The Merritt Centennials (25-13-1-1) have a mid-week date with the Mainland Division’s Coquitlam Express (20-17-1-0) tonight.
The Cents are coming off a thrilling weekend that saw them pick up two wins in two games that went to extra time. The Cents were able to topple the BCHL best Prince George Spruce Kings on Friday night with goals from Payton Matsui, and a game-tying goal in the final minute from Matt Kopperud to level the game at 2-2. Overtime would solve nothing, and then Kopperud applied some slick moves in the shootout going backhand, between the legs to score the only goal of the shootout while Austin Roden stopped all comers for PG. The Cents followed that up with more heroics on Saturday against the Vernon Vipers. The Cents got a first period goal from Nick Granowicz and a powerplay goal from Brendan Schneider to give them a 2-1 lead late, but Vernon would tie it up and send it to overtime. After surviving a string of penalties to finish out regulation and into overtime, the Cents got a chance with the man advantage late, and Granowicz scored with 8 seconds remaining to give the Cents the win, and give him sole possession of 1st in the game-winning goal category.
The Express are coming off a sound thumping of the West Kelowna Warriors 8-1 and aren’t a team to be taken lightly. They’re a much improved club from last season, and the Cents were guilty of underestimating them last year by losing the season series 0-2 by scores of 5-2 and 3-2 respectively. The Express have the 5th most goals scored in the league with 150, just 5 back of the Merritt Centennials, but they spread their scoring across all lines as they don’t have a scorer in the top 20 in the BCHL. They also have one of the best goalie tandems in the league in Kolby Matthews and Chase Stevenson so the Cents will have to play a complete game from the complete team in order to top the Express.
The Cents will need more punch from top scorer Brad Cocca who is 4th in the league with 51 points. Nick Granowicz is coming off a 2 goal performance and is up to 6th with 48 points. Mathieu Gosselin is hanging in the top 20, at 20, with 41 points.
The Express have 16 players on their roster who have contributed at least 10 points this season. Josh Wildauer leads the team with 40 points, Connor Gregga has 35, and Alex DiPaolo has 33 points.
The special teams battle favours the Express:
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
COQ – 20.2% (5th) COQ- 79.4% (10th)
Cents – 17.9% (15th) Cents – 75.1% (17th)
The goaltending duel sees Austin Roden coming in red hot after a two-win performance this weekend in which he was relied upon heavily. Roden is 17-7 with a .901 SV%, a 3.21 GAA, and 1 shutout. Vincent Duplessis has yet to start a game in 2019 and is 8-5-2 with a .904 SV% and a 3.31 GAA. Kolby Matthews has been exceptional since being acquired by the Express and is 12-9 with a .907 SV%, a 2.82 GAA, and 1 shutout. Chase Stevenson is 9-9 with a .882 SV%, a 3.74 GAA, and 1 shutout.
Head Coach Joe Martin says that the Express are a strong team that likes to play offense.
“Early on in the year, they were known for their defensive play, but now it seems like they’ve been all about the offense. That being said they have two great goaltenders who can keep them in games if need be.”
The Cents will hope to be the stronger team tonight.
Puck Drop 7pm from the Poirier Sports and Leisure Complex. Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.