The Merritt Centennials (10-29-1-3) take on division rivals the Penticton Vees (33-11-1-1) tonight.
The Centennials are coming off a hard fought loss to the Trail Smoke Eaters on Tuesday where they were in it until the final buzzer. 2 forwards short of a full deck, and with 2 defensive APs in the lineup, the team was able to take one of the best teams in the Interior Division down to the wire. Despite being down by 2 goals heading into the second frame, the Cents battled back with Torzsok scoring the first PP goal of 2020, and Nameth sniping top corner to make it 3-2 after 2. Captain Rylan Van Unen led by example in the third and tied the game up early on. The Smoke Eaters were able to get a two goal swing in the middle of the period with one of the goals being of the own goal variety to make it 5-3, but Jerzy Orchard answered right back to keep the Cents in it 5-4. Former Cent Matt Osadick scored the empty netter to ice the game and make it a 6-4 final. Tanner Marshall gave his team a chance to win stopping 40 of 45 shots.
The Penticton Vees come into this one pretty hot, and are feeling good about their play in the new year as they’ve gone 6-1 to start the year, and are 4-1 in their last 5. On Wednesday they were able to squeak by the Vipers in overtime 2-1, and split a double header against the Trail Smoke Eaters winning 5-1, and falling 4-3 Before that they piced up a 3-1 win versus Langley, and an 8-4 drubbing of the Victoria Grizzlies. Surprisingly, the 4 goals against from Victoria is the high water mark of the new year, the Vees have used solid team defense to keep opponents to 3 or less for the remainder of games and have held their opponents to just a goal in 4 of those contests. Offense will be hard to come by for the Cents if they’re not willing to work for it and go to the dirty areas.
The season series sits 4-0 in favour of Penticton. The Cents have lost 7-3, 4-1, and 4-1 at home and in the lone contest in Penticton to date lost 5-0. In the season series, they’ve been outmanned 20-5. The Cents will need to bring the effort that we saw earlier in the week against the Smoke Eaters to stand their own in hostile territory.
The Cents need their top scorers to come through. Christian Buono leads the team with 30 points, Payton Matsui has 27, and Daniel Tkac if he’s healthy has 24.
The Vees have solid team defense, but they also have a score by committee approach up front. Captain David Silye and Jay O’Brien lead the team with 48 points while Lukas Sillinger has 47, and top prospect Danny Weight has 45.
The special teams battle sees the Cents trying to build off their first goal with the extra man in 2020.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents – 10.4% (17th) Cents – 73.1% (17th)
Vees – 19.7% (6th) Vees – 82.6% (7th)
The goaltending duel sees Marshall as the go to guy, with the Centennials forced into an emergency back up situation with Winter on the shelf. Merritt’s Bryce Garcia will be waiting in the wings should Marshall get hurt, but Marshall is 6-16 with an .883 SV% and a 4.75 GAA.
The Vees have got one of the best goaltenders in the BCHL in their back pocket. Yaniv Perets is 19-7-1 with a .916 SV% a 2.20 GAA and a league high 5 shutouts. Carl Stankowski is 9-3 with a .908 SV% and a 2.12 GAA.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says if the Cents bring the kind of effort they did the last time out they won’t be on the outside looking in.
“The guys really gave a great effort against the Smoke Eaters and you love to see that battle. If they keep bringing that battle, they’ll start seeing results.”
The Cents are looking forward to their first win of 2020.
Puck drop 7pm. Pre-game 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas.