Following nearly a week between games for Merritt, some of teams' injuries have been allowed time to heal, while in Penticton's favour on Friday is the return of University of Minnesota commit Jack Ramsey. Ramsey missed Wednesday's game while attending the USA Hockey All-American game in Pittsburgh.
Connor LaCouvee made his debut in Vernon for the Cents on Saturday night, stopped 32 of 34 Viper shots. Devin Kero appeared in consecutive games prior to that, allowing 3 goals on 55 Trail Smoke Eater shots.
The two teams meet again October 16th in Penticton.
Merritt Centennials (3-4-0-0)
The Centennials work ethic came to play in the 2nd and 3rd periods against Vernon on Saturday, a work ethic that must be matched or topped tonight at South Okanagan Events Centre. The Cents do know how to succeed against the Vees, as they won 5 of 7 games against their division rival last season.
Their captain, Payton Schaefer has shown flashes of brilliance, and he has already matched his goal total from last season, while rookie Gavin Gould had a two goal night last weekend which included a overtime winner in Vernon. The offensive improvements need to continue, as experienced guys like Jeff Wight and Sebastien Pare have looked better and better from game-to-game.
Pare had a point in all but one game at SOEC last season, a game his team won anyways 1-0. Sam Johnson also enjoyed some success in the season series along with Dane Birks and Tyler Martin. Regan Soquila was hands-down the best Cent against the Vees last season, but who will fill his shoes in 13/14?
Penticton Vees (4-2-0-0)
The Vees are coming in having lost two games in a row, which is just going to bring more anxiousness to the team as they head in to their home opener as well. Max Coatta had the teams' only goal in Vernon, while guys like Ben Dalpe and Brad McClure have seen recent success with goals against Prince George a week ago today.
If you look at special teams, there isn't a whole lot of seperation between the Cents and Vees. In fact, Merritt has taken just one more penalty than Penticton, and they killed that extra penalty off; leaving the Cents .3% better on the penalty kill. Penticton's powerplay is slightly better at this point, after going 5-for-25 last season against Merritt. This season, they're 8-for-32, which is good for 3rd in the BCHL. Six players have scored PP markers.
The Vees played three home games in exhibition, allowing two goals, while they haven't won a regular season game on home ice since February 27th. Worth adding is that the Vees won 7 straight home ice playoff games in the spring, before falling in OT to Surrey in the Championship game. I wouldn't mind if one day, Penticton and Vernon both have to relocate games to their old barns... What a thrill that would be to see once again!
Except Fred Harbinson's team to come out very quick and very disciplined. I don't expect a lot of penalties tonight and with strong goaltending at both ends on any given night, we should be in for a terrific hockey game.
The game will be broadcast live at 6:30 on Q101 in Merritt, and Q101.ca on the web. Catch the FASTHockey webcast at BCHL.ca!
We'll be joined on the broadcast by Luke Pierce, Fred Harbinson, Shane Poulsen, Gavin Gould, and quite possibly the voice of the Vees Fraser Rodgers.
Catch you on the airwaves!