The Merritt Centennials (10-24-1-3) begin the new year against a tough test with a home and home series against the Trail Smoke Eaters (23-13-2-1) that starts tonight.
The Cents come in refreshed after the holidays, but in their crazy schedule leading up to the break come into the game going 1-4 in their last 5 outings. Daniel Tkac had some success with Team Slovakia, but will most likely be unavailable heading into this trio against one of the leagues top teams. The Centennials will have to be at their best to repel the strong attack of the Trail Smoke Eaters who have gotten the best of them so far this season. The Cents need to set the tone for the new year, and set the tone against a team that they will see 3 times in a row and 4 times in January.
The Smoke Eaters came into the break on a tear winning 4 of their last 5 with the return of their top guns after they returned from the World Junior A Challenge. Trail won 4-3 against the Cowichan Valley Capitals heading into the break, 4-1 against the Vernon Vipers, lost in a barn burner 7-4 to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, and picked up a pair of wins against the West Kelowna Warriors 3-1 and 4-3. For the Smoke Eaters it starts with solid offense and special teams play, but is supplemented with good defense and great goaltending as well.
The season series hasn't been kind to the Merritt Centennials who are 0-2 against Trail. Falling by scores of 9-2 and 7-1 for a combined 16-3 over two games. Kent Johnson has 9 points in 2 games played, wing man Michael Collela has 6 points, and Phillipe Lapointe has 5 points in just a game. The Centennials will need to bring their very best, and hope that Trail comes in a little over confident to start the new year.
Christian Buono comes into the new year as the reigning BCHL Player of the Week and leads the Cents with 30 points, Payton Matsui matches the number on the back of his jersey with 25, and Captain Rylan Van Unen has shot up to 18 points. Hunor Torzsok was also an honorable mention for BCHL Player of the Month in December with 10 goals and an assist in 11 games played.
Kent Johnson stirs the drink for the Smoke Eaters with 69 points this year, the next closest player is his wing man Collela with 47, and Owen Ozar has 46.
The special teams battle sees the Cents going up against the BCHL's best.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 11% (17th) Cents - 72.7% (17th)
Trail - 26.2% (1st) Trail - 85.5% (4th)
The goaltending duel sees the Cents looking to start the new year strong. Ryan Winter came in at number five on the top ten saves of the year so far from the BCHL and is 3-11-2 with a .902 SV%, a 4.08 GAA, and 1 shutout. Tanner Marshall is 6-11-1 with an .884 SV% and a 4.52 GAA.
Logan Terness has stolen the number one job in Trail and ran with it as the young netminder is 16-7-2 with a .932 SV%, and a 2.38 GAA. Matteo Paler-Chow is 9-10-1 with an .881 SV% and a 3.56 GAA.
Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says it's a new year and it's time to set the tone.
"We're coming out of the break fresh, and it's time to look forward with a fresh outlook."
The Cents will look to set the tone for the year with a win tonight.
Puck drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
The Merritt Centennials were in the drivers seat heading into the third period against the Cowichan Capitals for the 2nd week in a row, but weren't even able to salvage a point as they'd fall 5-3.
The first period saw a NVMA bounce go off a defenders shin guard, off the back boards, off the back off Marshall's skate and in to open the scoring for Cowichan. The Cents would reply with a goal from Christian Buono half way through the frame, and Talon Zakall would score on a drive up the middle late where he went 1 on 2 took the shot, followed up his rebound and put it past Howard to give the Cents the 2-1 lead after 1. Shots were 14-11 Cowichan.
The second period saw the game start to get out of hand around the halfway mark when Broadhurst mugged Buono in the defensive end. Buono turtled up, McIntyre and Clark were extra men in, and Clark, McIntyre and Broadhurst would all be tossed for fighting. That put the Cents on a lengthy powerplay and Captain Rylan Van Unen would score to make it 3-1 Cents. Merritt was unable to hang on to the two goal margin as Mikrogiannakis scored with under 30 seconds left in the second to make it 3-2. Late in the second, Joey Berkopec was handed a slashing major that saw him tossed from the game, so the Cents were down to 4 d men for the final frame. Shots after 2 7-20 Capitals.
The Centennials came up with a big kill of the remainder of Joey Berkopec's major penalty early on in the third, but couldn't get that spark to catch fire to their legs. The Capitals would add 2 more goals in the span on a minute to make it 4-3, and would add the empty netter to make it a 5-3 final. Final shots were 48-24 Cowichan.
After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter said the team needs to learn from their experiences in the first half.
"We've seen that this team can do amazing things when they play the right way, and we've seen them be in games right up to the third period. We need to be better at finishing through these games."
The Centennials would like to wish all their fans a Merry Christmas and we will see you in the first game of the new year on January 3rd.
The Merritt Centennials (10-23-1-3) take on the Cowichan Valley Capitals (23-12-3-1) in a matinee matchup.
The Merritt Centennials weren't able to cash in on their chances, and gave some good ones to the Warriors who got back to within 3 points before Christmas with a 5-3 win. The first period saw the Cents come out a little flat against the Warriors to start and they played with fire one too many times as the Warriors scored on the powerplay to make it 1-0. That woke the Centennials up and they were able to score two goals 29 seconds apart from Matt Osadick and Hunor Torzsok both on beautiful wristers from the left side to make it 2-1 Cents. Merritt started to get into penalty trouble late in the frame, and headed into the dressing room with a 2-1 lead and two men in the box. The Warriors would score on three gifts from the Centennials in the 2nd period. Olson Werenka scored an own goal trying to break up a pass. Buono would score on the PP, but Max Bulawka scored after the puck bounced right back to his stick after Joey Berkopec broke up a pass, and Werenka and Zakall were picked off behind the net to make it 4-3 Warriors after 2. The Warriors would add an empty netter to take the game 5-3.
The Capitals are coming in off some hard fought games against the top teams in the interior in Trail and Penticton. They fell 4-3 in Trail, but were able to best the Penticton Vees in a shootout 6-5. Before that their last game came against the Centennials last Saturday, a tight checking 3-2 win in the shootout over Tanner Marshall and the Cents. The Cents got two goals from Hunor Torzsok and were in the drivers seat until the final seconds when Cowichan tied the game to send it to extra time. Both Caps goals came from rookie Matthew Crasa. The game went all the way to the shootout and the Capitals would edge the Cents.
Christian Buono picked up another goal last night and now has a team leading 28 points. Payton Matsui has 23, while Thomas Manty has 18 points.
The Capitals are led by Luc Wilson up front who has 40 points, defender Dimitri Mikrogiannakis has 37 and rookie Matthew Crasa has 33.
The special teams continues to click for the Centennials, but the Capitals are at the next level.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 10.9% (17th) Cents - 72% (17th)
Caps - 23.8% (4th) Caps - 81.8% (8th)
The goaltending duel sees Ryan Winter coming off a pair of solid performances, but Tanner Marshall who may have had the performance of his career in a 57 save game against the Capitals last weekend. Marshall is 6-10-1 with a .882 SV% and a 4.45 GAA. Ryan Winter is 3-11-2 with a .902 SV% and a 4.08 GAA.
The Capitals have two solid options in net. Zach Borgiel is 16-8-1 with a .903 SV% and a 2.98 GAA. Ben Howard is 7-4-2 with an .889 SV% and a 3.14 GAA.
Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says the Capitals brought out the best in the Cents last Saturday and he hopes it happens again.
"We've seen this team once before, and the Cents played one of their best games. We need to play at that level again if we want to get past the Capitals."
The Cents will look for the best result possible this afternoon.
Puck drop 2pm. Pre-Game 1:45 on Q101 and Hockey TV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
The Merritt Centennials weren't able to cash in on their chances, and gave some good ones to the Warriors who got back to within 3 points before Christmas with a 5-3 win.
The first period saw the Cents come out a little flat against the Warriors to start and they played with fire one too many times as the Warriors scored on the powerplay to make it 1-0. That woke the Centennials up and they were able to score two goals 29 seconds apart from Matt Osadick and Hunor Torzsok both on beautiful wristers from the left side to make it 2-1 Cents. Merritt started to get into penalty trouble late in the frame, and headed into the dressing room with a 2-1 lead and two men in the box. Shots after 1 were 20-11 West K.
The Warriors would score on the powerplay courtesy an own goal from Olson Werenka as he sprawled to stop a cross crease pass he deflected it into his own net. That would tie the game at 2-2. The Cents would restore the lead halfway through the frame with a powerplay goal of their own from Christian Buono who is starting to heat up heading into Christmas, but they'd give it right back on the ensuing play. The Warriors would drive in on a two-on-one, Joey Berkopec took away the pass, but when it slid across it bounced right back to Max Bulawka, Ryan Winter bit on the pass, and Bulwaka scored on the vacant net. West Kelowna would gain the lead late in the 2nd when Werenka and Zakall passed behind the net one too many times, got picked off by Tyler Cristall who took it out front and beat Winter to make it 4-3 after 2. Shots after 2 were 31-20 Warriors.
The Cents weren't able to break through on their chances in the third, and didn't throw enough rubber on or enough energy towards the offensive zone to mount the comeback. Joey Berkopec took a late penalty to put the Cents shorthanded at the end of the game and Cristall added an empty netter to make it a 5-3 final. Final shots were 43-30 West Kelowna.
After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter said the Cents made life difficult on themselves.
"We have played a ton of games leading into the break, and we aren't keeping it simple. When we over complicate things it ends up in our net, and we did that a few too many times tonight."
The Cents look to regroup tomorrow afternoon against the Cowichan Valley Capitals at 2pm.
The Merritt Centennials (10-22-1-3) get set for game two of the double header against the West Kelowna Warriors (6-23-5-2) tonight.
The Merritt Centennials were spurred on by the play of Ryan Winter in net and Christian Buono up front en route to a 6-2 victory last night in West Kelowna. Rylan Van Unen started the game off with a bang when he scored 29 seconds in from the corner below the goal line off the pads of Derrick and in to make it 1-0. The Warriors were able to quickly answer to make it 1-1. Ben Ward battled his way to the front and was spotted by Evan Benwell, Ward took a couple cracks and then roofed it to make it 2-1. Joey Berkopec wheeled down the right wing, drove the slot, and put it on a platter for Wyatt Marlow who sniped top corner to make it 3-1 and chase Derrick from the net with under 10 minutes gone in the frame. Coach of the Warriors Brandon West called a time out, swapped goaltenders and the Warriors responded by pushing play for the remainder of the first. The Warriors would score on the powerplay to make it 3-2, but the Cents would escape the first with a lead.
The second period saw a much more even keeled contest with the Cents regaining their form. Neither team could solve the goalies as Ryan Winter stood on his head making a couple of game changing saves to keep the Warriors at bay. The Cents got an opportunity on the PP late in the frame, and after squandering the first minute thirty they were able to get in on a good final rush. Rylan Van Unen played cross ice for Payton Matsui, who found Christian Buono in front to make it 4-2.
In the third, the Centennials played the right way with the lead. Christian Buono added another powerplay goal after tapping in the back door pass from Joey Berkopec who drove the zone with speed. The Cents had a couple key stops from Winter in the final frame, and Buono added an empty netter shorthanded to complete the natural hat trick and ice the game late. Final Shots were 40-34 West Kelowna.
The season series now sits 3-0 in favor of the Cents and Merritt has outscored the Warriors 15-6 over those games with wins of 4-2, 5-2 and now 6-2. The Cents will need another solid performance from their goaltender tonight, and play to the level they're capable of in front of their home town fans.
Christian Buono's stat line got a bump as he scored a hat trick last night and leads the team offensively with 27 points. Payton Matsui picked up an assist last night on a Buono goal and is up to 24 points. Thomas Manty will be looking to bump a mini slump as he sits at 18 points.
The Warriors are still led by Cristall, Evans and Cullen with 21 points as the Cents managed to keep the top threats of West Kelowna off the score sheet last night.
The special teams battle sees the Cents starting to find some success once more before the Christmas break.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 10.7% (17th) Cents - 72.8% (17th)
WK - 16.7% (12th) WK - 74.7% (15th)
Ryan Winter is coming off a sensational start that saw him stop 38/40 shots thrown his way. He picked up his elusive 3rd win of the year and is now 3-10-2 with a .902 SV% and a 4.06 GAA with 1 shutout. Tanner Marshall is waiting in the wings with a 6-10-1 record an .882 SV% and a 4.55 GAA.
Johnny Derrick got chased from the game early, and the team could see Brock Baier again. Baier is 3-11-4 with a .889 SV% and a 4.10 GAA. Derrick is 3-11-1 with a .902 SV% and a 3.49 GAA with 1 shutout.
Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says the team needs to bring the confidence that was on display in the third period last night to the game tonight.
“We were playing with confidence in the third period and we need to bring some of that swagger into the game tonight.”
The Cents will look to put some more distance between themselves and West K tonight.
Puck drop 7pm from the NVMA. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.