The Merritt Centennials (10-30-1-3) take the road to Trail for the final time this season to face the Smoke Eaters (28-14-2-1) tonight.
The Cents had a rough ride last night in Penticton where they were able to skate with the Vees for the first 20 minutes of hockey, but a 6 goal 2nd period led to a 9-1 route against the top team in the Interior.
In the first period the teams were evenly matched, but skill was on display. Top prospect Danny Weight took on the Cents defense 1-on-4 and dangled out the other side, then fired one tweener up and over the shoulder of Marshall to open the scoring 1-0. Evan Benwell was able to answer for the Centennials late in the frame with a slick move of his own, breaking in all alone, he faked forehand, pulled backhand and popped It over the shoulder of Stankowski to make it 1-1.
The Vees exploded for offense in the 2nd period. Bulging the twine 6 times to lead 7-1, they got goals from Jay O’Brien, David Silye, Jackson Niedermayer, another from O’Brien, Tristan Amonte, and Jack Barnes. The Cents found themselves behind 2 just 3:30 into the second, and had an opportunity on the PP at the 5:30. They were unable to score with the man advantage, and even with a time out couldn’t turn the tide of momentum that the Vees had seized. The game slipped away there, and never really came back.
Local Merrittonian Bryce Garcia started the third with Tanner Marshall leaving the ice with injury. He was able to hold his own stopping 11/13 and was only beaten by goals in the final minute. The Vees were able to add a couple late, one of them coming off a Centennials skate for an own goal to make it a 9-1 final. Add to that the fact that the Cents may have lost Tanner Marshall and Braydon Clark to injury, with Talon Zakall also taking to the ice gingerly this game doesn’t look to rosy.
The Smoke Eaters are coming off a 5-1 win against the Vernon Vipers where they had the big guns firing. Kent Johnson scored a pair of goals, Captain Phillipe Lapointe, Carson Briere, and Michael Collela added the others to come away with the victory.
Your memory doesn’t have to be great to remember the hard fought 6-4 loss the Centennials suffered on Tuesday. Getting goals from Torzsok, Nameth, Van Unen, and Orchard – the offense wasn’t enough to get past the high flying Smoke Eaters and former Cent Matt Osadick put the nail in the coffin with the late empty netter. The season series now sits 0-5 for the Cents with them looking to pick up one win in Trail before the Smoke Eaters will visit on the last home date of the year.
The Cents are still looking for the top of their lineup to contribute more. Christian Buono is stalled on 30 points, Payton Matsui has 28, and Daniel Tkac despite having 3 breakaways last night is still sitting at 24.
The Smoke Eaters have the 3 hottest hands in the BCHL. Kent Johnson has 83, Michael Collela has 53, and Owen Ozar has 55.
The special teams battle sees the Cents looking to get back to converting on the PP a night after going 0/7.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents -10.3% (17th) Cents – 73.4% (17th)
Trail – 24.4% (3rd) Trail – 86.2% (3rd)
The battle in the blue paint has become a little muddy for the Merritt Centennials. Tanner Marshall may be down with injury and the Cents will be either hoping for a miracle recovery, turning to emergency backup Bryce Garcia, or bringing in an affiliate.
The Smoke Eaters have young tender Logan Terness at their disposal as well as Matteo Paler-Chow. Terness is 21-8-2 with a .930 SV% and a 2.44 GAA. Paler-Chow is 10-10 with a .882 SV% and a 3.53 GAA.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter is hoping the Cents can replicate the effort they showed last time in Trail.
“If we can battle like we did on Tuesday. I think we will have a better result.”
The Cents will hope to battle their way to some points tonight.
Puck drop 7pm. Pre-game 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas.