Merritt Centennials
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The Cents were chasing the whole game, but managed to draw level in the third, only to have their hopes dashed late in the third by a wrap-around goal from the league's leading scorer Jasper Weatherby for the Wild to win 4-3 over the Merritt Centennials. 

The first started with the Cents going shorthanded 5 minutes in, and the league's 2nd best unit went to work, controlled, and converted with a goal from leading defenseman Cooper Zech post and in as he walked in and sniped one past the blocker of Austin Roden who made his first start since shutting out the Vipers 5-0. 

Just after the 12 minute mark of the first, the rookie line got the Cents level. AP call up Frazer Dodd sprung Matt Kopperud on a partial breakaway, and he was able to cut in with a move from his forehand to his backhand to beat Seth Eisele glove side. 

However, late in the first off an odd turnover behind the Centennials net Sam Hesler was able to spin around and fire a shot low on Roden to restore the one-goal lead 2-1. 

The second saw the Cents go down a man early again, just 8 seconds in. Zach Zorn went to the box for tripping and once again it was Zech from the middle of the ice with a crowd in front, he was able to pick the top corner over the blocker of Roden to make it 3-1. 

The Cents would get back to within one in the second period on a powerplay goal of their own. The newest addition to the Cents, Zach Risteau was able to score after a centering pass to Henry Cleghorn came right back to him and he was able to find some space behind Seth Eisele to make it 3-2. 

In the third the Cents were pushing for the equalizer and were rewarded halfway through the period when Matthieu Gosselin went from D-zone to O-zone while protecting the puck, before sliding a pass over to Henry Cleghorn that he shot past the Wild netminder to tie things at 3. 

Eisele would make a game changing save in the late stages of the third, on Zach Court after a turnover to Nick Wicks off the end boards behind the Wild net. 

That set the stage for a heart breaker late in the third, in the final two minutes the league's top sniper Jasper Weatherby snuck one past Roden on a wrap around attempt and beat him low shortside past the left pad. That was the dagger in the heart, and the Cents couldn't get back into it late. 

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said the special teams battle was the difference. 

"We knew coming in that they were dangerous on the powerplay, and you can't give a top team those grade 'A' chances and expect to get away with it. We outchanced them from the second period on, but it goes to show you that the top clubs don't need much chances to make you pay."

Cents are next in action on the road in Penticton on Friday at 7pm. 

 

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The Merritt Centennials had a short weekend, and find themselves facing a visiting Wenatchee Wild coming off a week in which they went 1-2. The lone win came against the league's best Vernon Vipers 5-0, and in their mid-week matchup last week lost 4-3 against the Penticton Vees, but most recently the Cents dropped a decision on the road to the Trail Smoke Eaters 5-4. 

The Wild meanwhile are 1-3-0-1 since the turn of the New Year, with all games against Interior Division opponents, much like the Cents recently. Last weekend they had a double-header at home against the West Kelowna Warriors. The Warriors got past them in game 1 with a double-OT 5-4 win, but in game two the Wild got some sound revenge winning 6-0. 

It sets the stage for a team to have a bounce back, as both clubs struggling to find the win column in 2018, and it sets the tone for the next two matchups. After having their first 3 games play out over a 4 month span, the next 3 will be played over a two week span. The Cents will travel to Wenatchee next weekend to finish the season series, currently the Cents 1-2, the most recent game in December a 7-3 loss. 

The Cents had their skill on display in the 5-4 loss against Trail. Two of the four goals coming on brilliant one-man efforts deking through the zone from Zach Court and Matt Kopperud. AP call up, Frazer Dodd got a primary assist on Kopperud's first goal, and Court was in on a buzzer beater feed to Nick Wicks to make it interesting late, but ultimately the Cents got burned on a couple rushes by the high powered Trail offense. The Wild play a very similar style, and the Cents will have to be more responsible in the neutral zone and with their forecheck to avoid those dangerous rushes that can end up in your net before you know it. 

Jasper Weatherby is the big gun on the Wenatchee offense with 29 goals and 27 assists, and he currently leads the league in scoring. They also have the leading scorer amongst defensemen in Cooper Zech with 45 points, and two more players over the 40 point plateau in AJ Vanderbeck and Lucas Sowder with 42 points apiece. The Cents led by Henry Cleghorn who's one point shy of the 40 point mark with 39, Zach Zorn (35), and Nick Wicks (31), but now have 15 players on the roster who have over 10 points. 

Wenatchee Wild is the league's best offense with 169 goals-for, and a big part of that is their powerplay which is number 2 currently with 22.3%. The Cents have powerplay goals in 4 straight games, but only in one of those games scored multiple goals so remain in 9th with 18.8%. On the penalty kill, the Wild also in second with an 86% kill rate, while Merritt is in 9th with an 82.4% kill rate, however against Trail they surrendered a powerplay, and short handed goal. 

In the rotating duty of netminder, the Cents will likely go back to Austin Roden tonight. 8-6 with a 92.6 SV%, a 2.64 GAA, and his first shutout of the year coming against the Vernon Vipers last friday. Jacob Berger took the loss against Trail and now has a record of 10-17-2-0 with a 90.8 SV% and a 3.32 GAA with 2 shutouts. The Wild netminders both have at least 10 wins under their belt. Austin Park is 15-6 with a 89.2 SV% and a 2.69 GAA, while Seth Eisele is 10-6 with a 89.1 SV%, a 2.40 GAA and three shutouts. 

The Cents need to set the tone in this game, before finishing the season series in a double-header in Wenatchee in next weekends matchup. 

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

 

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The Cents started off with some early mojo, but lost is during the second, and found it too late in the game to mount the comeback falling 5-4.

Merritt got things going in the first, Matt Kopperud kicked off the scoring after he was set up by AP call up Frazer Dodd, who won the puck forward off an offensive zone start, and then centred the puck to Kopperud who got it past the blocker side of Tanner Marshall.

Carter Jones answered for the Smoke Eaters minutes later on a rush across the line, where he got loose and was able to snipe one up high blocker side on Jacob Berger to tie things up at 1.

Kopperud wasn’t done with that first goal, as he out did himself streaking down the right wing, and cutting to the middle between two defenders, then reached around a final defender with the puck to the forehand to beat Marshall over the glove for his second of the game.

Kale Howarth tied things up later in the period, after Ross Armour made a move to the net, and despite being checked off the puck, Howarth found the loose biscuit and put it in the basket to tie things at 2.

To finish the period it was Zach Court’s turn to put his skills on display. Going down the left wing with speed, Court cut to the middle in front of a defender, made a move to the backhand and swept it under Marshall to give the Cents a 3-2 lead heading into the second.

In the second, the Cents spent too much time on the penalty kill, and the fourth ranked team on the powerplay converted. Kale Howarth with a shot from the outside got underneath Berger to tie things up. It was the lone goal of the period.

The third saw the teams feeling each other out when the Cents got an opportunity of their own on the powerplay, but it was Trail who’d be the ones to score. Troy Ring jumped up in the play to finish a 3-2 shorthanded rush and give the Smokies the go ahead goal.

Trail would add to it just 3 minutes later with a goal from Braeden Tuck.

Nick Wicks would get a goal late on the powerplay, but it wouldn’t be enough as the Cents couldn’t find an equalizer in the last minute and a half to drop the decision 5-4.

Head Coach Joe Martin said that his team deserved a better fate.

“Their goalies were fighting the puck all game, but we couldn’t get to the rebounds they were giving us.”

Cents next face the Wenatchee Wild on Tuesday night in Merrtt. Puck drop 7pm.

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The Cents hit the road once again to take on the Trail Smoke Eaters tonight at Cominco Arena, a venue that’s been kind to them so far this season. In four matchups this year, the Cents hold the edge in the season series 3-1 with 2 games a piece being played at each team’s home arena. The Cents started the series with a 5-4 loss in late October, but since then have been able to take the following three: a thrilling 3-2 overtime win in Merritt, followed by a 4-0 shutout in Trail, and a gutsy 5-3 win in Trail the last time out in mid-December.

That 5-3 win saw the Cents short a number of players due to sickness, and resulted in some AP’s being forced into duty: Joel Patsey, Fraser Dodd, and  Jacob Bourchier. The AP’s weren’t out of place, and even helped the Cents get on the scoresheet. Frazer Dodd chipped in on the first goal of the game from Matt Kopperud, Joel Patsey would score his first BCHL goal in the second, along with a marker from Matthieu Gosselin. Zorn and Cocca added goals in the third for the Cents to take that game.

In more recent memory, the Cents topped the top team in the BCHL last night 5-0. Colten Gerlib and Gosselin with goals in the first, no goals in the second, and Cocca, Christian Sabin and Henry Cleghorn all tallied in the third for the Cents to run away with one and Austin Roden earned his first shutout of the year.

The Cents will face a stiffer test in the new year, as the last two times in Trail they faced a team without their dynamic duo: Ross Armour and Kale Howarth. Armour and Howarth, one-two in scoring for the Smoke Eaters with 50 and 49 points respectively. Levi Glasman (43) and defenseman Seth Barton (19) also missed games last month.  

Once again an AP will slot into the lineup tonight as Fraser Dodd joins the team for another lengthy road trip. All three games he’s played have been on lengthy road trips: Prince George, Trail, and now Trail once again. He may be overshadowed by some other forwards for the Cents. Gosselin now has 4 goals in his last 3 games and 27 points overall, Nick Wicks playmaking skills have been on display as he’s up to 22 assists and 30 points, and Zach Risteau picked up his first 2 points after being acquired with 2 assists last night.

The Cents will have to be wary of Trail’s powerplay which is 4th in the league and filled with weapons at 21.3%, Cents floating around 9th with 18.5% but have 4 powerplay goals in their last 3 games. Trails penalty kill not quite as dangerous in 14th at 79.9%, the Cents have been perfect on the PK for 3 straight games and hold down 9th with 82.4%

In net, Trail has leaned heavily on Adam Marcoux since he was acquired from the Cowichan Valley Capitals. He’s now 7-22-0-3 with a 89.7 SV% and a 4.08 GAA, but they also have a solid option in Tanner Marshall as well …

The Cents will go back to Jacob Berger tonight, fresh off earning a scholarship to Minnesota State University, there’s no doubt he wants to prove why he’s going to play NCAA DIv. 1 hockey. Now 10-16-2-0 with a 91 SV% and a 3.25 GAA with 2 shutouts, one coming against Trail. Should he falter Austin Roden is fresh off his first shutout of the year 8-6-0-2 with a 92.6 SV% and a 2.68 GAA.

Head Coach Joe Martin says Trail is a creative team.

“They are very dangerous in the offensive zone, and can give you looks that not many other teams in the league can, and on the breakout they come full speed looking for offense.”

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

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The Merritt Centennials proved the old addage true, revenge is dish best served cold. After going 0-4 against the Vipers to this point in the season in their fifth attempt, the Cents topped the top team in the league 5-0. 

The game started with a goal from the blue line. Colten Gerlib who pinched at the line twice before to keep the play alive, kept the puck in for a third time, and it was the charm. He threw it on net, and it deflected off a Viper defender through the seven-hole of Anthony Yamnitsky to get the Cents on the board 1:10 into the game. 

Just 4 minutes later, Matthieu Gosselin was the recipient of some good fortune as a D-to-D pass behind the net, came off Mike Ufberg's stick right out to the side of the net, and 'The Goose' was there to bat the puck in past the far pad on Yamnitsky to make it 2-0. Austin Roden stopped all 8 shots he faced in the first. 

The second period was a strange one for the Cents, and it was filled with penalties on both sides. Merritt killed off an early 5-on-3, then got a lengthy man advantage midway through the period after a rush saw Zach Court collide with Yamnitsky, Shane Kelly came over the boards and went right after Court throwing punches earning himself a 5 minute major for fighting and a game misconduct. However, the Cents couldn't convert and only threw 2 shots on net in the period. 

The final frame saw the Cents come back to life. Brad Cocca converted on a Nick Wicks feed from the corner, and below the hashmarks put the moves on Yamnitsky backhand forehand and upstairs to make it 3-0. 

On a powerplay later in the period, Cocca poked one across the line that was disallowed, but the Cents didn't let up. Newcomer Zach Risteau got his first point of the year setting up Christian Sabin for a wicked wrister that beat Yamnistky high glove side. 

Henry Cleghorn got some insurance late when Gosselin fluttered a pass in the air cross ice to Risteau, he skated full steam wrapped around the net and fed Cleghorn a heavy pass to make it 5-0. 

Austin Roden earned his first shutout of the year, stopping all 24 shots he faced, and earned a third star mention. 

Head Coach Joe Martin said it was his teams conviction that got them the W. 

"You saw that they were willing to go to the dirty areas and get to those loose pucks. They stuck with it, and built confidence, and saw results, and that was the difference."

Next game is on the road Saturday Night against the Trail Smokeaters at 7pm. 

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