Merritt Centennials
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The Merritt Centennials achieved something they hadn't done since November 23rd of 2019 - pick up a win on home ice, and it came against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 4-2 on a night where they honored Brian Barrett, Merritt's Mr. Hockey. 

The first period didn't have any goals, but it had some solid physicality with a couple crunching hits from Brody Johnston and Brophy Dunne. The Cents carried the chances, but were unable to convert on a night where they were short 2 bodies up front and 1 on the backend. Tanner Marshall did his part through one stopping all 12 shots he faced, while Grant Adams turned away 14. 

In the middle frame, things started to heat up. Despite an early powerplay for the Cents, Salmon Arm was able to tally one shorthanded after a turnover to Luke Mylymok he was able to set up Will Poirier for a breakaway from the blueline and he made the Cents pay with a move to the backhand in tight. The goal came just 2 minutes in to the 2nd, but with 2 minutes left Talon Zakall was able to fire a seeing eye shot through the crowd and find the top corner blocker side to tie the game 1-1 after 40 minutes of play. Shots after 2 were 26-24 Cents. 

The Cents were able to use their powerplay to power themselves to victory in the 3rd period. A nifty tic tac toe play was finished off by Evan Benwell after some quick passing from Thomas Manty and Christian Buono. The Silverbacks were able to even the score on a powerplay of their own after a shot thrown wide, bounced off the end boards, then off the heel of Marshall's skate, and out to Noah Wakeford who was able to tap it home to tie the game 2-2. The Cents earned themselves another powerplay, and Thomas Manty blasted a one timer past Adams to restore the one goal lead 3-2. Late in the game, with the net empty for the 'Backs, Payton Matsui fearlessly blocked a shot and it came free to Daniel Tkac who fired it down the ice to make it a 4-2 final. Final shots were 37-33 Salmon Arm. 

After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter said he was just proud of the boys. 

"It was a full effort from everyone that was still out there. They did great, executed on special teams, and executed overall. Solid team first game."

The Cents will look to continue the good vibes tomorrow afternoon when they unveil their 3rd jerseys against former Head Coach Joe Martin and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. 

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The Merritt Centennials (11-38-1-3) take on division rival Salmon Arm Silverbacks (28-20-4-1) tonight. 

The Centennials are coming off a tough loss to the Coquitlam Express that saw their playoff hopes dashed. The Centennials opened the scoring with a goal from Daniel Tkac after Rylan Van Unen stripped his man at the blueline and kept the pressure on. The goal came just a minute into the contest, but after catching the Express flat footed the best team in the BCHL came back full force. The Express were able to storm back with 5 unanswered goals in the first period to take a commanding 5-1 lead after 20 minutes of play. Ryan Winter was chased from the net after the 4-1 goal, and in a must win game the Cents had to pass the reigns onto Tanner Marshall. However there was no stopping the freight train on Tuesday night as the Express rolled on for 4 more goals on the night. One of the lone bright spots on the night was a coast to coast rush and goal from Captain Rylan Van Unen shorthanded for the 2nd goal of the game. Chase Nameth also took a big hit in the 2nd period that started a melee and a flurry of penalties. Ultimately, the Express would go on to win 9-2 and match the Cents toughest defeat on the season. 

The Salmon Arm Silverbacks are starting to heat up at the right time and are 4-0-1 in their last 5. Two of those victories are the most recent in the season series between these two divisional rivals as just a few weeks ago the Cents lost 6-2 and 5-3 to Salmon Arm. From there the 'Backs went on to win 3-0 versus Langley, their lone blemish came 3-2 in overtime against the Penticton Vees, and this week they were able to crush the West Kelowna Warriors 6-2. After a shaky January, the team has recommitted to being a defense first team and it has translated on the stat sheet to more wins in the bank. The Silverbacks are in a tight race to secure 3rd place in the Interior Division but they have the Vernon Vipers and the Wenatchee Wild nipping at their heels. Salmon Arm has 61 points, Vernon 59, and the Wild 58. 

The season series sits 1-2-1 against the Silverbacks for the Cents and most recently the Cents fell 6-2 and 5-3 in a double header. Payton Matsui has been a prime target for offense of late and in the season series has been pretty clutch. Tonight will be an interesting contest as it marks the first game of the season that the Cents have been mathematically elminated from the playoffs. Will the Cents go out with some pride, or pack it in early?

There is one man to be very proud of in Merritt tonight, and that's Brian Barrett the former longtime Governor and Director of Hockey Operations has done everything from being a player to being the owner of the club and earlier this season he announced he was stepping back from the team. Tonight we honor a man who has given his life to hockey in the Nicola Valley, and without his passion, there may not be a team in the building to enjoy. 

The Cents will be looking from contributions from their to end in Payton Matsui with 37 points, Christian Buono with 33, and Daniel Tkac with 27. Lately, it's been Captain Rylan Van Unen that's been playing some inspired hockey as he's now up to 14 goals and 25 points on the year. 

The Silverbacks are led by their Captain who also leads the league in points by a defender with 51, Noah Wakeford has 48, and Daniel Rybarik has 44. 

In net the Cents netminders are looking to finish strong. Ryan Winter is 4-19-1 with an .892 SV%, a 4.40 GAA and 1 shutout. Tanner Marshall is 6-18 with an .879 SV% and a 4.97 GAA. 

Ethan Langenegger is one of the top goalies in the BCHL and one of the busiest. He's 21-14-2 this season with a .911 SV%, a 2.75 GAA and 3 shutouts. Grant Adams was picked up just before the deadline and is 4-2-1 with a .910 SV% and a 2.70 GAA. 

Assistant Coach Zach Wright says there's still plenty to play for, including playing spoiler. 

"It's our chance to try and relish that spoiler role. This is a team that's looking for points to get higher in the standings, and we can deny them that."

The Cents will look to play spoiler tonight. 

Puck drop 7pm. Pregame 6:45 with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve on Q101 and HockeyTV.  

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The Merritt Centennials saw their playoff hopes dashed on Tuesday night against the BCHL's best in the Coquitlam Express, falling by a score of 9-2. 

The Cents opened the scoring just 1:10 into the game after Rylan Van Unen picked a pocket at the blueline, danced in and rang a shot off the post that Daniel Tkac was able to find and fire into the partially open cage to make it 1-0. The teams traded chances until the 7:47 mark when the Express started to blast back. Greg Lapointe answered to tie the game, then that seemed to open the flood gates as the Cnts didn't have any answers for the high powered Express. Will Margel, Josh Wildauer, Wyatt Head, and Cooper Connell all added tallies to put Coquitlam up 5-1 after 1. Ryan Winter was chased from the net after the 4th goal, with Marshall coming in for relief. Shots after 1 were 14-14. 

The second period started where the first ended off as the Express added another goal to make it 6-1. After Chase Nameth was caught in open ice in a big hit, the Cents actually found themselves shorthanded, but Captain Rylan Van Unen was able to add a shorthanded tally on a rare 4-on-3 kill going coast to coast before scoring on the breakaway. Adam Trotman would add another goal on a powerplay to make it 7-2 after 2. Shots after 2 were 25-24 Cents. 

In the third the Cents couldn't find the offense required to dig themselves out of the hole and Coquitlam would add another pair. Final shots were 39-29 Express. 

After the game, Assistant Coach Zach Wright said the Cents had moments where they were able to keep up, but far too many where they couldn't. 

"I thought we were skating with the Express for stretches during the game, but we couldn't do it consistently."

The Cents play next this weekend where they will honor Merritt's Mr. Hockey Brian Barrett on Saturday, and the return of Joe Martin and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Sunday. 

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The Merritt Centennials (11-37-1-3) welcome the BCHL's best in the Coquitlam Express (42-8-1-1) tonight.

The Cents are coming in with a head of steam after their first win of 2020 against the Prince George Spruce Kings. Early on the Cents were in tough as they came in with just 4 defenseman, and Brophy Dunne dropped the gloves after being goaded into a fight by Wil Kushniryk. That would drop the Cents D corps down to three, but they'd battle on with the help of the Van Unen bros filling in on the backend. Prince George would find the scoreboard first after a deflection from Haydn Delorme and would lead after 1, but a strong 2nd period would bring the Centennials back from the brink. A breakaway goal from Rylan Van Unen tied the game at 1-1, then a play out of the corner from Evan Benwell gave the Cents the 2-1 lead, and Hunor Torzsok would add to the lead with a goal on a broken play after a Payton Matsui centering feed to give the Cents a solid three goal outburst in the third. The Spruce Kings would cut the lead to one before the period was over, but in the third the Cents used the strength of their special teams to get back into the contest. Matsui would deflect a Talon Zakall point shot home on the powerplay, and then put a pass on a platter for Hunor Torzsok on shorthanded to give the Cents a 5-2 lead. Some timely, and unreal saves from Ryan Winter helped the Cents hang on for their first victory of the new year, and helped snap a 15 game losing streak.

The Coquitlam Express have been another animal this season, and are a well oiled machine heading into the playoffs and looking to lock up tops in the regular season. They are 4-0-1 in their last five with the lone blemish coming to the Wenatchee Wild 4-3 in overtime. Aside from that, the Express have won with varying degrees of difficulty topping Victoria 6-3, Alberni Valley 9-4, Langley 5-0, and Chilliwack 4-3.  Part of the Express success is that it's not any one player, or one line that's been carrying the mail over the year. Coquitlam has 9 scorers with 30 or more points, and 10 players with 10 or more goals on the campaign. Tonight will also mark the return of Joey Berkopec for one final time in Merritt during his junior career. It will take an all hands on deck effort from the Cents to slow down the league's best.

The lone game in the season series was way back in September of this year. Where the Express came away with a 6-3 win. Matt Osadick, Daniel Tkac, and Payton Matsui scored in the losing effort.

The Cents got a 3 point performance from their top point getter on Friday in Matsui who now has 37 points. Christian Buono has 33, while Daniel Tkac and Thomas Manty have 26 points.

Coquitlam has two scorers in the league's top 20 in Greg Lapointe with 53 points, and Josh Wildauer with 49. Connor Gregga is 3rd in team scoring with 41 points, while one of the most dangerous players in the BCHL in Massimo Rizzo has 39.

The special teams battle sees the Cents coming off the good vibes built up in their last game, but they'll be running up one of the best units in the league on both sides of the puck.

Powerplay:                          Penalty Kill:

Cents - 12% (17th)         Cents - 72.1% (17th)

Express - 24.5% (2nd)  Express - 88.8% (1st)

In net, Ryan Winter is coming off a win and is now 4-18-1 with a .895 SV%, a 4.28 GAA, and 1 shutout. Tanner Marshall is 6-18 with an .881 SV% and a 4.92 GAA.

The Express boast the leagues best netminder, and have a 3 goalie tandem. Clay Stevenson is 29-2-1 with a 1.76 GAA, a .935 SV% and 4 shutouts this year. Jack Watson is 10-4 with a 2.62 GAA, a .904 SV% and 1 shutout, while Joe Howe, who was acquired from Victoria, is 9-15 with a .896 SV% a 3.82 GAA and 1 shutout.

Derek Sweet Coulter says that it will take an effort from the full lineup.

"What we saw on Friday was everyone playing hard, everyone playing defense, and everyone chipping in. We will need that effort and more against the Express."

The Cents will hope to take full advantage and add another win to the column tonight.

Puck drop 7pm from the NVMA. Pregame 6:45 with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve on Q101 and HockeyTV.

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The Merritt Centennials came into the game short 2 D-men, but they came out with their first victory of 2020 against the Prince George Spruce Kings 5-2.

After a first period that saw the teams trade a pair of chances on the powerplay, it was Haydn Delorme of the Spruce Kings who broke the deadlock scoring the only goal of the period at even strength. Before that, Brophy Dunne was goaded into a fight with Wil Kushniryk and after a brief wrestling match the Cents found themselves down to 3 D. Shots after 1 were 12-7 Merritt.

In the middle frame, the Cents didn’t have time to be sorry for themselves and took it to the offensive side of the game. With Josh Van Unen filling in more than admirably on D, the Cents were able to score three unanswered goals to take the lead. Rylan Van Unen was let loose down the right wing and saw some daylight, barged his way to the net and beat Woodside short-side to get the Cents going. On the ensuing shift after a hold at the line by Johnston, Evan Benwell walked out of the corner untouched and took it to the net roofing a backhand to make it 2-1. The Cents weren’t done there as a few minutes later after killing off a Spruce Kings penalty they broke up ice, and Payton Matsui threw a pass to the slot that was partially broken up, but Hunor Torzsok found the loose puck to put the Cents up 3-1. In the final minute, the Spruce Kings were able to beat Ryan Winter after he may have been interfered with to cut the lead to 3-2 before the third. Shots after 2 were 24-11.

With the game on the line in the 3rd period, the Cents clutched up on special teams. With Brodziak in the box for roughing, it was Talon Zakall who led the charge with the extra man after playing extra minutes all night. His point shot was deflected by Matsui in front and the Cents had a two goal lead. Once again it was Matsui who led the charge shorthanded, after a partial break he didn’t just throw the puck down the ice but skated and waited for reinforcements then found Torzsok with his stick on the ice in the slot to get the shorthanded tally. The Cents didn’t look back from there and Ryan Winter stopped 34/36 in the 5-2 win, the Cents first of 2020.

After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter the Cents may have been short, but it was a full team effort.

“I think we finally saw the whole team buy in, and the whole team play for the full 60 minutes tonight. The offense was back checking, we were doing the little things right, we kept it simple, and we won the game.”

The Cents will carry the good vibes into the Ice Breaker Saturday night at the Civic Centre before carrying the momentum into a game at home against Joey Berkopec and the Coquitlam Express on Tuesday.

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