The Merritt Centennials (10-26-1-3) face off against the West Kelowna Warriors (7-25-5-2) tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a pair of games against the Trail Smoke Eaters and had their best periods early on in both games as they rode goals from AP Brett Mero and Christian Buono to a 2-0 lead in game 1, and goals from Chase Nameth and a BCHL first from Evan Benwell to lead 2-1 after one in game 2. The second period saw the Cents slide slightly, more so in game 2 as they'd allow the Smoke Eaters to grab a couple goals. In game 1, the Cents were still in the lead 2-1, and in game 2 they were still in the game at 3-2. The undoing came in the third period in both contests, but in game 1 it wasn't until the final 5 minutes where Trail scored 3 quick goals to make it a 6-3 final. Game 2 saw Trail add a pair in the final frame to take it 5-2. Tanner Marshall was outstanding in both games despite the unflattering scoreline and held his team in it for a chance at victory. The Cents will need another solid performance from their goaltender, but will be strengthened by the return of Daniel Tkac from the World Juniors, and Chase Cooke who has been officially signed. The Cents will be without the services of Olson Werenka and Matt Osadick, who join Joey Berkopec as players moved at the trade deadline.
The West Kelowna Warriors opened 2020 with a pair of losses as well against the Coquitlam Express 4-3 and the Chilliwack Chiefs 3-1. They have a new bench boss in Shane Ferguson after relieving Brandon West of duties, and are going to be active players at the trade deadline. They've already made one move in sending D man Wyatt Head to the Coquitlam Express and there should be more to follow.
The Cents and Warriors meet for the 5th time tonight, and the Cents lead the season series 3-1. They've won games by scores of 4-2, 5-2, and 6-2 before falling in the most recent game of the season series 5-3 just before the Christmas break.
The Centennials continue to be led by Christian Buono who has 31 points, Payton Matsui has 25, and Daniel Tkac looks to pick up where he left off in the BCHL with 23 points.
West Kelowna is led by a trio of youngsters. Tyler Cristall has 25 points, Johnny Evans has 24, and Carter Wilkie has 19 points.
The special teams battle sees the Cents penalty kill holding it's own to start 2020, but the powerplay needs to get on the board in 2020.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 10.4% (17th) Cents - 73.2% (17th)
West K - 17.6% (11th) West K - 74.4% (15th)
The goaltending duel sees both teams at a crossroads as to who to play in game 3 of the series. Tanner Marshall has played outstanding so far this year and is 6-12-2 with an .885 SV% and a 4.61 GAA. Ryan Winter is waiting in the wings with a 3-11-2 record, a .902 SV%, 4.08 GAA and 1 shutout.
Johnny Derrick is now the guy in West K at 3-12-1 with a .904 SV%, 3.41 GAA, and 1 shutout, but the Cents were able to chase him from the net the last time he was between the pipes.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says the Cents should get a boost from having some new and old bodies in the mix.
“We are going to see Tkac back from the World Juniors, Cooke is excited to officially begin his Centennials career. I'm looking for both to come in with confidence and help our team.”
The Cents are hoping for a boost back into the win column.
Puck drop 7pm. Pregame 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
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(Photo - Garrett James)
As of December 26, 2019, no Merritt Centennials player had ever suited up in the World Junior Championship.
On December 27, 2019, Daniel Tkac changed that.
Tkac joined Q101 to discuss the tournament and the feeling of dawning his nation's sweater on the World stage.
“It’s something you always dream about, it’s an unbelievable feeling when you get to play on that stage, it’s just unreal. Just amazing,” said Tkac.
And the ‘Slovakian Superman’ didn’t just play, he performed, finding the back of the net for the game-winning goal over Kazakhstan.
“It was a nice pass, even though it hit a couple of sticks and feet, but it was bouncing, and I just tried to get my stick on it. Once it hit my stick, I guess it just floated into the net, it took a while, once it went in, I was pumped and excited,” said Tkac. “The body took over (after I scored), pure reaction.”
Tkac would add an assist in the second game of the Juniors and continue to gain the trust of the Slovakian staff, be utilized on the power play, penalty kill and at even strength.
“It felt good. You always want to be one of those guys to be trusted. I’m glad he trusted me in those types of situations, it was a good experience,” added Tkac.
As for playing against some elite talent, including Alexis Lafreniere and Team Canada in the quarters?
“It was nice to play against those types of players, see where you’re at,” began Tkac. “It’s not every day you get to play against those types, it’s nice when you get the chance, try to keep up with them and do everything you can.”
“It is a confidence booster, I can feel it I think, I’m not going to lie it’s a confidence booster,” added Tkac.
Staying out of the box was the biggest lesson Tkac learned from the tourney, saying when you give those caliber players a chance to score, they find a way and take advantage.
Tkac’s lasting memory from the tournament certainty wasn’t a surprise.
“The overall experience, but also definitely the goal, that’s going to be a big one. Enjoying the moment, soaking everything in, it was awesome,” concluded Tkac.
Tkac will be lacing them up for the Cents tonight for the first time since December as Merritt welcomes West Kelowna to the NVMA.
Catch the broadcast on Q101 beginning at 6:45 with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt
Photo Credit: Garrett James
The Merritt Centennials are sending D Olson Werenka (99) to the Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL for future considerations.
Werenka, a Calgary native, is returning to his home province to conclude his Junior career. This season with the Cents he had 3 goals and 14 assists in 31 games played. He is joining a Spruce Grove team that are second place in the North division of the AJHL at 30-10-2 and are the 4th place team overall.
Head Coach and GM Derek Sweet Coulter knows Werenka will be a good piece for a contender.
"Olson has that fire and that fight you need to be effective in the playoffs. We wish him well with the Saints."
The Merritt Centennials would like to thank Olson for his contributions to the team and the community during his time with the club, and with him the best with Spruce Grove.
(Photos- Garrett James)
It’s no secret that the Merritt Centennials’ goalies have been facing a lot of rubber this year, but it might surprise you find out exactly how many shots Tanner Marshall and Ryan Winter have faced.
This year the Cents have 184 goals against, Marshall has allowed 97, while Winter accounts for 73. (Empty netters and an AP account for the remainder)
Make no mistake on the surface those numbers are less than pretty until you account for the sheer amount of vulcanized rubber they’ve been forced to turn aside. Then the work the goalies have put in this season becomes extraordinary.
Tanner Marshall has faced 843 shots this year. An average of 40.26 shots per 60 minutes.
Despite appearing in just 22 games for a total of 1262 minutes, Marshall has faced more shots that 19 of 25 qualified goalies. Two of the goalies that have faced more shots have played over 600 more minutes than Marshall, while all six faces fewer shots per 60.
Ryan Winter despite not facing as many shots as Marshall, 743, holds a BCHL-high average of 41.66 shots per 60 minutes.
Winter has faced more shots than 11 of the 25 qualified goalies.
Top three goalies for shots per 60 minutes;
Top three GAA goalies’ shots per 60 minutes;
The stats clearly show that while the Cents tenders GAA’s are bottom two in the league, those numbers are directly related to their heavy workloads.
Surprisingly the win/loss stats don’t differ that much for the Cents, they’re getting pelted regardless of the outcome. In Marshall and Winter’s combined 9 wins, they faced an average of 39.11 shots, in their 30 regulation and OT/shootout losses they saw 40.56.
Maybe 40 is the magic number.
Catch the Cents this Friday at the NVMA vs West Kelowna. If you can’t make it down to the barn be sure to tune into Q101 at 6:45 for all the action with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt
The Merritt Centennials announced today that they have signed defenseman Chase Cooke (03) of the KIJHL's Princeton Posse for the remainder of the season.
A Merritt local, Cooke is no stranger to the team and fans. He's suited up for 5 games this year as an affiliate, and has been a part of Cents training camps for the last two seasons. As a rookie with the Posse this season, Cooke has put up 6 goals and 15 assists in 29 games. He registered his first BCHL point, an assist, against the Trail Smoke Eaters last Friday.
Head Coach and GM Derek Sweet-Coulter says that Cooke is the kind of player they want in this organization.
"Chase is a great character who is committed to getting better every day and serving his community off the ice as well. He will be a big part of the culture we are building here in Merrit. We are extremely happy to add him and are excited to see his development this season and beyond."
The Centennials would like to welcome Cooke and his family officially to the team fold.
Fans will get their sixth chance to see Cooke this Friday against the West Kelowna Warriors.