The BCHL Showcase goes on, but the Merritt Centennials participation in it is over. They played two of their best games of the season in front of hundreds of scouts from all levels of hockey, but couldn't manage to get a win as they fell 4-3 to the Prince George Spruce Kings.
The first period started with the all too familiar refrain, an early penalty against the Cents that put the Spruce Kings on the man advantage. However, it was Henry Cleghorn who ended up lighting the lamp shorthanded. After a pinch by the Spruce Kings D to keep the play alive, Cleghorn was able to get a couple steps, and Tyrell Buckley found him with a beautiful outlet pass to spring him for the short handed breakaway. Cleghorn came in with a head of speed, and went forehand, backhand, forehand, to put the puck past Bradley Cooper, the starting net minder for PG. That's how the first period finished. The teams traded a couple of powerplay opportunities towards the end of the period, with neither able to convert. The Cents had their first lead after 20 minutes of play this season.
It didn't last long. Just a minute and a half into the second period the Spruce Kings were able to score with Ethan De Jong and Ben Poisson combining for their first goal on the night.
The Cents didn't hang their heads as less than 40 second later they were able to execute a nice break out. Nick Wicks worked it up the right side to Zach Court, who took the puck in stride and came in with a head of steam, defenseman Joey Berkopec saw an opportunity and jumped up in the play on the left wing, Court then turn on the breaks at the right face off dot and laced a perfect pass to Berkopec who got his first BCHL goal by outstretching his stick and poking it past Cooper to restore the one goal lead.
Later in the frame, at the 5:47 mark, Christian Sabin went to the box for cross-checking, and with Sabin in the box the Spruce Kings converted on the powerplay with some good puck movement. Manz played it to the right point, who went cross ice to the left point, and then Manz floated to the high slot, and got a pass from Shawn Kennedy and sniped a shot past Berger.
After trading powerplays, and neither team converting again, at the 14 minute mark of the second Chase Bell found himself streaking down the left wing. He took a long shot on from outside the left circle, almost on the wall, and his shot was able to fool Cooper as it got through his glove hand. It was Bell's first goal of the year.
The offense wasn't over there as later in the period, Ethan de Jong returned the favour to Ben Poisson. This time the puck came in behind the Cents net, Berger went out to play it, he passed it to the left side corner to Buckley who was stripped of the puck by De Jong, and the puck floated out to the right circle and the only one there was Poisson who wired one past Berger after he couldn't quite get set in his net to tie it 3-3. That would be how the 3rd period would begin.
Once again, it wasn't the start to a period the Centennials were looking for as just under two minutes in Jared Hovde was able to find the puck loose at the side of the net after a shot from the point to put it past Berger. The Spruce Kings got their first lead of the game, and didn't look back as the Cents couldn't manage to tie the game up to force OT.
The Showcase really did show that the Centennials have what it takes to win a hockey game against some of the best teams in the BCHL, they just need to put a full game together.
The Cents will look for that win when the Surrey Eagles visit the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena at 7pm on Wednesday night.
The Cents are still searching for that elusive first win of the season, yesterday was the closest they’ve come as they were leading after 40 minutes of play. So far this season, the Cents have only lead a game during the majority of the first period against the Wenatchee Wild, and for a brief 3 minutes of game time from the end of the second period and the beginning of the 3rd yesterday. There were a lot of positives, but the team will need to put together a full 60 minute effort against the Mainland Division leading Prince George Spruce Kings to come away with a win today.
Since a 5-5 tie against the Chilliwack Chiefs to start the season, the Spruce Kings have rattled off 3 straight wins. In all their games, PG hasn’t managed to score less than 4 goals, by contrast the Centennials have yet to score 4 goals in a game this season.
Last season Prince George went unbeaten against the Centennials winning twice, once at the showcase, 7-2, once late in the season at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, 3-1, and the season opener last season skated to a 2-2 tie in Spruce King territory.
Early in the season, the Spruce Kings have 4 players in the top 20 in scoring, two in the top ten, each with 7 points a piece. Prince George is led by rookie forward Patrick Cozzi, and returning forward Ben Brar. Comparatively, the Cents don’t have a player among the league leaders until number 65. That being Zach Zorn with his 3 goals on the year. Needless to say, the Cents don’t want to try and go toe to toe offensively with Prince George.
On special teams, the Cents still remain snakebitten with no goals, and now one short handed goal against after yesterday’s game against the Rivermen. They’ve gone 0 for 21 to start the year, and are last in the league in that regard. Prince George is 4 for 23 through four games, ranked 12th in the league. The Cents may have trouble getting their first powerplay goal of the year, as the Spruce Kings are 3rd in the league with an 88.2% penalty kill, while Merritt sits at 12th with 73.9%
One thing stat that’s flying under the radar a bit for the Spruce Kings is that they haven’t yet left their perch from up north, and this will be their first official road game of the season. Will the travel have an effect on Prince George? Will the Cents have legs playing this early in the morning, and so close to their last game time?
We’ll find out when they hit the ice at 10am for puck drop. Pre game as always on Q101 at 9:45am.
The Merritt Centennials had their best effort of the season this afternoon in Chilliwack at the Prospera Centre in front of hundreds of scouts for the BCHL Bauer Showcase, however, it wasn't enough as they were still beaten by the Langley RIvermen 4-3.
The first goal of the game occured just four minutes into the game when Sean Gulka of the Rivermen was able to stop a clearance attempt, play it down low cross ice to his linemate Devin Leduc, who put the puck on a platter with a cross ice feed for Nicholas Ponak who found the net past Jacob Berger who got the start.
The teams would trade special teams chances before coincidental minors to Henry Cleghorn, and Trevor Ayre, late in the period. Both teams continued with their woes on the powerplay as the Rivermen had only converted 15% of their chances coming into the game, and couldn't get the puck past Berger with the man advantage.
In the second period, the Cents started with a bang as Nick Wicks got a beautiful feed from Zach Court after he batted a clearing attempt out of mid air, Wicks had time and space as he skated to the high slot and unloaded a wrister that beat Chad Cromar low glove. That tied things up at 1 just under a minute into the period.
However, four minutes later the Rivermen answered, and once again it was Gulka and Ponak connecting for the Rivermen, this time Gulka gained the line on the left side and then fed a saucer pass tape to tape to a streaking Ponak who received it in stride on the forehand, made the quick move to the backhand in tight and put it past a stationary Berger to restore the one goal lead at 2-1.
The Cents had another chance on the powerplay in the second period, but couldn't convert. Midway through the period, they would courtesy Zach Zorn after a hold at the line by Tyrell Buckley, and a low shot that had eyes, Zorn got the deflection to put it through the five hole of Cromar to tie the game back up at 2 a piece.
Then with just over a minute and a half to go in the second period, Christian Sabin was sprung on a breakaway, he got some seperation, but was held back by the Rivermen defensemen and was awarded a penalty shot. On the penalty shot, Sabin skated from center to his left as he crossed the blue line, as he started to come across the centre of the ice and had Cromar moving across the net, he shot against the grain and beat Cromar low glove for the Centennials first lead since early in game two of the season against Wenatchee.
For the first time this season, the Cents went into the third period with a lead, but the Rivermen spoiled the party just a minute and a half into the third. Brendan Budy, the captain of the Rivermen, found the back of the net off a feed from St. Jean to tie things back up at three.
Merritt had a glorious chance to win it late in the game as they went to the powerplay, but the Rivermen were the team that made good on the opportunity. After an ill fated drop pass by Brendan Schneider for a defenseman who wasn't there, Ponak stepped into a slap shot for his third goal of the game, and the game winner for Langley to take it 4-3.
The Cents will have to have short memories as their next game comes less that 24 hours later. The Cents will suit up to face the Prince George Spruce Kings at 10am tomorrow morning, pre game at 9:45 on Q101.
Entering the third week of the season, the Centennials are still searching for their first win. The first four teams they played may be some of the top contenders in the Interior Division, but now the Cents will look for some wins outside of the division as they take on the top two teams in the Mainland Division in the early season the Prince George Spruce Kings and the Langley Rivermen.
The first game will be against the Langley Rivermen. Last year the Rivermen swept the two game set against the Cents beating them 2-1 at the George Preston Arena in Langley, and then defeating the Centennials on home ice 5-4 in overtime.
Expect another close game in this one as the Rivermen's games have all come down to the wire with all of their games being decided by one goal, including two overtime losses. Despite the losses in OT, the Rivermen currently sit second in the Mainland Division behind the Cents next opponent the Prince George Spuce Kings. Langley comes into action sporting a 1-0-2-0 record while the Cents are the only team in the BCHL without at least one point in the standings with a 0-4-0-0 record.
Early in the season, the Rivermen have 5 players on the roster who are producing at a point per game rate or higher and are led by Captain Brendan Budy, and Trevor St. Jean who have 5 points through 3 games. The Centennials have 6 players who are producing at half a point per game, and are led offensively by the Zack Zorn - Ashton Stockie - Brendan Schneider line which has contributed 6 of the 17 points so far this year.
Discipline issues continue for the Cents and it means that not only has the team been playing a man short, but it also puts key players into tough situations. Top players like Stockie, Zorn, and Schneider have to spend their time on the penalty kill instead of saving their energy for offense 5 on 5. However, in the third period of the last game in West Kelowna, the Cents were able to stay out of the box, and ended up winning the period with a late goal from Jack Vincent.
The Cents have looked to address their offense, and their defense by bringing in a right handed defenseman in Colten Gerlib in time for the showcase. With a year of junior hockey experience, Coach Joe Martin feels that Gerlib can supply some solid skating, and puck movement to help the Cents work the puck up ice.
Martin added that despite players coming and going around the league, Merritt needs to continue to build their identity and their skills together.
"It's about coaching, We've got to focus on the ones that we have, not the one's that aren't with us, and make these guys a better hockey club, and a better team."
The Cents hope to be the better team for the first time this season when they take on the Langely Rivermen for a 1pm puck drop at the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack this afternoon.
In a move made late last night, the Merritt Centennials' General Manager Joe Martin confirmed the team had completed a trade that would bring in another right handed defensemen to the line up.
The Cents traded for Colten Gerlib who played for the Tri-City Americans and the Surrey Eagles last season, before having his rights dealt to the Maritimes this year. Gerlib had a goal and five assists over 30 games split between the two teams. Seeing the opportunity to bring in a player that can help bring some experience to the back end, and a player the Cents have had their eye on for a while, Martin decided to make the move.
"I've liked Colten for a couple years, I really like the way he skates, he's a puck moving defenseman, and he provides a year of experience of junior hockey and we felt we could use that."
The Cents parted with the rights to Ethan King, who played in 11 regular season, and 6 playoff games for the Centennials last season.
The move means that import player Jake Borgida has been released from the Centennials as well. Martin felt that with the acquisition of Gerlib, Borgida would no longer get the development required and both sides mutually agreed to part ways.
Gerlib could be in the lineup as early as this afternoon for the matinee game against the Langley Rivermen at the Bauer BCHL Showcase at 1pm.