Contributed by Jesse Adamson for BCHL Communications
Tonight – Merritt Centennials (13-14-2-1) at Trail Smoke Eaters (20-10-2-0)
7 p.m. at Cominco Arena in Trail
Presented by the BCIHL
WATCH LIVE ON HOCKEYTV
In their first meeting of the season Oct. 27 in Merritt, the two teams traded goals throughout the game until Trail forward Levi Glasman scored the winner with less than three minutes to go in the third period as the Smoke Eaters won 5-4. Trail defenceman Seth Barton had a goal and two assists and Glasman and Andre Ghantous each had two-point nights. Centennials defenceman Tyrell Buckley scored two goals in the loss.
The teams met again in Merritt on Nov. 25 when the Centennials pulled out a 3-2 overtime win. Henry Cleghorn scored the winner midway through the overtime period and goaltender Austin Roden stopped 37 of 39 shots to get the win.
Despite being outshot 41-16, Merritt blanked Trail 4-0 on the road in their most recent matchup on Dec. 2. Centennials forward Zach Zorn scored two goals and Jacob Berger made 41 saves to get the win and his second shutout of the season.
Trail’s Levi Glasman has scored five goals and added five assists on his current five-game point streak. Smoke Eaters forward Ross Armour is fifth in league scoring with 42 points (16 goals, 26 assists), but will not play tonight as he is still with Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge. Kale Howarth is sixth in the BCHL scoring race with 42 points and Levi Glasman is tied for 10th with 35. Trail’s Jeremy Lucchini is third in league scoring among defencemen with 29 points in 32 games. The Smoke Eaters will also be without defenceman Seth Barton who is also still away with Team Canada West.
Merritt are led offensively by forwards Henry Cleghorn, with 31 points, and Zach Zorn who has 29. Cleghorn leads his team with 14 goals and Zorn is close behind with 12. Tyrell Buckley is tied for eighth in scoring among BCHL defencemen with 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 30 games. Centennials goaltender Jacob Berger is 10th in the league with a save percentage of .912 and he also has two shutouts on the year which ties him for second in the BCHL. He’s played the third-most minutes of any goalie in the league. Merritt will be missing forward Rylan Van Unen and head coach Joe Martin who are both away with Team Canada West.
What’s at Stake
Trail recently snapped a six-game losing streak by beating the West Kelowna Warriors 5-3 over the weekend. They currently sit in fourth place in the Interior Division with 42 points and are three points behind the third-place Wenatchee Wild, five behind the second-place Penticton Vees and seven points behind the first-place Vernon Vipers.
Merritt has won four of their last five games, including a 4-0 win over Trail on Dec. 2. They sit in sixth place in the Interior Division with 29 points, six back of West Kelowna for fifth. They lead the last-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks by two points.
Merritt assistant coach Matt Samson on facing Trail tonight:
“They’re a fast team. Their D likes to join the rush, a lot of times you’ll see four guys getting involved, they’re pretty aggressive holding the line in the offensive zone. They’re creative and patient with the puck and they can make plays. We saw that last time we played. We beat them 4-0, but our goaltender played unreal and we got some breaks and we got a couple past those guys…They’ve got a lot fire power.
“We’re going to try to have a simple but fast start, just make sure we’re getting every puck out of our end, every puck over the red line and into their end, establishing a forecheck, finishing our checks and just not over-complicating our life…Our start tonight is really important.”
Samson on his team winning four of their last five games:
“Our guys are all buying into our system. Our penalty kill has been excellent, I think we’re 10 for our last 10. We’re doing a really good job, including a big 5-on-3 kill against Trail. We’re getting really good goaltending, so that never hurts. The power play is chipping in a little bit and we’ve got some chemistry with our lines, I think we’ve got four lines that can play right now.”
Trail assistant coach Jessie Leung on playing Merritt tonight:
“Merritt’s a very good team. They’ve got a really good goalie, (Jacob) Berger has played really well against us every time we’ve seen him. Merritt’s a team that pushes the offence. They’re pretty deep as far as parity as with their lines, so it’s difficult to get a line matchup. They’re always pushing on the attack, they’re always sending guys off the rush. They’re a good transitional team, we just need to make sure we manage the puck or else you’re looking at some odd-man rushes going the other way.
“It’s important for us just to stick to our process. It’s going to be important to win the special teams battle, as it is every game in our league. The important thing for us is to play our game, not get caught up in trying to trade chance for chance, that’s not really how we’re built and how we have our success.”
Leung on how his team has responded with two key players away at the World Junior A Challenge:
“It’s been an opportunity for other players in our lineup to step up. I think we’ve seen a couple players really take the bull by the horns in Carter Jones and Tyler Ghirardosi who have stepped up to the challenge of being the offensive leaders for us through this stretch. At the same time, we’ve got some key returning players back from injury, Braeden Tuck and Blaine Caton back in the forward ranks. It’s been an opportunity for players to step up and play a bigger role and by and large they’ve done that.”
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.