Merritt Centennials
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The Merritt Centennials (19-25-4-1) continue the Island swing tonight in Nanaimo where they face one of the hottest teams in the BCHL in the Clippers (27-20-3-3).

The Cents are coming off a 7-4 loss last night to the Powell River Kings. A game that had a lot of swings of momentum. Merritt dominated the first period, but were a victim of a goal against the grain before Brendan Schneider tied the game 13 minutes into the first.

The second saw the counter attack loom large. Zach Risteau converted on an early period powerplay, but the Kings answered with 3 goals (one of them shorthanded), before Rylan Van Unen got the Cents back within one to make it 4-3. The period ended with the teams exchanging goals with the Cents on the man advantage. They surrendered another goal shortmanned before Nick Wicks converted on a late powerplay to head into the 3rd trailing 5-4.

In the third, the Cents had to kill off a double-minor to begin the period, and that set the tone for the remainder of the game. The Cents weren’t quite able to get going and the Kings added 2 more goals including an empty netter to take it 7-4.

Nanaimo is coming off a victory over the Wenatchee Wild last night where they came away with a 4-1 victory. Continuing their hot play of late, as they are unbeaten in 6 games in a row. Josh Bourne, David Silye, Brady Lynn, and Tristan Crozier had goals for the Clippers.

The last time these two teams met, was the last game before Christmas. Where the Cents finished their pre-Christmas push strong with a 4-2 win.

Since then, the Cents are playing another team that’s made a head coaching change. Long time Cents coach, then Clippers boss Mike Van de Kamp was let go shortly after Christmas when new ownership took over the team. Nanaimo is now run by Darren Naylor who comes from the highly successful Junior B’s Delta Ice Hawks.

The Clippers are led by Tristan Crozier who is 15th in league scoring with 52 points. He’s supported by Jake Harris (45), Parker Colley and David Silye (37), and Cal Babych (33).

The line of Risteau, Court, and Schneider remains red hot heading into tonights matchup. They’ve combined for 13 points over the last two games. Rylan Van Unen begun to pick up his game since his return from injury and now has 10 goals and 15 points.

The game will be a bit of a homecoming for Mattias Dal Monte, the Nanaimo native, as well as Austin Roden, who hails from Victoria but came over in a mid-season trade from Nanaimo.

The special teams battle sees the Clippers 5th in the league on the powerplay with a 20.4% conversion rate, while the Cents are now 8th with 19%. They scored two goals on the powerplay last night, but also surrendered two short handed goals. On the penalty kill, the Cents also 8th with an 81.8% kill rate, while the Clippers are tenth at 81.3%.

The goaltending battle will see Austin Roden suit up against his former club. He’s 8-9-0-2 with a 92.5 SV%, a 2.70 GAA, and 1 shutout. It will be his first game back since returning from injury. The Clippers will turn to the tandem of Taz Burman and Noah FeatherStonhaugh Gowe. Burman is 18-11-0-2 with a 91.5 SV%, a 2.66 GAA, and 1 shutout. Gowe is 7-7 with an 89.4 SV%, 3.42 GAA, and 1 shutout.

The Cents will hope to right the ship against the Clippers tonight.

Puck drop 6pm, Pre-Game 5:45 on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca  

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The game was tied with the familiar score line of 1-1 after 1, then the second hit. Goals were coming like rapid fire, bing, bang, boom. It wasn’t all good for the Cents though as they trailed 5-4 after 2, and ended up falling 7-4 by the end of the game.

The first started late due to a pre-game ceremony which honored outgoing BCHL Commissioner John Grisdale, but the period flew by due to the fact their were no penalties.

Powell River opened the scoring with leading scorer Ben Berard doing the honors on a spin around shot that beat Jacob Berger short side.

The Cents found an answer midway through the first when Sam Miller led the rush into the zone, dished to Zach Court on the left side, who found Brendan Schneider on the way to the slot, and he took his time and fired one up high on AP Alex Rolfe who made the start for the Kings.

The second saw the Cents get the first powerplay of the game a minute into the period, and at the 2:22 mark Zach Risteau ripped a wrister up high on Rolfe after being set up by Schneider.

40 seconds later, Neal Samanski answered for the Kings on a move in tight to tie things at 2.

The Kings regained the lead 2 minutes later with Berard notching his second of the game to make it 3-2.

The Cents then had another powerplay opportunity, but surrendered a partial breakaway and Ethan Kimball scored shorthanded.

Rylan Van Unen was able to use his speed on the outside to bring the Cents back within one, and to halt the Kings 3 goal swing.

The Kings restored the two goal lead with another shorthanded goal from Kimball.

The Cents were able to answer before the period was out, when Nick Wicks threw a shot on from the left side of the ice that just found its way through Rolfe to make it 5-4.

At the end of the second, Joey Berkopec drew a 4-minute double minor for spearing, and the Cents killed off the whole thing.

7 minutes into the third, Hunter Findlater restored the two goal lead once more for the Kings, and they didn’t look back. Nick Abbot added an empty netter for a final score of 7-4.

The Cents went 2/4 on the powerplay, but on the two chances where they didn’t convert, they surrendered shorthanded goals.

It was the first game the Cents have surrendered 2 shorthanded goals this season.

Head Coach Joe Martin felt the game had a lot of oddities.

“We don’t usually score 4, but we don’t usually give up 7. If we had played the whole game defensively with the same passion we attacked that double-minor in the beginning of the third we would’ve won the game.”

No rest for the wicked as the Cents are right back at it tomorrow against the Nanaimo Clippers. Puck Drop 6pm, Pre-Game at 5:45.

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The Merritt Centennials begin their Island swing and the whirlwind end to their season in Powell River tonight to take on the Kings. Including tonight, the Cents will play 10 games in 16 days, it's the perfect time to get on a run before the playoffs. The Cents did mathematically clinch a playoff spot this week, but with 16 of 17 teams in the BCHL making the first round this year it's more about how you're playing going into the elimination rounds, than the fact you made it. The Island swing back in November was the backdrop where the Centennials began to turn around their season, they came into that trip 5-10-2-0, took 5 of 6 points on the Island, and used that to go 9-5-0-1 before the Christmas break. 

These teams last hooked up on January 20th, and since then the Cents have two wins, two losses, and two overtime losses. One of those overtime losses came to the Kings who got out to a steady 2-0 lead before the 3rd period. In the third, Zach Risteau and the Cents were able to take advantage of two powerplays including a 5-on-3 to tie the game and force overtime. The Kings relied on strong goaltending from AP call up Alex Rolfe, who will also get the start tonight with both Kings starting netminders injured. In Overtime, it was Kings leading scorer Ben Berard who had the heart breaker on a counter-attack breakaway. 

Since the overtime win over the Cents, the Kings have hit a rough patch going 2-4 and have also had a change at head coach. Then Assistant Brock Sawyer is now bench boss, taking over from the long tenured Kent Lewis who had been with the Kings for 25 years. However, the Kings are coming off a high, as they defeated the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 4-1 in their last outting. 

The Cents also bathing in that after-win glow as they beat the West Kelowna Warriors 6-3 in their last game, with a steady two-goal output across all periods. Goals hailed from Rylan Van Unen and Zach Risteau in the first Risteau and Tyrell Bucley in the second, and Brad Cocca and Brendan Schneider in the third. Joe Martin mixed up the line combinations last week, and it paid off against the Warriors. the line of Risteau, Schneider, and Zach Court combined for 7 points and every line was in on the scoring. It's that complete game effort, and complete line effort the Cents will need going down the stretch to set themselves up well for the playoffs. 

The Kings continue to be led by Ben Berard up front who now has 57 points, good enough for 7th in league scoring, but he's supported by the likes of Jonny Evans (50), Carter Turnbull (43), and Kevin Obssuth (36). 

On the Cents, Zach Court has the hot hand as the set up man on the newly minted line with Risteau and Schneider, and is up to 32 points on the year. Nick Wicks drives the offense on his new look line with Rylan Van Unen and Matt Kopperud with 37 points, and Henry Cleghorn continues to lead the way for the team with 44 points. It's the balanced scoring of the Cents that's their biggest threat with all players now in on the offense after Mattias Dal Monte got his first point of the year in the last game. 

The special teams battle will be tight. The Kings and Cents are tied in terms of percentage on the powerplay, both converting on 18.4% of their chances. On the penalty kill, the Cents have the advantage with an 81.6% kill rate, good enough for 8th in the league. The Kings are 14th at 80.4% on the PK. 

The goaltending duel will see Alex Rolfe start another game for the Kings, he picked up the win in double-OT against the Cents in their last matchup stopping 39/41 shots for a 95.1 SV% and a 2.00 GAA. Backing him up will be a midget goaltender who was forced into emergency playing time in the Kings last game after their starter was run and injured in the first period: Cam Stevenson.  His save percentage also strong at 95.5% and a goals against of 1.36. The Cents will counter with their familiar tandem of Jacob Berger and Austin Roden, who is once again healthy. Berger is likely to make his 4th start in a row and is now 12-20-2-0 with a 3.30 GAA, 90.9 SV%, and 2 shutouts. Roden is 8-9-0-2 with a 2.70 GAA, 92.5 SV%, and 1 shutout on the year. 

The Cents will look to put together a win streak, and it all starts with putting two back to back. They look to do so tonight against the Kings. 

Puck drop 7:15, Pre-Game 7pm with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca

 

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It's Official! The Merritt Centennials have qualified for the postseason. 

With plenty of games remaining in the regular season, the only question remains is: who will they play?

The Cents currently hold down 7th in the Interior Division, if they don't manage to improve their seeding before the playoffs that would mean a first round match-up against the second seed. 

Right now that match-up would be against the Wenatchee Wild, but with so much hockey left to play and the top 3 teams separated by 2 points that could change. 

The Cents are 2-3-1 against Wenatchee this season. 

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The Cents got contributions from all over the lineup and got consistency all throughout the game to top the warriors 6-3.

The line that got on the board first last night against the Vees, did the same tonight, but this time it was the Rylan Van Unen who batted one home in the blue paint after Nick Wicks set up Matt Kopperud in front with a shot.

Zach Risteau got another goal in tight a minute later at the 13:23 mark off a feed from Zach Court, and roofed it on the backhand in tight to make it 2-0.

RJ Murphy answered for the Warriors on a breakaway and slid one five-hole on Jacob Berger to conclude the scoring in the first 2-1.

Early on in the second, Risteau rang one off the post and in after a shot from the line from Mattias Dal Monte, and he picked up his first point of the BCHL.

Tyrell Buckley added what would be the eventual game-winner on the powerplay, a shot from the line that found it’s way through the crowd.

Chase Dubois had the lone answer for the Warriors in the second to conclude the scoring 4-2.

In the third, the Warriors would cut the lead to one on a Ryan Steele shot to make it 4-3.

Brad Cocca answered for the Cents after peeling off the half-wall cutting to the slot and firing one low through the legs of Cole Demers.

Just over a minute later, Brendan Schneider added some insurance, after Zach Risteau turned the puck over and found him in front.

Jacob Berger stood tall in his 3rd straight game stopping 33 of 36 shots. Demers allowed 6 on 27, and the Cents took the win 6-3. Cents went 1/3 on the Powerplay while the Warriors went 0/6

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said he liked the consistency.

“We had contributions from up and down the line up, every line got in on the offense, and we had a solid effort from start to finish. Other than their powerplay, they weren’t able to generate much momentum, and they weren’t able to score.”

It gives the Cents some momentum as they prepare for a road trip on the Island next weekend starting Friday against Powell River.

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