Contributed by Jesse Adamson for BCHL Communications
Tonight – Merritt Centennials (16-18-2-1) at Penticton Vees (24-9-2-2)
7 p.m. at South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton
Presented by the BCIHL
Penticton has won all three matchups against Merritt this year. The teams first played on opening night on Sept. 8 in Merritt. The Vees got goals from Owen and Lukas Sillinger in the first two minutes of the game to lead 2-0. Merritt answered back to tie the game in the second period on goals from Zach Court and Zach Zorn, but Penticton defenceman Jonny Tychonick put his team up for good with a goal midway through the second and the Vees won 4-2.
On Oct. 13 in Merritt, the Centennials led 2-0 in the third period on goals from Colten Gerlib and Rylan Van Unen. Penticton’s Tychonick scored two goals in the final five minutes of the third to force overtime and Grant Cruikshank scored the winner just over a minute in to give the Vees the 3-2 win. Merritt goaltender Jacob Berger stopped 42 of 45 shots and was named the game’s first star in the loss.
The most recent matchup between the teams was on Oct. 20 in Penticton. The Vees trailed 1-0 going into the third period but got goals from Cruikshank, Massimo Rizzo, Ryan Sandelin and Dakota Boutin and held on for a 4-2 win. Berger was once again busy in net for Merritt facing 42 shots and being named the third star of the game.
Penticton’s Owen Sillinger has points in his last four games played, with six goals and one assist over that stretch. Sillinger missed his team’s last two games due to suspension, but will look to continue his streak when he returns to the lineup tonight. Sillinger is the Vees’ leading scorer with 38 points and is tied for sixth in BCHL goal scoring with 19. Penticton has two players in the top-20 in BCHL defencemen scoring. Nicky Leivermann is tied for fifth in that category with 29 points (7-22-29) and Jonny Tychonick is tied for 13th with 24 points (5-19-24). Vees goalie Adam Scheel is first in the league with a .933 save percentage and second in both wins (16) and goals-against average (2.03). He has two shutouts on the year while playing the fifth most minutes in the league.
Merritt goaltender Jacob Berger is tied for ninth in the BCHL with a .910 save percentage. He has two shutouts this season while playing the sixth most minutes in the league. The Centennials are led offensively by Henry Cleghorn and Zach Zorn who have 35 points each. Cleghorn’s 16 goals this year lead the team and puts him one ahead of Zorn who has 15. Tyrell Buckley is tied for 13th in scoring among BCHL defencemen with 24 points (6-18-24) in 36 games.
What’s at Stake
Penticton sits in fourth place in the Interior Division with 52 points, but can leapfrog the Wenatchee Wild and the Trail Smoke Eaters (53 points each) for second place with a win tonight. They currently trail the division-leading Vernon Vipers by seven points, with games in hand on all the teams they are chasing. After winning 12 straight games and then losing five straight, the Vees will look to extend their current win streak to three games.
Merritt is in sixth place in the Interior Division with 35 points. They are two points up on the last-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks and seven back of the fifth-place West Kelowna Warriors in the division.
Penticton Vees assistant coach Matt Fraser on facing Merritt tonight:
“Merritt is a good team. Every game they wear their heart on their sleeves. They play a hard-working game, a real physical style of game. Tonight, we need to play with pace, push the pace, and be detail oriented in the defensive zone. We need to focus on having a good night with our special teams.”
Fraser on his players stepping up with others out of the lineup due to injury and suspension:
“We’ve had guys being forced to play bigger minutes lately and they’ve responded. When we say we need guys to step up, that doesn’t necessarily mean step up on the score sheet. When we have guys out, it’s important to have a four-line, six defencemen effort and we’ve had that the last two games.”
Fraser on his team’s success against Merritt this season:
“I think we’ve had some momentum carry over from last year’s playoff series (against Merritt). It helps when we know a team well and we’ve had success against them. The guys have confidence from the time the puck is dropped. That being said, just because we’ve won three in a row against them doesn’t mean we take them lightly. It’s quite the opposite in fact.”
Merritt head coach Joe Martin on the challenges Penticton presents:
“(They have a) good offence, (they’re) a great defensive team with good coaching and great goaltending. They’re a complete team, tough to play, much like the top teams in our league. We’ve got to be sharp for sure and create some scoring chances and be ready to capitalize, because you won’t get a lot of them.”
Martin on his team’s focus heading into tonight:
“We need to focus on the simple things, on special teams. If you’re going to get three to four chances a night, it’s important to get one or two goals off the power play and not give up any on the kill, which isn’t easy…I think on special teams, if we can be plus one there we have a good chance to win.”
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.