Date – Friday, January 14, 2022
Game Time – Puck drop 7:00 pm
Location – Kal Tire Place, Vernon B.C.
Vernon Vipers – 7-14-3-3
Merritt Centennials – 2-22-1-0
The Merritt Centennials are set for their first road trip of 2022, as they travel to Vernon tonight to face the Vipers and former teammate Talon Zakall.
The long-time Cent was traded to Vernon earlier this season for a package of three players of which only one remains with Merritt, Nicholas Remissong.
The Cents are coming into action after a long pause with their most recent game, an 8-2 loss to the West Kelowna Warriors.
The Cents came into the contest riding high, and played well through the opening 40 minutes of play. The game was scoreless after 20, with Colton Phillips-Watts one of the biggest reasons why. PW stopped all 15 shots he faced in the opening frame, a number of them high quality chances from West K.
In the second period, the goals starting flying. The Warriors would strike first, with Isiah Norlin netting his first in the BCHL. Just over a minute later Felix Trudeau would bury in tight to make it 2-0 West Kelowna.
Merritt would respond when Jacksenn Hungle went in all alone and went blocker side past Johnny Derrick. Levi Carter would then level the score with a quick turn-around shot the went five-hole for his third on the year.
Tyson Jugnauth restored the West K lead before the end of the middle stanza 3-2.
The final 20 minutes was all Warriors. West K would strike twice on the powerplay thanks to Merritt taking double-minors and not look back rattling off five in the period to win 8-2.
The Vipers are 1-4 over their last five games, with the lone win coming 2-1 over Prince George prior to the Christmas break. Vernon is led by Luke Buss with 20 points on the season. Zakall has three goals and 10 assists and after being sidelined with injury should draw back in to the line up.
The Cents and Vipers haven’t played yet this season. The two sides are the eight and ninth placed teams in the Interior Division with Merritt trying to chase down Vernon for the final playoff spot. Over the past five seasons Vernon is 13-3-2-0 versus Merritt. Both teams will becoming off a COVID pause of team activities that saw play suspended last week and should be fresh in body and mind, and even a few fresh bodies in the line up due to moves at the trade deadline.
The Cents have added 6 new players to the roster with only one departing at the deadline and have reshaped their team in new GM Curtis Tonneff’s image. Goaltender Jackson Baker, defenders Geoff Bjarnason and Sam Boldt, and forwards Jackson Krill, Jacob Jones, and Drew Dornan will be making their Centennials debuts tonight. Bjarnason and Boldt both coming from the AJHL, Krill from the Trail Smoke Eaters in exchange for Nick Remissong, Jones from the Humboldt Broncos of the SJHL, and Drew Dornan is coming off a collar bone injury but last suited up for the Chilliwack Chiefs in the pod season. Jackson Baker was acquired from the Lincoln Stars of the USHL.
Blue Paint Battle;
The goaltending situation in Merritt remains fluid with Johnny Hicks battling a lingering injury and a rotation of AP’s filling in the gaps, led by Colton Phillips-Watts and now newly acquired Jackson Baker comes into the fold.
Hicks, if available, is 0-4 this year with a .867 SV% and a 5.22 GAA.
PW is 1-4 with a .884 SV% and a 5.06 GAA. He picked up his first win of the season on Sunday night versus Cranbrook.
Baker is 1-0 this year in limited minutes with a 3.32 GAA and a .899 SV%.
Vernon has been running with a pair of 2003-born netminders. Roan Clarke has started 18 times, posting a 4-10-4 record with a .891 SV% and a 3.35 GAA. Ethan David is 3-4-2 with a .907 SV% and a 2.71 GAA.
Special Teams Comparison;
Vipers – PP 15.6% (15/18) PK 74.2% (15/18)
Cents – PP 10.7% (18/18) PK 66.9% (18/18)