The Merritt Centennials (10-27-1-3) look to take game 2 of this weekend's double header against the West Kelowna Warriors (8-25-5-2) tonight.
The Merritt Centennials had a tough outing last night where a 49 second span in the first period really was the game as they couldn't come back from the 3 goal turn in an eventual 5-3 loss to the West Kelowna Warriors.
The Cents had a number of young players in the lineup and early on you wouldn't know it. It wasn't until the Centennials went to the penalty kill that they showed sign of weakness. The Warriors quickly went to a two man advantage, and quickly scored a pair of goals to make it 2-0. After going back to even strength, West K would add another one and in the span of 49 seconds the Cents found themselves down 3-0. The Cents opted to pull Tanner Marshall in favour of Ryan Winter to energize the bench. The move paid off as Thomas Manty would answer for the Centennials with a quick shot blocker side on Derrick to make it 3-1 with Orchard and AP Brett Mero setting him up. The Warriors would get another tally by beating Winter down low, five hole to make it 4-1. Late in the frame, Evan Benwell danced into the zone made a deke to the backhand and was stoned on the line, but Jake McLean followed up the play to push it across for the goal to make it 4-2.
Things slowed down in the 2nd period as teams traded chances, and Derrick came up with a number of quality stops to keep his team in the lead. The Centennials went to the PP, but it wasn't the turning point they were hoping for as Carter Wilkie would score short handed to make it 5-2. It would stand up as the only goal of the period despite the increased pressure from the Cents. Rylan Van Unen got the Centennials within two in the final frame, but the goal came too little too late with 6 minutes to go. Try as they might, the Cents couldn't find more offense and the Warriors would hang on for the win. Final shots were 37-32 Cents.
The Warriors have some reinforcements coming in after a couple of their trades completed yesterday at the deadline. Corey McCann will add some help on the blue line, and Elan Bar Lev Wise will add some punch up front at the expense of Max Bulawka. The Warriors didn't look too worse for wear last night, but had some well placed shots and good goaltending from Johnny Derrick en route to victory. The season series now sits 3-2 for the Centennials, but the Warriors have won the last two match ups. The Warriors now trail the Cents by just a point in the standings, and the season series and possible playoff berth hangs in the balance. The Cents will need solid goaltending, and some solid play from their affiliates to come out with a victory.
Christian Buono remains the leader up front with 30 points. Payton Matsui has 26, and Daniel Tkac has 24 points.
West Kelowna is led by Tyler Cristall and John Evans with 26 points followed by defender Nick Ardanaz with 21 points.
The special teams battle sees the Cents still awaiting their first goal with the extra man in 2020.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 10.2% (17th) Cents - 72.8% (17th)
WK - 18.3% (9th) WK - 75.1% (15th)
The goaltending duel sees both Cents netminders looking for a better showing in game 2 of the double header. Tanner Marshall is 6-12-2 with a .883 SV% and a 4.73 GAA. Ryan Winter is 3-13-1 with a .903 SV% and a 3.94 GAA with 1 shutout.
Johnny Derrick played sensational last night and is 4-12-1 with a .905 SV%, a 3.38 GAA and 1 shutout.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says the start has to be there tonight.
"We can't be chasing all night, we need to get the first goal, have a strong first period and go from there."
The Cents are still waiting to start 2020 with a win.
Puck drop 6pm. Pre-game 5:45 with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve on Q101.