Tonight – Merritt Centennials (12-8-0-0) at Penticton Vees (9-6-0-2)
7 p.m. at South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton
Presented by the BCIHL
This will already be the fourth meeting of the season between the teams, with Penticton winning all three previous. On Sept. 28, Brendan Harrogate had two goals and an assists and Derek Krall stopped 36 of 39 shots to lead the Vees to a 6-3 road victory. On Oct. 10, defenceman James Miller had two goals and two assists and fellow blueliner Conner Hutchison added another two goals as Penticton cruised to a 6-2 win at home. In the most recent meeting last week in Merritt, Miller led the way again with two goals and an assist, while Eric Linell contributed a pair of goals in a 6-1 Penticton win.
Merritt defenceman Michael Van Unen has points in eight straight games dating back to Oct. 10. He has three goals and six assists over that stretch. Centennials forward Bradley Cocca is tied for third in league scoring with 27 points (11-16-27) in 20 games. Nick Granowicz is tied for sixth with 24 points (12-12-24) and Mathieu Gosselin is tied for 11th with 22 points (12-10-22).
Penticton forward Brendan Harrogate is on a six-game point streak, with five goals and four assists in that span. David Silye leads the team in scoring and is tied for sixth in the BCHL with 24 points (7-17-24) and Eric Linell is tied for 13th with 21 points (10-11-21). James Miller is tied for second in scoring among defencemen with 17 points (7-10-17) in 17 games. Vees goalie Jack LaFontaine has a record of 7-5-0, with the second-best goals-against average in the league at 2.08, a save percentage of .915 (tied for ninth) and two shutouts.
What’s at Stake
Merritt is first in the Interior Division with 24 points. They lead the second-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks and West Kelowna Warriors by just one point.
Penticton is tied with the Vernon Vipers and the Wenatchee Wild for fourth place in the division. They’re two points up on the seventh-place Trail Smoke Eaters and only four points out of first with games in hand on the entire division.
From the Broadcast Booth
Merritt Centennials play-by-play broadcaster Jared Thomas on the season series with the Vees:
“The Cents have had their hands full with the Vees this season there’s no doubt about that, but the silver lining is that they have yet to play their best when facing them. The first period has loomed large in all three matchups so far this season with the Vees dominating the scoreboard leading 4-0, 3-0, and 3-0 after one. All three games had a different feel, but the Cents really need to focus on that first five, 10, and 20 minutes of play to make sure they don’t dig themselves a hole that’s too deep against a skilled Vees club.”
Thomas on Centennials standout Bradley Cocca:
“When he came into camp, he showed up with a slightly larger frame, a better knowledge of what it takes to score at the BCHL level, but most of all, a greater confidence to make things happen on the ice. He knows he can be a game breaker and a difference maker on the ice and has the hands to set up a fellow linemate, dangle around a defender or snipe a shot. Despite his smaller stature, he is extremely hard to knock off the puck. Through 20 games this season, he’s already eclipsed last years total of 23 points.”
Thomas on the Centennials high-powered offence:
“The Cents continue to score by virtue of the creativity and versatility of players they have in their arsenal. Most forwards can play every position up front and the defenders, because of the amount of right-handed shots they have, have gotten comfortable playing both sides of the ice. Every player has a unique skill set, or a particular trait that meshes well with teammates on the ice. The forward core is deep with returning players who have already gone through the trial-and-error period of what it takes to score at the BCHL level.”
Penticton Vees play-by-play broadcaster Craig Beauchemin on the Vees three wins over the Centennials this season:
“The power play has been a huge contributor to the Vees success against Merritt this season. Penticton has scored seven power-play goals on just 20 opportunities against the Centennials, so they’re taking advantage of the chances Merritt is giving them.”
Beauchemin on the Vees climbing to within two points of the division lead with a regulation win tonight:
“In speaking with Centennials head coach Joe Martin, he’s said fans around Merritt have been talking about the team being in first place for a while now, so that could be motivation for Penticton to try and knock them from the top spot. While the end goal is much bigger, you know the Vees want to keep that streak of seven consecutive division titles alive.”
Beauchemin on Vees high-scoring defenceman James Miller:
“He has taken major strides forward this season. Being a 20-year-old and an assistant captain, he’s really taken his game to a new level. His minutes have skyrocketed compared to past years and there have been games this season where he’s been on the ice for over 30 minutes due to injuries. He has been a pillar of strength from the backend for the Vees and has become a true top-pairing defenceman.”
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 five member teams: 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.