Contributed by Jesse Adamson for BCHL communications
Tonight – Merritt Centennials (9-12-2-1) @ West Kelowna Warriors (15-10-1-0)
7 p.m. at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna.
The two teams have split the season series so far this season with a win a piece. On Sept. 16 West Kelowna goaltender Cole Demers stopped 32 of 33 shots and was named the game’s first star as he backstopped his team to a 3-1 win over Merritt. The Warriors got goals from Matt Kowalski, Jared Marino and Chase Stevenson in the win.
The Centennials evened the season series on Oct. 29 with a convincing 5-1 win at home. Merritt forward Brendan Schneider scored twice and was named the game’s first star. Centennials goalie Jacob Berger made 37 saves and forward Henry Cleghorn chipped in with three assists in the win.
West Kelowna forward Jared Marino leads his team with 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 26 games. Chase Dubois is tied for second on the team with 19 points and leads the team with nine goals. Michael Ryan is tied for eighth in the BCHL in scoring among defencemen with 19 points (three goals, 16 assists) in 26 games. Goaltender Cole Demers ranks fifth in the BCHL with a .919 save percentage and eighth in the league with a 2.77 goals-against average.
Merritt forward Zach Zorn leads the team with 20 points in 23 games followed closely by Henry Cleghorn and Nicholas Wicks with 19 points. Zorn and Cleghorn are tied for the team lead in goals with eight. Tyrell Buckley is tied for 12th in the BCHL for points by defencemen with 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 24 games. Goaltender Jacob Berger is tied for eighth in the BCHL with a .915 save percentage and is third in the league with 1165 minutes played.
What’s at Stake
West Kelowna is fifth in the Interior Division with 31 points in 26 games. Eight points separate the first- and fifth-place teams in the division. They are chasing the Penticton Vees (33 points), Wenatchee Wild (34 points), Vernon Vipers (38 points) and Trail Smoke Eaters (39 points) in the crowded Interior Division standings.
Merritt is in last place in the Interior Division with 21 points in 24 games. They are chasing the sixth place Salmon Arm Silverbacks who are three points ahead and they trail West Kelowna by ten points.
West Kelowna coach Rylan Ferster on facing Merritt tonight:
“They’re certainly a real hard-working team. Their power play is obviously very good… That will pose a huge problem for us, trying to contain that. We’re going to have to just try to get our feet under us here and try to get back to… making (our building) a difficult place to play.”
Ferster on trying to separate themselves from the other teams in the division standings:
“As tough as it is, it’s fun. You see a real good team every night. I don’t think we really focus on where our team is in the standings so much, we’re going to prepare the same way. Last time we played Merritt in their building they beat us 5-1. I think the one thing in our division is, on any given night, anyone can beat anyone… I’ve been in the league a long time and it’s unbelievable to see where the league has come from in so many years. The parity that there is now is wonderful.”
Merritt Centennials coach Joe Martin on facing West Kelowna tonight:
“It’s usually a spirited event when we play Kelowna, In my time here we’ve seen them in the playoffs a few times so there’s a lot of carry over from year to year… Special teams highly impact the game. It seems to me like there’s an extra bit of playoff atmosphere whenever we play these guys.
“I think scoring early for us (is important), staying out of the penalty box as much as possible… Kelowna does a good job of home-ice advantage, they do a good job of playing their game there and we have to play ours and stay out of the kind of chess match.”
Martin on climbing out of the basement of the Interior Division:
“We went 0-6 to start, so I think we’re already doing the right things to get back. We’re not going to get back in one weekend, it’s going to take some time here. Our focus is playing good hockey throughout the season, not being good in one month. We can’t afford to fall down even further. It’s just taking steps and slowly getting better every weekend and I think that our guys have done that.”