Photo Credit: Garrett James Photography
The Merritt Centennials (19-11-1-1) will hope to right their road woes on the short journey to play the West Kelowna Warriors (18-13-0-1) tonight.
The Cents are coming off a week where they went 1-2 with games against the Prince George Spruce Kings, the Vernon Vipers, and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Against the Spruce Kings the Cents couldn’t seem to find any jump out of the gate, and by the time their heads were in the game they trailed too far on the scoreline. Prince George pounced in the first and scored all 3 of their goals there, and the league’s best defense kept the Cents off the board until the third where they’d only manage one to make it a 3-1 final. The Cents seemed to learn their lesson and pushed the pace in Vernon against the Vipers, but fell victim to some goals against the flow of play and fell 3-2. They busted their mini two game slide by topping the Salmon Arm Silverbacks for the 5th time this season. After a dreadful first that saw them trail 2-0 to the ‘Backs, the Cents came out a different team in the second and on the back of Captain Nick Wicks’ natural hat trick the Cents scored 5 unanswered to win 5-2.
The Warriors are coming off there first trip to the Island, and it yielded positive results. They outlasted the Nanaimo Clippers in an offensive thriller 7-5, were bested by the Cowichan Valley Capitals 4-1, but then came back with a great effort against the Victoria Grizzlies 6-1.
The Cents lead the season series against the Warriors 2-0, but both games have been played at home and offense has yet to be an issue. In game one of the season, the Cents came back from a 3-1 deficit to win by a score of 8-4. In game 2, the Cents were in the drivers seat from the outset and put the boots to the Warriors 8-3. Watch for big games from Brad Cocca who has a combined 7 points over those two games, and Brendan Schneider who seems to light it up whenever the teams clash with 2 goals and 3 assists.
Brad Cocca returns from Team Canada West tryouts, and will have a fire under him to prove that the team picked wrong. He’s in a 3-way tie for 2nd in league scoring with 43 points. Nick Granowicz has been stuck in idle during the last few games and has slid to 9th in BCHL scoring with 38 points. Mathieu Gosselin will be unavailable as he has made the Team Canada West roster, and Captain Wicks will be looking to add to his goal totals coming off a natural hat trick that has him up to 31 points on the year.
The Warriors are led by Willie Reim who’s 7th in BCHL scoring with 40 points, Mike Hardman is 13th with 36 points, and Chase Dubois rounds out the top three with 31 points.
The special teams battle see the Warriors with the edge.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
WK- 19.4% (7th) WK – 79.7% (12th)
Cents – 16.5% (15th) Cents – 76.5% (14th)
In net the Cents have been alternating starts between their two capable goalies. Vincent Duplessis is coming off a win and is now 7-5-2 with a .906 SV% and a 3.21 GAA. Austin Roden is 12-6 with a .901 SV%, a 3.30 GAA, and 1 shutout. The Warriors have given Brock Baier more starts since joining the club, he’s 10-3 with a .910 SV% and a 3.45 GAA. Rookie Connor Hopkins is 8-9 with a .903 SV%, a 3.46 GAA, and 1 shutout.
Head Coach Joe Martin says he knows he’s leaving the team in good hands.
“I know Brandon will step in and do a good job, and he’ll be getting some help from Zach Wright who runs the Midget program in town. I trust they’ll be fine while I’m gone.”
Puck drop 7pm from Royal LePage Place. Pre-Game 6:45 on Hockey TV and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.