The Merritt Centennials (2-10) face off against their closest geographical rival the West Kelowna Warriors (4-9-3-1) tonight.
The Cents get set for their second matchup of the week against an Interior Division opponent, and their second matchup of the season against the West Kelowna Warriors. The Centennials have had a whirlwind of a week away from the rink. Head Coach and General Manager Barry Wolff was relieved of his duties on Wednesday, and longtime Governor and Director of Hockey Operations Brian Barrett announced his retirement on Friday. Despite the distractions the Cents seem looser around the rink, and tighter in the dressing room. On Wednesday they fought to the bitter end in a tight 3-2 loss to the Vernon Vipers. After a scoreless first period, in which both goaltenders came up solid, and Ryan Winter had a save of the year candidate, the goals came in the second. The Cents surrendered a powerplay goal, but then fought back with goals from Rylan Van Unen and Josh Kagan to make it 2-1 after 2. However, despite a hard fought third, it was the Vipers who found the scoresheet to tie it, and then a late dagger within the final minute to win it.
The Warriors are coming off a matchup against the league leading Salmon Arm Silverbacks and were able to pick up the win in a tight 2-1 game. Last weekend they went down under to face the Wenatchee Wild. Down South they were able to pick up 3/4 points against the Wild and haven’t suffered for scoring this season as they’ve netted 46 goals.
One of the Cents lone wins on the year came against the Warriors back on September 20th when they were able to win at home 4-2. Merritt got goals from Roloson, Tkac, Matsui, and Manty en route to the victory, and it was also the last time the Cents tallied a powerplay goal.
Josh Kagan has been a goal scoring machine in the last few games and leads the Cents with 12 points and 8 goals. Daniel Tkac, Brett Roloson, and Payton Matsui are all tied with 7 points.
Young Brandon Dent is the leading scorer for the West Kelowna Warriors with 16 points. Veteran Lucas Cullen has 14 points, and Max Bulawka has 10.
The special teams battle sees the Cents needing some drastic improvement, while West K isn’t far behind in the penalty kill department.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents – 7.5% (17th) Cents – 72.4% (16th)
West K – 18.6% (11th) West K – 74.7% (15th)
The goaltending duel sees the Cents waiting for someone to step up. Ryan Winter had his best game of the year on Wednesday versus the Vipers, but Tanner Marshall will get the start tonight. Marshall is 1-3 with a .858 SV% and a 4.59 GAA. Winter is 1-7 with a .904 SV% and a 3.91 GAA.
The Warriors have split time between Brock Baier and Johnny Derrick. Baier is 2-10 with a .893 SV% and a 3.83 GAA. Derrick is 1-2 with a .916 SV%, a 3.05 GAA, and 1SO.
Head Coach Derrick Sweet-Coulter says the Cents just need to reset their mindset.
“We need to start thinking of the positive impact our hard work can have, our plays can have, and what we can do out there. Don’t dwell on the negative, focus on the positive.”
The Cents will look to reset tonight against the West Kelowna Warriors.
Puck Drop 6pm at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna. Pre-Game 5:45 on Q101 and Hockey TV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.