Photo Credit: Garrett James
The Merritt Centennials (14-8-0-1) lock horns in a shootout for first place this afternoon against the West Kelowna Warriors (14-7-0-1).
The Cents are coming off a 4-3 thriller against the Vernon Vipers on Friday night. The Cents never trailed in the game, but the Vipers were quick to tie things up throughout. The special teams were electric for the Cents going 0/6 on the penalty kill, and 3/5 on the powerplay. Goals with the extra man came from Matt Kopperud, Christian Sabin, and Nick Granowicz. Captain Nick Wicks scored the lone goal at even strength, and the Grano got the go ahead goal with 6 minutes remaining in the third. Vincent Duplessis was sensational in a first star performance where he stopped 43 of 46 shots.
The West Kelowna Warriors will remember the last time they played the Centennials well, as it was one of the last time they tasted defeat. They followed that up with two more losses, but since then they’ve gone on an 8 game win streak, and have streaked into a tie with the Centennials and the Penticton Vees atop the Interior division. The lone game of the season so far was a wild offensive affair, the Cents opened the scoring with Brad Cocca, only to have the Warriors score three unanswered, but that didn’t phase the Cents as they responded with three of their own from Brady Ziemer, Brendan Schneider, and Matt Kopperud. The 5-3 showing after one would be plenty for most teams, but not the Merritt Centennials. Mathieu Gosselin would score the lone goal of the second period for the Cents, with the Warriors answering with one, and in the third the Cents took advantage of a parade to the penalty box to make it an 8-4 final. Cocca, Vincent Guy, and Mike Van Unen would add three in the final frame.
The Warriors extended the win streak to 8 last night with a victory over the lowly Surrey Eagles. A 5 point night from Mike Hardman gave the Warriors a 6-2 win, the powerplay went 2/3, and Brock Baier stopped 30/32.
The Cents continue to be led by Brad Cocca with 31 points, Nick Granowicz is on his heels with 30, and Mathieu Gosselin has 27.
The Warriors are led by Willie Reim with 28 points, Mike Hardman with 26, and Chase Dubois with 23.
The special teams battle sees the Warriors with the edge, but the Cents will be looking to build off their best special teams game of the season:
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents – 18.3% (10th) Cents – 77.2% (15th)
Warriors – 21.2% (4th) Warriors – 81.3% (9th)
The goaltending duel will see Austin Roden return to the crease for the first time in 5 games, as Vincent Duplessis has held the fort for a while. Roden is 8-5 with an .885 SV%, 3.80 GAA, and 1 shutout. Duplessis is 6-3 .907 SV%and a 3.25GAA. Brock Baier has impressed since coming to the West Kelowna Warriors. He is 6-2 with a .916 SV% and a 3.07 GAA. Connor Hopkins is 8-4 with a .912 SV% and a 3.09 GAA.
Head Coach Joe Martin knows that West Kelowna is on a roll and will be coming in with lots of confidence.
“These guys are hot, they’ve been getting bounces going their way, but we just have to stick to our game plan and hopefully we will have a similar result to what we had the last time out against them.”
It’s a matinee match up between the Warriors and the Cents. 2pm Puck drop, 1:45 Pre-Game on Hockey TV and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.