Merritt Centennials
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The 2nd in the Interior Merritt Centennials (29-14-4-3) take on the 2nd on the Island Powell River Kings (31-19-1-0) tonight.

The Cents are coming off one of their best complete efforts on the season on Wednesday night against the Coquitlam Express. The Cents got a solid special teams effort that started early with Matt Kopperud converting on the first powerplay of the game, and the team with the help of Austin Roden was able to shut the Express down on the penalty kill going perfect on 6 occasions. Brad Cocca came alive in the game in the 2nd period connecting on a beautiful passing play with Jackson Munro to make it 2-0 after 40 minutes. In the third, the Cents converted early on an expiring powerplay in the first 20 seconds to make it 3-0, then had to weather a storm of momentum from the Express. Thanks to some stellar saves from Austin Roden the Cents kept Coquitlam at bay, and then were able to add goals from Cocca and Wicks to make it 5-0 for Roden's 2nd shutout of the season.

The Cents are hoping the momentum carries over into the weekend as this stretch of 3 in 3 could define the season. They sit just 4 points back of Penticton, and have one final head to head match up next Friday. They'll get an extra push from having their Dads join them on the trip, and hopefully they perform well in front of their families in the not so familiar territory of the Island Division.

First up are the Powell River Kings who are the 2nd best team on paper in the division, but may have the best structure. The Kings are 3-2 in their last 5 and continue to have two of the top threats in the league including leading goal scorer Ryan Brushett with 35 goals this season. They also possess the leagues best powerplay so the Cents will have their hands full on defense.

The lone game these two teams played earlier this season saw the offenses combine for 7 goals on the powerplay. The Cents tallied 4/7 while the Kings went 3/5, but Powell River got more goals even strength to make it a 6-5 final.

The Cents got a big 3 point game from Brad Cocca who's now up to 58 points on the year - 6th in the BCHL. Nick Granowicz and Nick Wicks both have 52 points, and Mathieu Gosselin joins the 50 points club with 50.

The Kings rely on Ryan Brushett to fill the net. He has 72 points on the year - 2nd only to phenom Alex Newhook. Levi Glasman has 54 which is 13th league wide, and Neal Samanski has chipped in 41 points.

The special teams battle sees the Kings with the edge.

Powerplay:                                 Penalty Kill:

PR - 24.6% (1st)                        PR - 80.8% (8th)

Cents - 18.9% (12th)                 Cents - 77.1% (13th)

In net, Austin Roden is coming off his best performance of the year posting his 2nd shutout of the year. He's now reached the illustrious 20 win plateau on the season as well at 20-7-3, a .907SV%, a 3.01 GAA and 2 shutouts. Vincent Duplessis didn't dress on Wednesday, and an AP could be on the bench tonight.

Mitch Adamyk has been the go to guy for the Kings at 23-13. He sports a .907 SV%, a 2.93 GAA and 4 shutouts. Matteo Paler-Chow is 4-4 with a .891 SV% and a 3.36 GAA.

Head Coach Joe Martin says the Kings will be a good barometer for the Island road swing.

"The Kings have the best structure out of all the Island teams, they have good special teams, they play well at home. If we can get past them it will set a good tone."

The Cents hope to set the tone early tonight.

Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.

 

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The Merritt Centennials got a 40 save performance and plenty of offense to return to the win column on Wednesday night against the Express 5-0.

The powerplay has been a bit of a question mark all season long, but it had answers early in the goings of the first. Matt Kopperud clapped a one-timer from Nick Granowicz upstairs, bar down to make it 1-0. The offense took a while to arrive as shots after 1 were only 8-7 in favour of the Express. Kolby Matthews got the nod for the Express while Austin Roden got the start for the Cents.

In the second period, the Cents and Express traded chances but it took until the 12 minute mark for the offense to arrive. Austin Roden was the best penalty killer by a long shot, and it led to some good things at the other end of the ice. Brad Cocca and Jackson Munro combined for one of the nicest rushes of the season. Cocca gained the line on the right side, dropped for Munro, and then got open on the other side of the ice. Munro made a move, saucered a pass over, and Cocca made a move to the backhand past a sprawled out Matthews to make it 2-0. Shots after 2 were 20-19 Cents.

The Cents had a third opportunity on the PP when the third period began with just 30 seconds to work. Merritt hit pay dirt in the first 20 seconds after Brendan Schneider found a rebound and batted it home to make it 3-0. The Cents then weathered an Express storm and Austin Roden captained the ship killing off a couple penalties and a total of 6 on the night, once again it led to opportunities for offense. Mathieu Gosselin had a steal at the offensive blue line, and came in all alone, his initial shot was stopped by Matthews, but he collected the rebound and waited for reinforcements and found Cocca out front to make it 4-0. Nick Wicks got the final goal of the night, after Rylan Van Unen did the heavy lifting and found him in front to make it 5-0. From there the team switched gears to the defensive side to help reward Roden for his efforts. The Cents netminder turned aside 21 shots in the final frame, and 40 overall for the shutout.

After the game, Head Coach Joe Martin said that there was a lot to like.

"The powerplay was good, Roden was great, the offense was there. We took a few too many penalties, but there's always small things to look at after a game like this."

ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Joey Berkopec 0G 2A 2PIM

3RD STAR: Jackson Munro 0G 2A

2ND STAR: Brad Cocca 2G 1A

1ST STAR: Austin Roden 40/40

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The 2nd in the Interior Division Merritt Centennials (28-14-4-3) take on the Mainland's 3rd place Coquitlam Express (25-21-2-2) tonight.

The Centennials are coming off a light week of action with just 2 games, but are heading into their heaviest of the season with 4 games in 5 nights this week. The Cents were unable to get into the win column in the week that was, but did pick up one of a possible four points in a shootout loss. First up was the Wenatchee Wild last Wednesday, and the Cents had trouble breaking through a strong neutral zone of the Wild. Mathieu Gosselin was able to score in the first period, and Nick Granowicz was able to add a late goal to make things interesting, but the Cents fell 3-2 in regulation - their first regulation defeat in 2019.

On Saturday night against the Trail Smoke Eaters, the coaching staff elected to switch up the forward group hoping to add some life and some intrigue to lines that may have been getting too comfortable. It paid off early as the Cents were able to get two first period goals from Brendan Schneider and Brett Roloson for a 2-2 tie, but after that the offense dried up and the teams skated all the way through the last 45 minutes without a goal. That gave way to the shootout where the Cents were burned again, unable to score on three shooters and surrendering one to wiz kid Kent Johnson of the Smokies. The result was a 3-2 shootout loss.

The Cents now look to return to the win column against the Coquitlam Express, a team they just snuck past earlier in January 5-4. Payton Matsui and Rylan Van Unen scored to tie the game at 2's but the Express surged out to a 4-2 lead after 40 minutes. Que the comeback, Daniel Tkac would score with less than 5 minutes to go, and Nick Wicks would score with less than a minute to go to tie the game at 4. In OT, the Cents dominated and Wicks dangled in and was able to secure the OT victory with a snipe short side high.

The big news prior to that game against the Express was Coquitlam's acquisition of Surrey's Ty Westgard before the trade deadline. It was the biggest splash, and the biggest fish available on the trade market. However, in their last 5 the Express are 0-3-2 with their most recent loss coming to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks last night 2-1 in the shootout.

The Cents need a little more from their top weapons. Brad Cocca is up to 55 points which is 9th in the BCHL, but hasn't registered more than 2 points in a game in the new year. The same can be said for Nick Granowicz with 51 points, however he did get a goal and an assist against the Wild last week. Nick Wicks has been steadily picking up points and is now tied with Grano at 51, and Mathieu Gosselin is sitting on the precipice of 50 with 49 points.

The Express are led by Josh Wildauer up front with 49 points, newly acquired Ty Westgard has 45, Alex DiPaolo has 43 and Regan Kimens has 42.

The special teams battle sees the Express with the edge.

Powerplay:                                  Penalty Kill:

Coq: 19.6% (10th)                      Coq; 77.8% (12th)

Cents: 18.4% (14th)                   Cents: 76.5% (14th)

The goalie duel sees Roden coming off a pair of overtime defeats, and Duplessis hitting the win column in his last start. Austin Roden is 19-7-3 with a .903 SV%, a 3.11 GAA, and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis is 9-5-3 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA.

Both goalies for the Express are capable and have split time this season. Kolby Matthews is 13-13 with a .907 SV%, a 2.81 GAA, and 1 shutout. Clay Stevenson is 12-10 with an .880 SV%, a 3.77 GAA, and 1 shutout.

Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw says the Express will be a tough test.

"Coquitlam is a big team, a strong team, and a fast team. We will have to outwork them and make life difficult for them when they visit our barn."

The Cents will put their toughness to the test tonight.

Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.

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The Merritt Centennials were able to strike early, but weren’t able to get offense after that as they skated to a 3-2 shootout loss to the Trail Smoke Eaters.

The Cents found their way onto the scoreboard just 5 minutes in as Rylan Van Unen drove wide with a step down the left side, and as he crossed behind the net threw it back out front, Nick Wicks took a whack at it before Brendan Schneider slowly poked it across the line to give the Cents the 1-0 lead. The lead would last for all of 6 minutes before the Smoke Eaters tied things up with a Carter Jones shot from the high slot. Trail would add to their lead under 30 seconds later off a deflection in in front to give them a 2-1 lead. 2 minutes later Brett Roloson would pick up a partial turnover and snipe it home for his 5th goal of the season to tie things back up at 2’s. The Cents outshot the Smokies 17-10 in the first. With Austin Roden stopping 8/10.

The second period saw the teams amp up the physical intensity, but other than a couple penalties each way it didn’t result on anything on the scoreboard. The teams picked up just 6 and 7 shots respectively. The Cents had the edge 23-17.

The final frame saw a couple more chances for the Cents, but despite throwing 34 shots on net they needed to test Adam Marcoux even more as no one go any more offense in the third and it went to OT.

In OT, both teams felt each other out like a chess match trying to keep control of the puck. Trail threw 4 shots on Austin Roden to the Centennials 2, and the game needed a shootout.

In the shootout, Daniel Tkac, Christian Sabin, and Nick Wicks were all stopped while Trail got a goal from young gun Kent Johnson to win it.

The Cents return to the point column, but they will need to wait until Wednesday against the Coquitlam Express at home to return to the win column.

ENERGY PLAYER OF THE GAME: Kent Johnson SO Goal

3rd STAR: Mack Byers 0G 1A

2nd STAR: Brett Roloson 1G 0A

1st STAR: Adam Marcoux 32/34

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The 2nd in the Interior Division Merritt Centennials (28-14-4-2) take on another division rival tonight, the 7th place Trail Smoke Eaters (18-21-7-3).

The Cents are coming off a frustrating game against the Wenatchee Wild at home. One in which their breakouts, and break-ins were constantly being turned aside by the active sticks of the Wild. The Cents were able to overcome early with a first period goal from Mathieu Gosselin, but had trouble adjusting to the game plan of the Wild. Wenatchee came back with 2 goals in the second period, before adding another in the third. Nick Granowicz would tally for the Cents to pull them within one, but there was no cardiac comeback for the Merritt Centennials who saw their point streak snapped at 11 in a row, before falling to Wenatchee 3-2 in regulation.

Merritt will have to regroup quickly against a plucky Trail club that's looking to move out of the Interior Division basement. Trail is 2-2-1 in their last 5 games while the Cents are 2-1-2. The Smokies are coming off a couple double-headers - one against the Wild, the other against the Silverbacks and they earned splits in each. They also faced the Vernon Vipers last night in what was their regular season series finale losing 6-3 against the surging Vipers who are now just a point behind the West Kelowna Warriors for 4th place in the Interior.

The Cents and Smoke Eaters have played some close games this season despite the scorelines being comfortable for the most part. Merritt is 3-0-1 against Trail this year with 4-2 and 5-3 wins at home. On the road they lost 2-1 in OT and picked up a 5-2 win just before the Christmas break.

Brad Cocca continues to lead the way for the Centennials with 55 points, but he has some new company in the 50 point plateau. With a goal and an assist in the last game, Nick Granowicz now has 51 points, and after picking up an assist on Grano's goal Nick Wicks now has 50 points. Mathieu Gosselin is just a point from making it to that level as well with 49 points. The Cents haven't had 4 scorers eclipse the 50 point mark in a season since the 05/06 season when Brandon Wong, Brandon Campos, Alan Mazur, Greg Tyshinski, and Casey Pierro-Zabotel all registered over 50 points a piece. With Matt Kopperud sitting at 42 points, there's a chance the Cents can equal that epic campaign of 12 years ago.

The Trail Smoke Eaters are led by Chase Stevenson with 45 points, Carter Jones has 43, and Trevor Zins with 39 points.

The special teams battle sees both squads struggling when short a man, but Trail holding the edge on the powerplay.

Powerplay:                                        Penalty Kill:

Trail - 21.5% (4th)                            Trail - 76% (14th)

Cents - 18.5% (14th)                        Cents - 76.2% (13th)

The goaltending duel sees Vincent Duplessis picking up the most recent victory on Sunday, a first star performance, against the Langley Rivermen. Duplessis is 9-5-3 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA. Austin Roden is looking for a rebound and is 9-8-2 with a .903 SV% and a 3.15 GAA.

The Smoke Eaters rely on Adam Marcoux between the pipes. He's 15-21 with a .891 SV% and a 3.16 GAA. Newly acquired goalie Donovan Buskey is 1-1 with a .859 SV% and a 5.00 GAA.

Head Coach Joe Martin says Cents will need to make the most of preparations before their tilt with the Smoke Eaters.

"We've had a couple days practice to prepare for the game. We know all the steps for getting to Trail. We just need to make sure that when the puck drops, we're ready to play."

The Cents will hope the prep pays off tonight.

Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca with the Voice of the Cents Jared Thomas.

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