zakall, the Merritt native, got his first point in the BCHL. Christophe Tellier continued his fine play with a goal to pull the Wild within 2 at 7-5, but that would be the closest they'd get. Despite a late 5-on-3 advantage, Captain Nick Wicks and his penalty killing crew managed to stave off the final minutes spurred on by the home crowd chants of 'Go Cents Go' and the Cents hung on to win it 7-5.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin boiled the win down to one word.
"I really liked our compete out there, and if we can play every game like we played the final minutes tonight I like our chances."
The Cents will look to extend that compete, and their win streak, to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks when they clash tomorrow night at the Shaw Centre.
Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV, on Q101.1FM and online audio only at Q101.ca.
The Merritt Centennials suit up following their first win of the season, but will face who is so far the class of the Interior Division, and last year the class of the league in the Wenatchee Wild.
The Centennials looked great through 40 minutes of play on Tuesday night against the Surrey Eagles. Despite not scoring the first goal of the hockey game, something they had managed in their two previous contests, the Cents bounced back with a goal from Mathieu Gosselin. Then in the second period the Cents exploded to life scoring 4 unanswered goals throughout the period with Assistant Captain Brendan Schneider and Rylan Van Unen each netting two. With a 5-1 lead heading into the third it seemed as if things were in cruise control, but the Eagles had other plans. Surrey was able to score 5 goals in the third period, including a hat trick from Aaron White, but luckily for the Centennials their offense didn't dry up as they got two more goals, one from rookie Daniel Tkac and another from the veteran Gosselin to edge the Eagles 7-6.
The Wild have continued where they left off in the BCHL, winning hockey games with speed, skill, and special teams. In their first game of the season against the Vipers they managed to spoil the snakes home opener in large part due to their powerplay that went 3 for 4. The Wild's second game of the year came against the Eagles, and they were able to mangle the birds 6-3 including a 5 goal outburst in the second. Look out for the newcomers named Christophe. Both Christophe Tellier and Christophe Fillion have been exceptional through 2 games of play and lead the league early in points with 6 and 5 respectively.
Last season the Centennials and Wild always provided entertaining matchups, and other than a 7-3 loss during the regular season. The Cents and Wild were only ever separated by a goal. The Cents did what no other team could last season, and that's win twice in Wenatchee, however, the away team had the advantage in the season series as they captured 5/6 games. These teams also have some playoff history now after last years first round defeat. The pill made harder to swallow as the Cents were without the services of their Captain and MVP Tyrell Buckley due to a concussion. The first round wasn't kind as the Cents lost 4-0, 6-4, 5-4, and 4-1 across the 4 games, while the Wild went on to capture the Fred Page Cup as BCHL Champions.
Special teams remains a big question mark for the Centennials as discipline has been an issue for the first 3 games. The Centennials have had an extra man on the ice 21 times, but have only gotten an extra goal as a result once and have a 4.8% success rate on the powerplay. The Wild have nearly 10 times that, as they've gone 4/10 in their first two games of the season, and have also been perfect on the penalty kill so far this year, but have only been short handed 6 times. By comparison the Centennials have been shorthanded 23 times, and have allowed 6 goals for a 73.9% kill rate.
Goaltending was something the Centennials were confident about heading into the season with two returning netminders, but early on in the season the two goaltenders haven't been playing with much confidence. Vincent Duplessis was pulled from his first start of the year in the season opener in favour of Austin Roden, and is 0-1 with a .875 SV% and a 5.98 GAA. Roden has been shelled for 11 goals over the last two games and is now 1-1 with a .854 SV% and a 4.80 GAA. The Wild have returnee Austin Park who they rode to the BCHL Championship and he's 1-0 with a 4.09 GAA and a .829 SV% while newcomer Cal Sandquist is 1-0 with no goals against and a perfect save percentage on 12 shots against.
Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin says that the Centennials will have to be a lot sharper if they expect to win against the Wild.
"These are the BCHL Champions and we can't afford to make the same kind of mistakes that we've been making in the first few games of the season against a club like the Wild."
The Centennials will see if they can get some measure of revenge for last years playoff defeat when they clash with the Wild tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and online at Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials scored beyond the first period for the first time this season, and had a great 40 minute effort, but nearly saw it go for naught as the Surrey Eagles stormed back in the final frame to make it too close for comfort in a 7-6 win.
The game was delayed due to Surrey bus trouble, but it eventually got underway about 20 minutes behind schedule. The Surrey Eagles were the first to strike, courtesy a powerplay goal from Riley Hayles at the 3:45 mark. The Cents answered later on in the period with a goal from Mathieu Gosselin from Brad Cocca at the 14:25 mark to tie things at 1. Early on it seemed like a low-scoring affair was on the horizon. In the second, that changed.
The Centennials could do no wrong in the middle frame. Brendan Schneider and Rylan Van Unen scored just over a minute apart in the early goings of the second. Schneider slapped home a centering feed from out of the corner off the stick of Brad Cocca to give the Cents their first lead of the game, and their first goal beyond the first period. Moments later Rylan Van Unen got one past Davidson to make it 3-1 from Nic Granowicz and Joey Berkopec. But Van Unen wasn't done there as he was found by Nick Wicks from the right point charging towards the net on the left inside hash mark and one-timed it through to extend the Cents lead to 4-1. Schneider added his second of the period late, a wrister bar down and in to give the Cents a 5-1 lead and their best effort through 40 minutes of a hockey game to date in the season.
The final frame is when things got a little crazy. The Eagles wasted no time adding a goal just 2 minutes into the period. Daniel Tkac answered with his 1st goal of the season and in the BCHL at the 4:36 mark. The Eagles weren't deterred and put another two past Austin Roden to make it 6-4. Mathieu Gosselin restored the 3 goal lead by muscling one over the line to make it 7-4, but the Eagles answered with another two of their own and ended up making it a one goal game with just over 4 minutes remaining in the third. However, despite the Eagles empty net effort, the Cents hung on for their first victory of the BCHL campaign 7-6.
Austin Roden stopped 24/30 shots for his first win of the year while Daniel Davidson stopped 36/43 shots in his first game of the year. Once again the Cents struggled on special teams going 0/5 on the man advantage while allowing 2 goals on 9 opportunities against.
After the game, Head Coach and GM Joe Martin said there's plenty to work on.
"I think there's a lot of learning moments in this game, from our Captain Nick Wicks to our rookie Daniel Tkac, there's a learning moment for each and every player in the lineup and we will need to learn quickly while the season is young."
The Cents will hope to put their lessons to the test on Friday night when the reigning BCHL Champion Wenatchee Wild come to town.
The Centennials look for their first win of the season tonight as they host the Surrey Eagles.
The opening weekend didn't go to plan as the Cents saw two strong first period efforts undone by poor stretches of play that allowed the opposing team to take control of the game. In Salmon Arm, it was a 5 minute stretch of the second period where the 'Backs were able to use the powerplay to pull themselves out of a 2-0 deficit and into a 3-2 lead. At home against the Vernon Vipers, it was just a couple minor mistakes that were fully taken advantage of. However, neither game resulted in what the Cents were looking for - a win. Special teams played a factor in the result of both games with the Cents going 0/7 against the 'Backs and 1/6 against the Vipers with the man advantage while surrendering a total of 4 goals on the penalty kill throughout the weekend. The Cents lost 4-2 in Salmon Arm, and 5-2 at home at the hands of the Vernon Vipers. Bright spots throughout the weekend were newly minted Captain, Nick Wicks, line mate Rylan Van Unen, former affiliate Frazer Dodd and some encouraging play from rookies Daniel Tkac, Brett Roloson and Talon Zakall.
The Surrey Eagles find themselves in the same boat as the Merritt Centennials after the first weekend of the BCHL season. Despite out shooting the Coquitlam Express in their home-opener the Eagles also couldn't take advantage of the powerplay going 0/6 and falling 4-2. Similarly to the Cents, the Eagles also faced a much stiffer test in game 2 of the weekend when the Wenatchee Wild came to town. The Eagles led heading into the second period, but the Wild exploded for 5 goals to put themselves in the drivers seat. The Wild didn't look back in a 6-3 win. Much like the Cents, the Eagles are hungry for their first win of the season.
The Centennials and Eagles only meet 2 times during the regular season. Last year, the Cents took both matchups, including their first win of the year after starting 0-6 - a 2-1 victory with former Eagle, Colten Gerlib, providing the game winning goal. The Cents also took the game on the coast by a 5-3 final during an Island road trip that saw them kick start their season. Needless to say, the Centennials cemented some key victories over the Eagles last year, and hope to get another one tonight.
Special teams may be where the game is won and lost. Neither team has been spectacular so far, the Centennials have the worst percentage in the BCHL in terms of teams that have scored on the powerplay with 6.3%, and this comes despite having the most opportunities with the extra man with 16. The Eagles have yet to score a powerplay goal, and despite 6 opportunities against the Express in game 1 of their season, the clean-checking Wild only supplied them with one opportunity. On the penalty kill, the Cents and Eagles are tied at 71.4% over their two games, but once again the Centennials have also been the team with the most time spent in the box with 14 minors called against them.
Both goaltenders have seen the crease for the Centennials on opening weekend. Vincent Duplessis got the start in the season opener against Salmon Arm, but was pulled after allowing 3 goals in quick succession, however, it was a move made to stem momentum not necessarily because of poor play. He made 20 saves on 23 shots for .913 SV%, but because of his half game in net has a bloated 4.01 GAA. Austin Roden came into the season opener half way through the game and allowed one goal, but had 5 get past him in the home opener against Vernon and sits with an 0-1 record a 4.66 GAA and a .868 SV%. The Surrey Eagles have only had one goaltender suit up for them so far, former Wenatchee Wild puckstopper, Seth Eisele. He is 0-2 with a 4.05 GAA and a .871 SV%. Whichever team gets the better goaltending may get the better result.
After the game against the Vipers, Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin said that he needs the full 60 minute effort from the full lineup.
"We are getting a solid effort from some of the guys at the top of our line up, and we're getting a solid effort from some of the guys trying to make a name for themselves, but we haven't seen a full team effort yet, and we haven't seen a full game effort yet."
The Centennials will hope that after the full 60 minutes of play tonight, they're victorious over the Surrey Eagles.
Puck drop 7pm at the NVMA, Pre-Game at 6:45 on Q101.1FM and online at Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.