Tonight – Merritt Centennials (31-15-4-3) at Penticton Vees (34-14-3-2)
7 p.m. at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton
Presented by the BCIHL
This is the sixth and final meetings of the season between the teams and Penticton has taken all five previous meetings by a combined score of 24-10. The last two matchups went to a shootout with the Vees prevailing in both.
Vees forward Andre Ghantous comes into tonight riding a four-game point streak with three goals and two assists over that stretch. Penticton defenceman James Miller is the team’s leading scorer with 59 points (18 goals, 41 assists) in 53 games. He’s tied for the league lead among all BCHL defenceman and is tied for ninth overall among all skaters. Eric Linell and David Silye are also in the top-20 in BCHL scoring with 55 and 54 points respectively. In net, Jack LaFontaine is ranked second in the league in both save percentage (.920) and goals-against average (2.26). He has a record of 27-12-2 on the season with two shutouts.
Centennials forward Christian Sabin has points in four straight contests with two goals and two assists in that span. Merritt’s Bradley Cocca is tied for sixth in scoring in the BCHL and his 41 assists are tied for second-most in the league. Nick Granowicz has 28 goals on the year, which is eighth-most in the league. Him and Nicholas Wicks are also in the top-20 in league scoring with 54 points each. Michael Van Unen leads the Centennials in scoring from the back-end with 25 points (four goals, 21 assists) in 52 games. Merritt’s netminder Austin Roden has the 10th-best save percentage in the BCHL at .907. He owns a 22-11-2 record with two shutouts.
What’s at Stake
The Vees currently sit in first place in the Interior Division with 73 points. They are third in the overall league standings, one ahead of the Victoria Grizzlies and three back of the Prince George Spruce Kings.
The Centennials are in second place in the Interior Division and are four points back of Penticton with each team having five games remaining on the schedule. Merritt is also five points up on the third-place Wenatchee Wild.
From the Broadcast Booth
Penticton Vees play-by-play broadcaster Craig Beauchemin on the Vees perfect 5-0 record against Merritt this season:
“I think the Vees have the ability to raise their game to another level. They’re aware of how tight the standings have been in the division all season long, and we’ve seen it time and time again where they find an extra gear in big games. Power plays have certainly helped Penticton in this regard as Merritt has taken 30 penalties in just five games against the Vees. Eight times Penticton has made the Centennials pay on the man advantage and taken any momentum away.”
Beauchemin on Vees standout defenceman and leading scorer James Miller:
“He has become a true number-one defenceman and there’s no doubt in my mind he’s the best in the league. His ability to generate offence from all three zones with his shooting, passing and skating has been a treat to watch. It’s not just the offensive numbers though, his ice-time is through the roof and he’s always the first guy over the boards to kill penalties. He’s the anchor of the team and you could easily make a case for him as their MVP.”
Beauchemin on the importance of holding off the Centennials and finishing in first place in the Interior Division:
“This is the biggest game of the season. A win Friday doesn’t mathematically clinch first for Penticton, but would give them a nearly-insurmountable six-point lead with four games to go. There’s an expectation of winning within the organization, whether it’s each game, in the standings or league championships. The Vees want that divisional championship badly and you can bet that’s the only motivation they need Friday night.”
Merritt Centennials play-by-play broadcaster Jared Thomas on tonight’s matchup with the Vees:
“The Cents have gone down to the wire the last two games against Penticton after having their hands full in the first three games of the season series. Every game against the Vees this year, there’s been a stretch of five minutes that has really changed the outcome of the game. It’s important for the team to play the full 60 minutes tonight and it’s important for the team’s psyche to get over the Vees hump heading into the playoffs.”
Thomas on Merritt’s leading goal-scorer Nick Granowicz:
“He came here as a 20-year-old with something to prove. Not only does he possess the skill, but he’s one of the hardest workers on the team. Combine that with his speed on the outside, his size to get to the net and his hands to get through bodies and get the puck past goalies and you have a lethal combination.”
Thomas on Centennials goaltender Austin Roden:
“The most impressive side of his play has to be the mental side of his game. He possesses all the tools to make the saves and has the positioning down to a tee, but it’s his bounce back that makes him such a threat. If he gets beat clean and he knows it’s on him, he’s very quick to own it in the room and that’s made him popular among his teammates. After a goal against, he doesn’t hang his shoulders and dwell on it. He’s motivated to prove he can do better and help the team win. It’s that relentless pursuit of excellence that has made him a great addition to the Centennials.”
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.