Contributed by Jesse Adamson for BCHL Communications
Tonight – Salmon Arm Silverbacks (23-27-3-1) at Merritt Centennials (23-26-4-2)
7 p.m. at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena in Merritt
Presented by the BCIHL
Tonight is the sixth and final matchup of the season between the two division rivals. Merritt leads the season series 3-2. On Oct. 6 Salmon Arm got two goals and an assist from Tanner Campbell en route to a 7-4 win at home. In the next matchup on Oct. 21 in Salmon Arm, Nicholas Wicks scored at 2:47 of the second overtime period to give the Centennials the 5-4 win. On Nov. 10 Grayson Constable contributed two goals and one assist to lead Salmon Arm to a 5-3 home win.
Merritt evened the season series on Dec. 9 on the strength of a Henry Cleghorn hat trick as the Centennials won at home by a score of 4-1. In the most recent meeting on Jan. 6 in Merritt, the Centennials got two goals from Mathieu Gosselin and goaltender Austin Roden stopped 39 of 41 shots in a 4-2 win. Tonight’s game is a make-up game from last Saturday which was postponed due to snowy highway conditions.
Merritt’s Nicholas Wicks is on a four-game point streak. He has one goal and five assists over that stretch. Centennials Tyrell Buckley is seventh in the BCHL in points among defencemen with 37 (11-26-37) in 54 games. Henry Cleghorn leads the team in points with 46 and is tied with Zach Zorn for the team lead in goals with 20. Merritt’s second-leading scorer is Wicks who has 44 points (12-32-44) in 54 games. Centennials goaltender Austin Roden is second in the BCHL in save percentage at .930 and fifth in the league with a 2.47 goals-against average with two shutouts.
Rhett Kingston leads Salmon Arm in points (48), goals (24) and assists (24). The team’s second-leading scorer is Tanner Campbell who has 34 points (13-21-34) in 43 games. Akito Hirose leads the team in points from the blueline and is tied for third overall on the Silverbacks with 27 points (4-23-27) in 51 games. Salmon Arm goalie Cooper Reid has eight wins, a .902 save percentage and one shutout on the season.
What’s at Stake
Merritt and Salmon Arm are separated by two points in the Interior Division standings. The Centennials sit in sixth place in the division with 52 points. With three games left they have a small chance of catching the fifth-place West Kelowna Warriors who are five points ahead. Merritt is unbeaten in their last five games.
Salmon Arm is in seventh place in the Interior Division with 50 points. They are two back of Merritt with one game in hand. The Silverbacks have lost their last three games by a combined score of 15-1, including an 8-1 loss to Penticton last night. Because of the make-up game tonight, Salmon Arm will finish the season playing five games in five nights.
Merritt Centennials head coach Joe Martin on tonight’s matchup against Salmon Arm:
“It’s a game that obviously has playoff implications…It will be an intense game, every Interior matchup is. [They have] good scoring, good goaltending, they’re an aggressive team. They had a rough one last night [against Penticton], so I think tonight they’ll be better than they were yesterday…We just want to make sure we’re hard on them early and make them think it’s last night all over again.”
Martin on the importance of tonight’s game in the division standings:
“It’s pretty important. We’ve been focused for a little while now on how we play, not so much on where we end up in the standings. A lot of that is outside our control, so it’s important that we play well and get a full 60 minutes from everybody. If we do that, things usually end up in the positive.”
Martin on how he wants his team playing heading into the playoffs:
“[We want] to make sure we play hard, that’s kind of the Merritt mentality. When people come play here, they know they’re in for a game. When we’re on the road we have to grind it out and be very hard to play against.”
Salmon Arm head coach Scott Atkinson on tonight’s matchup:
“For us, it’s all about how we play defence. We have to defend well and we have to find a strategy that works in that rink. It’s a significantly different rink and they play well there, so we need to adjust our gameplan to find a way that puts our players in position to win.”
Atkinson on the playoff implications of tonight’s game:
“It’s not as much the standings for us as playing well and being in the mindset that we can win. If you take a look at the way the playoffs are setup, there are some travel considerations, but no matter what happens we have to play a very good team.”
Atkinson on his team’s confidence level after losing 8-1 to Penticton last night:
“That’s been happening to us all year. That’s just our group. We feel like we’re a lot better than our record, but we do have these kind of lapses. Last night actually the game wasn’t as bad as the score indicated, but the score was the score and that can happen to us. We view it as something we’ve been working on all year and obviously it reared it’s head last night again. Getting beat 8-1 isn’t any different than getting beat 1-0, you still lose. At the end of the day you just regroup, try to formulate a plan and move forward.”
Atkinson on his team playing five games in five nights to end the season:
“I don’t think it’s easy. It’s an interesting conundrum, I’ve never heard of it before, but that’s our reality. We just have to deal with it. From our perspective, [we have to] come up with a plan, adapt it and improvise and overcome the challenge.”
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.