Contributed by Jesse Adamson for BCHL Communications
Tonight – Langley Rivermen (22-18-10-2) at Merritt Centennials (20-26-4-1)
7 p.m. at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena in Merritt
Presented by the BCIHL
The lone meeting between the two teams came on Sept. 21 at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack where Langley prevailed 4-3. Nicholas Ponak opened the scoring for the Rivermen less than five minutes into the first period to give his team the early lead. Ponak scored again in the second period, but Merritt got goals from Nicholas Wicks, Zach Zorn and Christian Sabin to lead 3-2 going into the third period. Langley’s Brendan Budy tied the game 1:30 into the frame and Ponak scored his third goal of the game shorthanded with less than five minutes to go to seal the game for the Rivermen.
Merritt’s biggest strength is in the crease as goaltender Austin Roden is third in the league with a save percentage of .926 and sixth in goals-against average at 2.59. The Centennials other goalie Jacob Berger is 10th in the league with a save percentage of .906. Both keepers have two shutouts each. Henry Cleghorn leads the way offensively for Merritt. He’s tops on the team in points, with 44, and goals, with 19. Nicholas Wicks is the team’s second-leading scorer with 38 points and Zach Zorn is third with 37. Tyrell Buckley is tied for 12th in the BCHL in points by defencemen with 32 in 50 games.
Langley’s leading scorer is Brendan Budy, who has 46 points in 43 games. Angus Crookshank is the team’s second-leading scorer with 38 points in 36 games and also leads the team in goals with 18. Colin Bernard is the team’s fifth-leading scorer and also leads the team in points from the blueline with 27 points in 36 games. Rivermen goalie Braedon Fleming has played the second-most minutes in the BCHL and has 18 wins, a goals-against average of 2.93 and a save percentage of .901.
What’s at Stake
Langley is in a three-way tie for second place in the Mainland Division with the Surrey Eagles and the Chilliwack Chiefs. They are 10 points back of the first-place Prince George Spruce Kings. The Rivermen have lost four of their last five games.
Merritt is currently in last place in the Interior Division with 45 points. They are five points back of the sixth-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks with a game in hand.
Merritt Centennials head coach Joe Martin on tonight’s matchup with Langley:
“We’re not focusing too much on Langley, other than I know some of their players are having some good seasons. They’re good players, but most of the focus is going to be on ourselves for tonight.
“[They] can take a lot of penalties as long as we’re working hard, it will be our discipline to make sure that we go to the box less than those guys.”
Martin on trying to catch Salmon Arm for sixth place in the Interior Division:
“We’d like to [move up]. To do that, it’s winning hockey games, so the goal is to win every night. The goal is to be playing really well with the amount of games we have left. If we end up catching Salmon Arm, it’s a combination of us playing well and them losing some games, but the main theme of that is us playing well…It’s more so about how we play. That’s going to be our focus tonight and going forward.”
Langley Rivermen head coach Bobby Henderson on tonight’s matchup with Merritt:
“They’re always a hard-working team. They’re tight structurally and they’re opportunistic offensively. They’re a very good hockey club.
“[We need to focus on] consistency and playing a full 60. As cliche as it sounds, I think at this time of the season that’s what everyone’s looking to do is just trying to round out their game and start get some momentum heading into playoffs.”
Henderson on the importance of finishing in second place in the Mainland Division and getting home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs:
“Obviously home-ice advantage is huge in the playoffs. There’s that familiarity there. The goal in the next few games is to give yourself any advantage.”
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.