Merritt Centennials
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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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Just a week after the last matchup between these two clubs, the Vipers and Cents meet once again, and Merritt is still searching for their first win against the top team in the BCHL. 

Most recently the Cents dropped a 2-0 decision, in a game with lots of neutral zone play and not a whole lot of offense. The lone tally with Jacob Berger in net came on the powerplay, a drop pass to Jimmy Lambert from Brett Stapley as the Vipers crossed the blue line, and Lambert was able to fire one blocker side on Berger to get the 1-0 lead. The Cents had trouble finding offense, but had opportunities on breakaways, a powerplays throughout the game, but couldn't convert, and late in the game Vipers Captain Jagger Williamson capped things off with an empty netter. 

The Cents are coming off a hard fought loss to the Penticton Vees on Wednesday night, a game in which they led or were tied for 45 minutes of the game, but the Vees only needed one chance to seize the lead and hung on from there. Matt Kopperud had the lone goal of the first, the Vees answered in the second early, Joey Berkopec scored from the half-wall, and Matthieu Gosselin converted on the powerplay to make it 3-1. The Vees got some fortunate bounces to tie it at 3's before Captain Owen Sillinger capitalized at a turnover at the blue line in the third to get the eventual game winner 4-3. 

The Vipers come into this one with only one game under their belt since last Friday, a 3-2 loss to the Spruce Kings at the Vernon Civic Centre, a game in which they honored many former Vipers, and people surrounding the organization. The Vipers will have some extra motivation tonight as long-time owner Duncan Wray passed away just yesterday. Under Wray's stewardship the Vipers won 4 National Championships, and 7 BCHL Championships since 1992. I never got the pleasure of meeting him, but from what I'm told he was a great ambassador for junior hockey, and wanted the boys who played for his team to pursue their dreams and get an education. May he rest in peace. 

The Cents are only two points up on the Salmon Arm Silverbacks for 6th in the division, while the Vipers sit in top spot and are the first team to clinch a playoff spot in the BCHL. The Vipers have made a couple more moves since last Friday, bringing in forward Derek Brown from the Bonnyville Pontiacs of the AJHL for Sol Seibel, Brown had 38 poins in 30 games played for Bonnyville before the trade. Also, Sam Anzai was traded to Prince George for future considerations. 

Henry Cleghorn (36) and Zach Zorn (35) continue to lead the way for the Merritt Centennials, but the hottest hand of late has been rookie Matthieu Gosselin, now up to 25 points and has 3 powerplay goals in his last 2 games. The Cents will need to convert on some powerplays against the Vipers if they want to come away with a win. The Cents now 10th on the powerplay with 18.3%, the Vipers in 8th at 19.5%. On the penalty kill, the Vipers 6th with 83.3% the Cents 9th with 82%

For the Vipers it's the same old snipers, Jimmy Lambert (45), Jagger Williamson (41), and Brett Stapley (40) represent the top players, but the Vipers are built on depth. With their acquisitions before the deadline, there's a reason why they are tops in the league, and their healthy respect for any opponent has been what's kept them ahead night in and night out. 

In net, the Vipers still have the top tandem in the league. Ty Taylor leads the way with a record of 16-3-0-3, a 1.90 GAA, and a 92.9 SV% with 5 shutouts, one against the Cents. Anthony Yamnitsky is 11-7-0-1 record with a 91.8 SV%, a 2.15 GAA, and 2 shutouts. The Cents will most likely swap back to Austin Roden tonight, 7-6-0-2 with a 2.84 GAA and a 92.3 SV%. Jacob Berger is fresh off the heels of a college committment to Minnesota State University, so congratulations to him as next season he will be playing for the Mavericks in division one NCAA hockey. He's 10-16-2-0 with 2 shutouts this season, a 91.0 SV% and a 3.25 GAA. 

It's another tall task for the Centennials tonight, but one they look to meet. 

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

 

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Jacob Berger, the Cents netminder, has earned himself a scholarship to a Division one program in the NCAA. 

Berger will be going to Minnesota State University to play for the Mavericks in Mankato, Minnesota. 

With a record of 10-16-2-0 this season, a .910 SV% and a 3.25 GAA, Berger has been one of the best players for the Centennials this season. 

He is expected to report for the 2018-19 season. 

 

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The Cents led for a large portion of the game Wednesday night against the Penticton Vees, but the lead only had to change once for the Vees to take the game 4-3.

The first period saw the Cents with the lone tally of the frame, just over 6 minutes in off a turnover at the line by Brendan Schneider he threw a shot on that was partially blocked, and Matt Kopperud found the loose puck and backhanded it past Adam Scheel for the first goal of the game, and the only goal of the period.

In the second, the Vees answered early with a goal by Massimo Rizzo at the 2 minute mark, which came following a huge stop by Jacob Berger after a point shot was deflected.

Midway through the second, the Cents regained the lead when Joey Berkopec fired a shot from the right side wall, that deflected off a Vees defender and under the blocker of Scheel to make it 2-1.

A few minutes later, on a powerplay, Matthieu Gosselin blasted a shot from the top of the left circle that beat Scheel clean on the glove side for his 3rd powerplay goal in 2 games.

The Vees continued to push and were able to get timely goals from Marcus Mitchell, as he shot one from the high slot on the rush over the glove side of Berger, and Taylor Ward, who found the puck in the blue paint off a partial block by Jackson Munro.

That left the third with things tied at 3’s, but just 4 minues in after a turnover at the line by Kenny Johnson, Ryan Sandelin retrieved the puck and played it down low for Vees Captain Owen Sillinger who was all alone below the hash marks and made Berger pay with a move to the backhand in tight making it 4-3.

Despite chances in the third to tie, the Cents couldn’t convert and now fall to 1-4 since the Christmas break.

The next game up, the Vernon Vipers at home on Friday night.

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