Merritt Centennials
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The Merritt Centennials had a strong first road frame, but couldn’t sustain against the Vernon Vipers in an 8-3 loss.

The Cents opened the scoring in the latter half of the first when Payton Matsui broke free down the left wing, didn’t have an option so hit Christian Buono with a no look back pass on a platter that Buono hammered top corner to make it 1-0. The Vipers were able to steal the Cents thunder by scoring in the final minute of the first to tie the game at 1’s. Shots after 1 were 11-6 in favour of Vernon.

The second period saw the Vipers strike early scoring just over a minute into play off a rebound to make it 2-1. Landon Fuller squeaked one through Marshall with a shot from the point to make it 3-1. The Cents answered on a just expiring powerplay with a spin around shot from Hunor Torzsok to make it 3-2, but the Vipers didn’t take long to answer back to restore the 2 goal margin 4-2 when Kowalski peeled off the half wall and sniped one short side past Marshall. Dawson Holt added a late marker with the extra man to make it 5-2 at the end of 2. Shots after 2 were 25-18 in favour of the Vipers.

The final frame saw the Vipers continue to pull away, as once again they tallied early, this time in the first minute to make it 6-2. Braydon Clark dropped the gloves with Brett Fudger after taking exception to the shots he was giving Chase Nameth. The linesmen initially stepped in and then let them go, and by the time they were set loose Clark was tied up in his jersey and couldn’t unleash the lefts. Thomas Manty answered for the Cents just as 4-on-4 play expired to score a PP goal just over halfway through the period cut the lead in half 6-3. A late penalty by Olson Werenka for charging led to the Vipers adding another on the PP, and then Matt Kowalski completed the hat trick with a breakaway pass. Final shots were 43-30 Vipers.

After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter said the Cents need to make the game easier on themselves.

“When we get into the tough situations, when the other team is swirling, we need to fall back to the simple play. We don’t need to try and do too much, it has to be our default to make that easy move.”

The Cents will look to rebound in the rematch on Sunday against the Vipers at 2pm for the Teddy Bear Toss.

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The Merritt Centennials would like to announce that they've acquired Evan Benwell (00)and future considerations from the Nanaimo Clippers in exchange for Josh Kagan (00).

Benwell, a product of Toronto, comes to the Cents after getting into just 3 games for the Nanaimo Clippers this season and 3 games for the Notre Dame Hounds of the SJHL. He has shown that he has offensive prowess after spending the previous two seasons in the OJHL with the Burlington Cougars and the Toronto Patriots. Over 101 games in the OJHL, Benwell scored 32 goals and 42 assists. He also is a proven playoff performer with 14 points in 24 playoff games over his time in Ontario.

Head Coach and General Manager Derek Sweet-Coulter says that Benwell brings dynamic offense and something else the team has been missing.

"Offensively he's a very creative player who will help not only at even strength but on the powerplay. He's also right handed whch is a piece we have been searching for as we only have one other right shot forward. He has excellent hockey IQ and we are very happy to have him here in Merritt."

Josh Kagan leaves as the team's leading scorer with 29 points combined in his time with the Cowichan Capitals and the Centennials this season.

The Cents would like to wish Josh well in the next step of his hockey career, and thank him for his contributions to the team and community in his time here. At the same time, the team would like to welcome Evan and his family to the Centennials and the Nicola Valley.

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The Merritt Centennials (8-19-1-1) visit the Vernon Vipers (15-12-1-1) tonight at Kal Tire Place.

The Cents are coming off a mini road trip to Langley and the Island where they managed to salvage one point, although against the Bulldogs the full two were definitely on the table. The Cents built up a 3-0 lead through the first 40 minutes of play with some of their strongest play to date. A breakaway goal from Hunor Torzsok, a solid play off the half-wall from Daniel Tkac, and a heads up play from Josh Kagan had the Cents in the driver seat heading into the third period. However, a penalty with no time remaining at the end of the 2nd meant that the Cents would start shorthanded and with just 3 seconds left on the penalty kill to start the third, the Bulldogs would score on a deflection to beat an otherwise otherworldly performance from Winter to start the comeback. Jackson Doucet would add another after keeping and firing on a 2-on-1 to make it 3-2, and the Bulldogs would complete the comeback with 6 minutes to go in the third with a partial breakaway effort. The game would go the full distance after that as OT solved nothing and the game went to a shootout. The Cents had solid moves from Tkac, Kagan, and Buono in the skills contest, but it was a wrister up top from the Bulldogs that clinched the game for former Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw and Alberni Valley.

The Vernon Vipers are coming in off a win, but have had their share of ups and downs this year. They've lost starter Max Palaga to long term injury, and in the first meeting of the season between these two teams may have been where he initially provoked his injury. In their last 5 games, the Vipers won 2-0 versus Salmon Arm, lost 4-3 to the Surrey Eagles, lost 3-1 to the Langley Rivermen, won 2-1 in a shootout versus Salmon Arm, and loss in a tight 2-1 game to the Coquitlam Express.

The season series sits 0-2 for the Cents as the first game and visit to Vernon saw the Cents run into bus trouble and have a late start. Despite goals from Captain Rylan Van Unen and Thomas Manty to tie the game at 2's after 1, the Vipers responded with 3 unanswered to win 5-2. The second contest was much closer and it came right after the firing of Barry Wolff, and the Cents suffered a late heart breaker in the final minute to fall 3-2 in regulation.

Josh Kagan continues to lead the way with 2 goals in the last two games with 29 points, Daniel Tkac has also tallied twice in the last two and it will be his last game before departing for Team Slovakia at the World Juniors - he has 22 points, and Christian Buono has 19 points.

The Vipers are led by hometown kid Matt Kowalski with 26 points, Captain Connor Marritt has 21, and WHL pickup Dawson Holt has 16 points.

The special teams battle sees the Cents looking to earn a few more opportunities while staying out of the box themselves.

Powerplay:                              Penalty Kill:

Cents - 8.1% (17th)            Cents - 71.1% (16th)

Vipers - 11.2% (16th)        Vipers - 87.6% (3rd)

The goaltending duel sees Winter come in hot despite not being able to pick up the win in his last two contests. He's 2-10-2 with a .912 SV%, a 3.72 GAA, and 1 shutout. Tanner Marshall is 5-9 with an .879 SV% and a 4.61 GAA.

The Vipers acquired Reilly Herbst just before Palaga went down, and he's been sensational so far. He's 11-2-1 with a .929 SV%, a 1.98 GAA, and 1 shutout. James Porter Jr has served as the backup and is 0-4 with an .899 SV% and a 2.79 GAA.

Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says the Cents just need to string their combined efforts over 60 minutes.

"I think if we bring the effort we had in that 3rd period against Langley, and the first two against Alberni we have a win. Playing hard to the end is what we need."

The Cents will look to combine for their first win in 5 games.

Puck drop 7pm from Kal Tire Place. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas.

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The Merritt Centennials played two of their strongest periods of the season on Wednesday versus the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, but the third period led to a comeback that the Bulldogs were able to convert into a shootout win. 

In the first period, as had been the case all season with the Cents, goaltending was a huge factor with Ryan Winter holding down the fort in his own end to ensure no Bulldogs captured an edge. The Cents got an early goal from Hunor Torzsok on a beauty saucer pass from Joey Berkopec to make it 1-0. Daniel Tkac then scored on a great individual effort from off the half wall to make it 2-0. After 1 the Cents led on the scoreline and trailed on the shot clock 18-13. 

The second frame saw the Cents add another to the stat sheet. Ryan Winter made a huge stop at one end, which spurned a rush the other way and Josh Kagan was able to capitalize the make it 3-0 by keeping with a puck that was initially stopped at the blue line and eventually putting it over the pad of Pearson. That would be the only goal of the second period, despite some late chances from the Centennials. Shots after 2 were 29-26 in favour of the Cents. 

In the final frame the Cents started shorthanded and weren't able to kill off the penalty as the Bulldogs tallied with just 3 seconds remaining to get the home town crowd back in the game. Jackson Doucet then make it 3-2 with a 2 on 1 effort where he sniped high to get Alberni back in the game. Jacob Bosse was able to tie the game with 5 minutes with a deke to the backhand in tight. The Cents tried to push back for the difference maker, but they spent too much time chasing and just hung on for the 3-3 tie into overtime. 

In OT, the Cents and Bulldogs skated for almost the entire frame at 4 on 4 because of a late penalty in the third, and the flow of play. The Cents and Bulldogs were able to solve nothing in extra time. 

In the shootout, solid moves from Daniel Tkac, Josh Kagan, and Christian Buono all went by the way side. Bosse was the lone scorer with a shot on the shootout to secure the comeback victory for Alberni Valley. 

After the game Derek Sweet-Coulter said the Cents battled hard, but still need to learn how to win. 

"We are trying to develop habits that are going to help us win in the playoffs, and we need to finish games where we have a lead."

The Cents will look to take the lesson into Friday night against the Vernon Vipers. 

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The Merritt Centennials (8-19-1-0)  look to rebound tonight against the former coaching regime and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (13-12-0-2).

The Merritt Centennials battled back from a 3 goals deficit, but weren’t able to avoid a late goal from the Langley Rivermen for the 4-3 final. Ryan Winter held the Cents in it during the first period with big saves when the Centennials were battling the Rivermen and the refs. The Cents marched to the box 4 times in the first period and as such found it hard to get a flow going. They were outshot in the first frame 16-7. The second period saw the teams tentatively take chances at each other through the early goings of the action, but after a 5th Centennials penalty the Rivermen were able to pull through, and that broke the dam a little bit in net as they scored 3 goals in 3 minutes. Josh Kagan was able to get the Cents some life with a short side snipe over the shoulder of Fleming to make it 3-1 before the end of 2. Daniel Tkac continued the Centennials comeback effort in the 3rd with an early wraparound snipe upstairs to make it 3-2. Then when the Cents went to the powerplay they were able to get a quick tally, and the first as a Cent, from Christian Buono to tie the game at 3’s. Halfway through the period, the Cents had a turnover at centre and Langley danced in, Winter stayed with the forward all the way, but his last chance centering feed found Musa who made it 4-3 for the eventual winner despite the Cents going 2 man up in the last 2 minutes with a powerplay try. Final Shots were 39-31 Langley.

The Bulldogs are 2-3 in their last 5 games played, and are also looking to get back to the win column. Former Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw will be at the helm, as former Head Coach Joe Martin is off to the World Junior A Challenge as HC of Team Canada West. The Bulldogs haven't suffered for offense of late as they fell 4-3 to the Victoria Grizzlies in their last effort, and 6-4 to the Cowichan Valley Capitals before that. They were able to top the Caps 6-5 for their last win, but were bested by the Spruce Kings before that 4-3.

The Cents and Dogs have clashed once already this season back at the BCHL Showcase. In that game, the Cents answered an early goal to make it 1-1, but for the remainder of the game the Cents ran into a hot goalie and the Dogs pulled away to make it 4-1 final. Former defender Jackson Munro tallied in that game, and will be a force to reckon with on the other side tonight.

The Cents did get some of their offense firing again last night as Josh Kagan leads the team with 18 goals and 10 assists. Daniel Tkac has 21 points after scoring a beauty, and Christian Buono has 19 points after registering his first goal with the team.

The Bulldogs are led by Captain Mitch Deelstra with 30 points, Ryan Doolin has 27, and Dawson Tritt has 22.

The special teams battle sees the Cents looking to catch lightning in a bottle after a much better effort overall.

Powerplay:                                    Penalty Kill:

Cents - 8.2% (17th)                  Cents - 70,8% (16th)

Dogs - 16.4% (12th)                 Dogs - 79.6% (11th)

The battle in the crease sees Ryan Winter coming off another great performance. He's 2-10-1 with a .910 SV% and a 3.79 GAA. Tanner Marshall is 5-9 with a .879 SV% and a 4.76 GAA.

On the other side Luke Pearson is 6-6 with a .910 SV% and a 3.09 GAA. Jackson Glassford is 6-7 with a .910 SV% and a 3.46 GAA.

Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says the effort the team gave in the third needs to be there all night.

“I think if we come out with the game we had in the third period for the whole game we will be fine, but we need to find the jump a little sooner.”

Puck drop 7pm from the Alberni Valley Multiplex. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas.

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