Merritt Centennials
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The Cents (17-22-3-1) head down South for a double-header against one of the top teams in the Interior Division the Wenatchee Wild (29-12-3-1).

Wenatchee is just one point off the pace for top spot in the league and the division, and are the highest powered offense in the league. After struggling through their first 4 games of the new year, the Wild now have rattled off 4 in a row including a win over the Merritt Centennials.

That game on January 16th saw the Wild get the first goal of the game on the powerplay from the leading scoring defenseman in the league Cooper Zech. Matt Kopperud answered for the Cents in the first period with a stunning breakaway goal, but Sam Hesler answered later on in the first to make it 2-1. In the second, Zech got his second goal of the game on the powerplay, but Zach Risteau was able to answer with a powerplay goal of his own later in the period. The third saw the Cents push and tie up the game halfway through at 3’s thanks to Henry Cleghorn batting in a centering feed after an end to end rush from Matthieu Gosselin. Unfortunately, the Wild took the late lead when leading BCHL scorer Jasper Weatherby got a wrap around goal on Austin Roden to ice the game.

The Cents last game against the Powell River Kings also saw them lose in heart breaking fashion, but they were able to force overtime. After two Kings goals through two periods. Zach Risteau was able to score two goals on a key powerplay stretch in the third. One with a two man advantage, the other with the remaining time on the powerplay. The Cents made it to double OT before they gave up a rush on the counter-attack to Ben Berard who got one past Roden on the breakaway.

The point they picked up in that game was their first since a 5-0 win against Vernon four games ago. The Cents now trail the Salmon Arm Silverbacks by 4 points in the Interior Division, and need to go on a run to get back in the division as teams are beginning to clinch playoff spots.

The Wenatchee Wild have clinched a playoff spot, and are one of the most dangerous teams on the powerplay. Tied for first with a 23.2% conversion rate. The Cents are coming off a game in which the powerplay was clutch in the third, but still are 9th in the league at 18.9%. The Wild are equally strong on the penalty kill where they’re third in the league at 84.7%. Cents are holding steady at 9th with an 81.8% kill rate but will need to be wary of the Wild’s high powered offense on the PP.

The Wild have some of the biggest threats up front in the league. Jasper Weatherby leads the way for all skaters in the BCHL with 63 points, Cooper Zech leads defensemen with 53 points, and they have3 more skaters with over 40 points: AJ Vanderbeck (46), Lucas Sowder (46), and Same Morton (41).

Zach Risteau has the hot hand for the Cents and is a point-per-game player since joining the team with 6 points. Rylan Van Unen and Chase Bell will be game-time decisions after missing the last few games with injury, and a new AP is with the team Yewta Plamondon of the Kamloops Storm.  He possesses some offensive ability with 21 goals and 13 assists in 32 games with the Storm.

The Cents have only seen goaltender Seth Eisele so far this year, but with a double-header there’s a chance they’ll get their first look at Austin Park. Eisele is 12-6 with an .890 SV%, 2.47 GAA, and 3 shutouts. Park is 16-9 with an .887 SV% and a 2.78 GAA. The Cents do have the edge in the goaltending department. Jacob Berger is next up 10-18-2-0 with a .907 SV%, a 3.35 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Austin Roden will see some action as well this weekend. 8-8-0-2 with a .922 SV%, 2.75 GAA, and 1 shutout.

The Cents will need a full effort to overcome the Wild tonight, and set the tone for the double-header.

Puck drop at 7pm, Pre-game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.   

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The effort through two periods of play was just 'okay,' but after a emotionally charged game against the Vees, the Cents needed more than okay, and found it in the third to come back into the game and tie things up. Unfortunately, as the game went into double overtime the Cents couldn't convert their efforts into a W and fell 3-2 after a Ben Berard breakaway. 

The first period saw the Cents apply the early pressure, but the Kings weathered the storm and were able to strike against the flow of play. After the Cents killed off a penalty, Mike Van Unen came to the bench, but an awkward change compunded by a pile up in front of the bench led to a 2-on-1 the other way and Josh Coblenz was able to set up Ben Thomas for the first and only goal of the period. 

In the second period the Cents lost their pace, and the Kings took advantage drawing two penalties in quick succession. With the two-man advantage the Kings were able to convert with leading scorer Berard slapping a one-timer up high on Roden short side from a nearly impossible angle to make it 2-0. 

Zach Zorn got the team fired up to start the third with a fight just 30 seconds in, and the team got the message. They went to the attack and drew two penalties of their own in quick succession 6 minutes in to the third. 

On the two man advantage, Zach Risteau wristed one top shelf over the glove of AP goaltender Alex Rolfe for the Cents first goal of the game, after some briliant puck movement around the zone. 

The Cents and Risteau followed that up with another goal on the remaining powerplay, this time Henry Cleghorn walked out of the corner and fed Risteau with a cross-ice feed that he blasted past Rolfe. 

The game would need overtime, then double overtime. Despite killing off a penalty to Tyrell Buckley in both extra periods, the Cents squandered their best chance. A 3-on-1 saw Risteau's pass fire through the crease with too much velocity, it was worked ahead to Ben Berard who was in on a breakaway, and despite the best efforts of Schneider on the back check, Berard backhanded one past the glove of Roden for the win. 

After the game Joe Martin said it was good to get the comeback on the powerplay. 

"This is all good experience for these guys, they fought back, now they know they can do it for next time."

The Cents next time will be next weekend for a double-header against the Wenatchee Wild in Washington on Friday and Saturday. 

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The Cents look to right the ship back on home ice for their lone tilt at home against the Island Division's Powell River Kings tonight. The Cents are coming off a week that saw them drop 3 straight decisions. A 5-4 loss against the Trail Smoke Eaters last saturday, a 4-3 loss against the Wenatchee Wild on Tuesday, and a 4-1 loss against the Penticton Vees last night. 

The Kings are struggling to find wins in 2018 as well, but do have a winning record. They are 3-2-0-1 in the new year with their most recent stretch seeing a 5-3 win over Nanaimo, a 6-2 loss to Victoria, and last night they scored a buzzer beater to stun the Rivermen 4-3. 

Powell River sits in second in the Island Division and are the most offensive minded team on the Island with 163 goals for. The Cents by comparison are 10th in the league with 136 goals for, but are the only team in the league with a losing record and a positive goal differential. Meaning that when they lose games, they lose in tight heart breaking fashion. 

That was the case last night as the Vees led by one after one, Zach Court tied it up in the second period on a expiring powerplay, before the Vees took control in the third with 2 unanswered goals from Captain Owen Sillinger before an empty netter by Chris Klack. 

The Cents will look to capture the magic of just over a week ago when they were able to stun the Vernon Vipers 5-0, and against a team that isn't used to the confines of the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena they just might be able to replicate that success. The boys will have to flip the switch and look forward, as they look to reverse their fortunes in 2018 with only 2 wins so far. They were leapfrogged last night by the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and now return to 7th in the Interior Division. 

The Kings have a lot of weapons in the lineup, and they're led by Ben Berard offensively with 51 points, Jonny Evans has 44, and Carter Turnbull has 39. The Cents Zach Court is the hot hand coming into tonight with 26 points, along with linemate Nick Wicks with 32. Ashton Stockie, Brendan Schneider and Zach Zorn have done a good job neutralizing teams top scoring threats, but also need to work on finding the back of the net while they're at it. 

The Powell River Kings are 7th in the league on the powerplay with 19.7%, Cents down to 10th at 18%. On the penalty kill, the Cents have the edge in 9th with 81.8% while the Kings are 13th at 80.2%. 

Goaltenders for the Kings have even managed to get points. Mitch Adamyk is 14-9-0-2 with a 91.6 SV%, a 2.70 GAA. Matteo Paler-Chow is out with injury, so the Kings have called up Alex Rolfe of the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds in the BCMML. In 9 games he has a 3.69 GAA, but in one other game with Powell River this season has a 3.42 GAA and an 88.9 SV%. The Cents will go back to Austin Roden in the crease. 8-7-0-2 with a 92.3 SV%, a 2.75 GAA and 1 shutout. Jacob Berger is now 10-18-2 this season with a 90.7 SV% and a 3.35 GAA with 2 shutouts. 

The Cents will need to take advantage of an injury riddled Kings squad that's going to have 4 AP's in the lineup including the starting netminder. 

Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-game 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1 FM or online at q101.ca. 

 

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The game was a slow burning back and forth affair through two, with only two goals to show for both teams efforts, but things changed in the third with an increase in intensity and goal scoring, but only for one side as the Vees topped the Cents 4-1.

In the first, Johnny Tychonick had the lone goal. After a clearing attempt by Tyrell Buckley was slowed at the half-wall by Wyatt Sloboshan and Tychonick spun and fired with a high shot from the line that fluttered through the slot and got past a couple waving sticks over the blocker of Jacob Berger to make it 1-0.

The second saw the Cents convert with a goal just one second after a powerplay expired. Nick Wicks found Zach Court at the point, who walked in and dished to Joey Berkopec at the left circle, Berkopec fired a wrist shot on that was kicked out by Noah Hildebrand off a defender and right on to the stick of Court who followed up the play and drew the Cents level 1-1.

It set the stage for a dramatic 3rd, but the Vees missed the memo. Captain Owern Sillinger scored just a minute into the third on a delayed penalty with a backhander that got passed the right leg of Berger.

He’d add another goal at the 8 minute mark off the rush, with a wrister blocker side on Berger from the left-side dot.

Zach Zorn brought on a line brawl after catching Dakota Boutin with his head down at centre ice, that drew a crowd, and Kenny Johnson and Jackson Kean both went after Zorn. Johnson was thrown out of the game for throwing punches while Zorn was tangled up with another player. After the melee it was the Cents who had the powerplay, but couldn’t convert going 0/6 in the game.

Chris Klack iced the game with an empty netter with 12 seconds remaining and the Cents lost their 5th game of the season to the Vees.

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said that the Cents need to look at this game as an example.

“We saw how a top team plays, and we need to remember this and use it going forward.”

Cents next in action Saturday night against the Powell River Kings at the NVMA at 7pm.

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The Cents visit the Penticton Vees for the second time in as many weeks for another Interior Division clash against their archrivals. The Cents have been in every game they've played against the Vees this season, but haven't managed to top them in four attempts. 

The Cents have lost by scores of 4-2 on opening weekend, 3-2 in OT, 4-2, and most recently 4-3. That game last week saw the Cents jump out to the early lead with the lone goal of the first from Matt Kopperud, the Vees tied in the second, but the Cents answered with two, one from Joey Berkopec, and one from Mathieu Gosselin to take the 3-1 lead. From there on it was all Vees scoring 3 unanswered for the 4-3 win. 

That 4-3 scoreline, also the most recent result against the Wenatchee Wild on Tuesday night, and after looking back through the season it was their 15th one-goal game of the year. The Cents record in those games 5-10. That will need to improve down the stretch as they look to improve seeding for the playoffs, and get back to .500 on the year. The latest effort saw the Wild score early on a powerplay, Kopperud answered on a breakaway in the first, the second saw two goals from the Wild, with one answer coming from Zach Risteau on the powerplay. In the third, Henry Cleghorn tied things up at 3 before a late heart breaker was scored by Jasper Weatherby to undo the Cents comeback effort. 

The Vees have started 2018 on a roll, with 5 wins and 1 tie. The most recent coming against the Prince George Spruce Kings last night in PG. The Cents could catch a road weary Penticton tonight, but it will still take their best effort to top the Vees. Captain Owen Sillinger (39), defenseman Johnny Tychonick (31), and Dakota Boutin (30) continue to be the biggest threats in the Vees lineup, but with a number of new faces added before the deadline they have plenty of players starting from scratch who are equally as deadly. 

The Cents are on the other side of the spectrum in 2018 with 2 wins and 5 losses.Despite that they've contended in every game they've played so far, but it comes down to giving up that bad goal, having a breakdown, or not being able to breaktrough late. Henry Cleghorn is someone the Cents turn to in clutch situations as he leads the team with 41 points, Zach Zorn has taken on a bit more of a checking role recently with Ashton Stockie and Brendan Schneider for 35, and Nick Wicks now has 31 points. 

The special teams battle is where the game could be won or lost. Vees are 5th on the powerplay at 20.5% while the Cents are 10th with 18.6% and the Vees have the top ranked penalty kill in the league at 86.7% however the Cents did manage to score a powerplay goal their last time out. The Cents in 9th with 81.4% and were also able to limit the Vees on the powerplay in the last game as well. 

The Vees have only scored 9 more goals on the year than the Cents, but they've allowed far fewer in large part due to strong team defense and goaltending. Adam Scheel is the number one for Penticton with a 19-9-0-3 record, a .931 SV%, a 2.01 GAA with 2 shutouts. Nolan Hildebrand isn't far off with a 8-2 record a .908 SV% and a 2.60 GAA. The Cents will turn back to Jacob Berger who had a exceptional game last week versus the Vees. He stopped 39 of 43 shots and was named 3rd star. He is now 10-17-2-0 with a .908 SV%, a 3.32 GAA, and 2 shutouts, but he has been stalled at 10 wins for some time now. Austin Roden got the last start against Wenatchee and is 8-7-0-2 with a .923 SV%, a 2.75 GAA, and 1 shutout. 

Head Coach Joe Martin says the Vees are a team that you have to be ready for.

"The difference in the last few games has come down to a couple of chances. We have to convert on ours, and we have to make sure to limit theirs."

Puck drop at 7pm from the SOEC in Penticton. Pre-game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.   

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