The Merritt Centennials make their way back to the Prospera Centre for the first time since the BCHL Showcase to take on the Chilliwack Chiefs for the final time this season.
These two teams last met way back on October 18th and it was the Chiefs who pulled away with a 4-2 victory despite early goals from Mathieu Gosselin and Jack Vincent. Kaden Pickering had two goals for the Chiefs, and Skyler Brind'Amour and Jordan Roy added the others for the Chiefs.
A lot has changed since then personnel wise and team mentality wise, but both teams are starting to rebound in February with 3-3 records. The Cents have won 2 in a row and look to make it an official streak with a third win tonight, but the Chiefs are already on a 3 game bounce back after dropping 4 in a row to finish January and into February. Both teams are also still playing for playoff positioning, the Cents only trail Salmon Arm by 3 points, and a win tonight paired with a Grizzlies loss would bring them within one and make the matchup tomorrow mean all the more. The Chiefs are currently in a 3-way tie for 2nd in the Mainland Division, and with Prince George sitting clear in 1st place, teams are trying to avoid finishing as the 4th seed and being forced to travel all the way to PG for round one of the playoffs.
The focus tonight will be a matchup that on paper is very close. Merritt holds the edge in the goals for and against over the season, but the Chiefs do have some offensive weapons including: Captain Will Calverley with 43 points, Tommy Lee with 38, Corey Andonovski with 36, and defenseman Brian Allbee with 30. When you hold the top Cents up in comparison it's much the same: Henry Cleghorn back in the offense with 45 points, Nick Wicks with 39, Zach's Zorn and Court with 37, and D-man Tyrell Buckley with 33. Once again, the edge on paper atleast goes to the Cents.
On special teams, Merritt holds the edge on the powerplay, 8th in the league with 19% while Chilliwack is 12th with a 16.9% conversion rate. The Chiefs have the edge on the penalty kill where they sit third at 85.3%, while the Cents are 7th at 82.8%.
In net, the Chiefs have split duties between Mathieu Caron and Daniel Chenard, but the rookie Caron has been the one picking up the wins - 17-9-0-1 with an 89.3 SV% and a 2.71 GAA. Chenard is 8-15-0-2 with an 8-15-0-2 record, an 89.5 SV%, a 3.04 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Austin Roden has gotten the call for the last 3 games straight and has played great now 10-10-0-2 with a 92.7 SV%, a 2.53 GAA, and 2 shutouts. Jacob Berger should be poised to return to the crease on the weekend with a 12-21-2-0 record, a 90.6 SV%, a 3.41 GAA, and 2 shutouts.
The matchup may look even on paper, and that's why they play the games.
Puck Drop at 7pm from the Prospera Centre, Pre-Game at 6:45 with Jared Thomas on Q101.1FM or online at q101.ca.
Hobart College is happy they got a committment from Mike Faulkner last season as he's been named Rookie Of The Year for the whole New England Hockey Conference.
Faulkner has 4 goals and 11 assists through 21 games this season for the Statesmen, and has helped them become the second place team in the conference with a record of 15-5-5.
As a Centennial, he suited up for 103 regular season contests recording 63 points, and in 11 post season games last season had 1 goal and 6 assists.
The Merritt Centennials got the lead in the first, added three in the second, and guided the game home in the third to win 4-1 over the Langley Rivermen on Valentine's Day.
The Cents converted on their first powerplay of the game at the 16:25 mark of the first period. Zach Risteau found Tyrell Buckley at the line, and he made a quick give and go with Nick Wicks on the opposite side before blasting a one timer top corner glove side on Chad Cromar to make it 1-0. That would be the lone scoring of the first period.
The Cents came to life in the second, powered by a line that was playing together for their first game. Christian Sabin was making room for his linemates, and Brad Cocca took advantage throwing a feed from behind the net out front to Henry Cleghorn who put it over the blocker of a sprawled out Cromar. The Rivermen goalie seemed completely baffled, and guessed wrong on the pass, Cleghorn snapped a lengthy pointless streak with his 20th on the season to make it 2-0.
Christian Sabin scored on the very next shift, picking off a D-to-D pass in front of the net, before dangling in and outwaiting Cromar to put it past his outstretched leg to make it 3-0.
Cromar appeared to strain his groin making a diving toe save halfway through the second period and gave way to Braedon Fleming who came off the bench.
That didn't slow down the Cents as they made it 4-0 when Brendan Schneider drove wide, and then found Zach Court in the slot who fired one blocker side on Flemming.
The Cents carried that scoreline into the third, but couldn't add any offense. The Rivermen added a goal from Jayden Lee to break Austin Roden's shutout bid in his third straight start.
Merritt did get their second straight win by a 4-1 score, and after the game Head Coach Joe Martin liked the new look line.
"I thought Sabin had his strongest game this year. Tough for a guy that's in and out of the line up, but he had an easy job making room for Cocca and Cleghorn, and he did that. The line had success and he scored a goal."
Cents now look for their third straight win against the Chilliwack Chiefs on Friday night. 7pm puckdrop from the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack.
Devin Kero, now a senior for Michigan Tech, has earned WCHA Goaltender of the Week honors after a win and Winter Classic MVP this past weekend.
He stopped 36 of 37 shots in Michigan Tech's 5-1 win over Bemidji State on Saturday.
Kero played 40 games for the Cents back in 2013-14 posting a 2.48 GAA and a 91.8 SV%.
It's Kero's first WCHA weekly award.
The Merritt Centennials (20-26-4-1) prepare for their busiest week of the season as the Mainland Division's Langley Rivermen (22-18-10-2) come into the NVMA for their lone contest of the year. The Cents will travel to Chilliwack on Friday, then welcome Salmon Arm on Saturday, and Victoria on Sunday to make it 4 games in 5 days.
The Cents will be looking to ride the high of a win over the Cowichan Valley Capitals on the weekend. Despite it being the lone win on the road trip, there were a lot of good stories throughout the game when you consider it was Family Day long weekend. Island Natives Mattias Dal Monte and Austin Roden played a prominent role in the final game of the weekend. The team fueled up with a beautiful pre-game meal prepared at the Dal Monte household: pancakes, waffles, fruit, sausages, bacon, whipped cream, OJ and coffee. That gave the Cents some hunger to go after two points later on that afternoon.