The Merritt Centennials (12-8-0-1) look to bounce back tonight against the visiting Alberni Valley Bulldogs (7-11-1-0) at the NVMA to keep pace with the red hot West Kelowna Warriors for first in the Interior Division.
The Cents are coming off their best performance of the season against Penticton, mind you the bar was set pretty low with losses of 6-3, 6-2, and 6-1. The Cents managed to play a good road game through the first two periods to garner themselves a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes of play. Mathieu Gosselin and Rylan Van Unen scored goals in the first two while Matt Kopperud added another in the third to give the Cents a 3-1 lead. However, the Vees used the home town crowd, and a key powerplay to get back into the game and force extra time. The Cents and Vees traded chances in overtime, but the unsung hero of the game was Vincent Duplessis who made big save after big save and kept the Cents in it until the bitter end. The game ended in the Cents first trip to the shootout where Kopperud was denied on his slick move, and Gosselin hit the post. Duplessis made the stop on the Vees first shooter, but couldn’t stop the final two and the Cents would fall in a 4-3 shootout loss.
The Alberni Valley Bulldogs are on the road yet again, and had to start the trip in Prince George. The Spruce Kings dominated on the shot clock 45-19, but stellar goaltending from John Hawthorne kept the game close. Grayson Valente was the lone scorer for the Dogs in a 2-1 loss.
The last time these two teams met this season it was a hard fought win for the Merritt Centennials. The Cents may have been guilty of underestimating the Bulldogs, and were given all they could handle in the Dog Pound in Alberni. Alberni led after the first period 1-0, but goals from Joey Berkopec and Rylan Van Unen gave the Cents a brief lead before the Dogs tied it back up in the 2nd. In the third, Nick Granowicz gave the Cents the go-ahead goal only to have Alberni tie it again. Brad Cocca ended up giving the Cents the lead for good with just a minute and a half left to play for a 4-3 victory.
The Bulldogs will make their first and only trip to the NVMA this season which is always a tough spot to play for out of division teams that don’t get the chance to play here often. The first 10 minutes will be huge for the Centennials if they can take advantage of their home ice.
Cents leading scorers:
Brad Cocca (4th in BCHL) 11-16-27
Nick Granowicz (6th in BCHL) 12-13-25
Mathieu Gosselin (9th in BCHL) 13-11-24
Bulldogs leading scorers:
Ryan Miotto 6-10-16
Keaton Mastrodonato 5-7-12
Jackson Doucet 3-7-10
Centennials Powerplay (13th) – 16.3% Bulldogs Powerplay (17th) – 12.2%
Centennials Penalty Kill (16th) – 76.1% Bulldogs Penalty Kill (4th) – 86.2%
Vincent Duplessis is coming off a 38 save effort on 41 shots against the Penticton Vees which included many showstopping saves. he’s now 4-3-0-1 with a .903 SV% and a 3.20 GAA. It marks the first time this season a Cents netminder has a save percentage above .900. Austin Roden is 8-5 with an .885 SV% and a 3.80 GAA.
John Hawthorne is coming off a good start of his own and is 5-8 with a .918 SV% and a 2.88 GAA. Cole Demers is 2-4 with a .870 SV% and a 4.04 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin said the Bulldogs aren’t a team to be taken lightly.
“This team despite their record is actually pretty good. They have players that can make a difference, and they work hard.”
The Cents will have to out work the Dogs if they want to come away with a win tonight.
Fans who show up to the NVMA tonight will be treated to some love for their dog from Pet Valu. Free samples of dog food, and free dog washes will be given out at the game.
Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101.1FM and Q101.ca.