Contributed by Jesse Adamson for BCHL Communications
Tonight – Merritt Centennials (18-24-4-1) at West Kelowna Warriors (24-23-1-1)
7 p.m. at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna
Presented by the BCIHL
The season series between the two teams is tied at two games apiece as the home team has won each contest. In the first meeting on Sept. 16 in West Kelowna, the Warriors jumped out to an early two-goal lead on goals from Matt Kowalski and Jared Marino. West Kelowna goalie Cole Demers stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced for the win and was named the game’s first star. On Oct. 29, Merritt got two goals from Brendan Schneider and goaltender Jacob Berger made 37 saves as the Centennials cruised to a 5-1 home win.
In the third meeting on Nov. 24, the Warriors got multi-point performances from seven different players, including a goal and two assists from Willie Reim, and goaltender Nik Amundrud stopped 37 of 39 shots as West Kelowna won convincingly at home by a score of 7-2. In the final meeting between the teams in Merritt on Dec. 1, the game was tied 3-3 going into the third when Merritt scored four straight goals, by Rylan Van Unen, Zach Zorn, Schneider and Henry Cleghorn, and the Centennials went on to win 7-4.
West Kelowna’s Parm Dhaliwal has points in his last three games. He’s scored three goals and two assists over that span. Warriors forward Jared Marino is tied for 12th in BCHL scoring with 50 points (19-31-50) in 48 games. Chase Dubois is the team’s second-leading scorer with 43 points (16-27-43) in 47 games. Michael Ryan is fifth in the league in scoring by defencemen with 36 points (5-31-36). The Warriors have another defenceman in the top-20 in scoring from the blueline as Jake Harrison has 28 points (7-21-28) in 47 games.
Merritt is led offensively by Henry Cleghorn who has 44 points (19-25-44) in 46 games. He’s followed by Zach Zorn and Nicholas Wicks who have 36 points each. Tyrell Buckley is 16th in the BCHL in scoring by defencemen with 28 points (6-22-28). The Centennials have two solid options in net in Jacob Berger and Austin Roden. Berger has played the seventh-most minutes in the league this year and has a save percentage of .909 with two shutouts. Since joining the team from the Nanaimo Clippers midseason, Roden has a 6-5-1 record, a save percentage of .934 and a goals-against average of 2.45 with one shutout in 15 appearances.
What’s at Stake
West Kelowna is in fifth place in the Interior Division with 50 points. They lead the sixth-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks by two points. After losing 5-4 last night to Salmon Arm, the Warriors have alternated wins and losses in their last seven games.
Merritt is in last place in the Interior Division with 41 points. They trail Salmon Arm by seven points for sixth place in the division. After losing 3-2 last night to the Penticton Vees, the Centennials have lost seven of their last eight games.
Merritt Centennials head coach Joe Martin on facing West Kelowna tonight:
“They’re good on the attack, they’ve got some skilled forwards. Their goaltending has been very good this year. They’re kind of a committee team. They don’t rely on just one line, they’ve got a handful of players that can score. They’re opportunistic, you’ve got to make sure you’re good against the rush and if you are, you’ve got a good chance to win.
“[We need to start] bearing down on chances. I think we’re getting the same amount of chances as other teams, we’re just coming up one goal short. The intensity last night [against Penticton] was outstanding. We were a good hockey team last night. Our mind may be off for a couple shifts and they jumped on it…The minute you step on the ice to the minute you’re on the bench, you need to be prepared and very focused.”
Martin on his team losing several close games recently to the top teams in the league:
“I think that the positive is that goaltending has been good. Our penalty kill on most nights has been really good. Where we’re lacking is in the offensive production, but the chances, for the most part, are there as well. There’s a lot of positive there, but at the same time, let’s not kid ourselves, we play the game to win and we’re not…If we keep playing good hockey, it’s going to come. We can’t just keep hoping for, we have to go out and prove it.”
Martin on his team’s strong defensive play over the last month:
“It’s a team thing for sure. We do have two outstanding goaltenders. I think we have one of the best tandems in the league. We were sitting at the fifth-lowest goals against in the league…The play from those guys has been great, but it’s also a team thing. [We have] a pretty inexperienced group, but they do a great job of limiting chances and they’re doing a good job of keeping shots down.”
West Kelowna Warriors head coach Rylan Ferster on facing Merritt tonight:
“They’re a hard-working team, really really good structure. I watched their game against Vernon the other night live, I think you get a better read when you watch them live and I liked their game. I didn’t think there were a lot of holes in their game. Obviously getting [Zach] Risteau back really helps them from the offensive side. They’re a good team…Watching their game the other night, for me, you wouldn’t have known where the two teams were in the standings.
“We have to worry about our own game. Last night [against Salmon Arm], obviously, we lose and we’re in a results-driven business. That wasn’t good, but I liked our game for the most part…We have to limit mistakes first and foremost. Our special teams have to get better. The one thing we’re going to have to do is match their work ethic. I thought our work ethic last night was good…We need to play desperate, we don’t won’t to go 0-for this weekend”
Ferster on his team alternating wins and losses in the last seven games:
“I don’t want to say we’re fragile, but it just seems like when we make a mistake it ends up in our net. We’d like to string together some good stuff. Like I said, we’ve had some good efforts. I know we come away empty-handed last night, [but] I can’t fault our guys on our effort. We gave up five goals. You can’t give up five goals and expect to win hockey games. [I’d like] a little more consistency in our whole game.”
Ferster on his team’s strong offensive play of late, scoring 19 goals in the last four games:
“Our power play was pretty good. Some of our offensive players are kind of hitting their stride a little bit. Obviously, Parm Dhaliwal has come back from his injury and played really well. The addition of Ryan Steele has helped out. Jared Marino has been pretty consistent throughout the whole year. We’re scoring now, now we have to find a way to keep them out. It seems like when we do one, we can’t do the other. There was a time there when we weren’t giving up much and we were losing those real close games, where now we can score and it seems like we want to turn it into a shootout, which, as we all know, we can’t do that this time of year.”
ABOUT THE BCIHL
The British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League was created with the purpose of offering a venue for competitive, high-calibre hockey that’s close to home for players beyond their junior careers. The league was launched in 2006 and now includes six member teams: Eastern Washington University, Selkirk College, Simon Fraser University, Trinity Western University, the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University. This season, 25 graduates with over 2750 games of BCHL experience are pursuing their academic and athletic goals in the BCIHL. To learn more about the BCIHL and playing opportunities for BCHL grads, visit BCIHL.ca.