Table Setter: The Penticton Vees are looking to celebrate their sweet 16 tonight but the Merritt Centennials are looking to spoil the party. The Vees, winners of 15 straight, host the Cents’ at the SOEC tonight on a Halloween Friday.
This is second of seven games between these two teams this year and the second straight at the SOEC. The Vees beat the Cents’ 6-1 back on October 2nd in their first meeting. After tonight, three of the next four games in the season series are in Merritt, including tomorrow night’s tilt on Halloween night.
Recap: The Vees have returned home after wins in Powell River (3-0) and Cowichan Valley (5-3) last weekend; that despite dressing just 16 skaters. The Vees will again be somewhat short-handed on a busy Halloween weekend, as they play three games in two and a half days. After tonight, it’s a trip to Merritt Saturday night, before turning around to head to Trail on Sunday afternoon.
Merritt has dropped their last five games, including back to back games against Trail Wednesday and Friday, before losing at home Sunday to Salmon Arm. Coming into tonight’s game, the Cents’ are just a point up on the Smoke Eaters for fifth in the Interior Division.
Line-Up News: Not dressing tonight for the Vees are Gabe Bast, Dante Fabbro, Desi Burgart and Griffin Mendel. Bast, Fabbro and Burgart are still sidelined due to injury and Mendel is with Team White at the 2015, World Under-17 Challenge in Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, BC. To help fill the holes on the backend, the Vees have called up defensemen Daniel Stone (Osoyoos Coyotes) and Mitchell Prowse (OHA). Stone will wear number 15 and Prowse will wear seven.
Good news in Demico Hannoun is back after missing the last three games with a lower-body injury. Hannoun has seven points in 12 games but did score in his last game against Langley.
Newest Vee, Nicholas Jones, will make his debut tonight after being acquired last weekend in a three-team trade. The 19-year-old played parts of two seasons at Ohio State University before landing in Penticton. The Edmonton, Alberta, product had 41-goals and 72 points in the Alberta Junior Hockey League before going off to school. Jones will play on a line with Owen Sillinger and Chris Gerrie.
After Anthony Brodeur posted back-to-back wins against Powell River and Cowichan Valley, Zach Driscoll will get the start tonight in goal. The Minnesota product is 4-0 in as many starts and sports a very tidy 2.25 goals-against average and owns a .917 save-percentage.
Streaks & Notes: Scott Conway, who’s third in league scoring, comes into tonight’s game riding a 15-game point streak; he has 15 goals and 32 during the run. His line-mate, Tyson Jost leads the Vees with 33 points and holds a share of the BCHL scoring lead with Nanaimo’s Sheldon Rempal.
The Vees are 5-1-0-0 against the Interior, including a perfect 4-0-0 at the SOEC. The Vees only setback against a division opponent, is their only loss this year; September 11th in Salmon Arm. Merritt has struggled in their own division, posting a 3-8-0-1 record their last five losses have come against divisional opponents.
Easton Brodzinski has really come on since joining Tyson Jost and Scott Conway on a line. Since October 10th, Brodzinski has seven goals and 14 points on that top-line.
Scouting Report: Keeping the puck out of their net has been a reason why the Centennials find themselves in a five-game slide. Despite being a high scoring team they have given up this most goals coming into this weekend. In 18 games, they’ve surrendered 80 goals, which is six more than the next closest team (Surrey).
The Cents’ have surrendered five goals in four of their last five games and on average, the opposition has averaged just over four and a half goals in those five games. A big reason for their defensive struggles has been their penalty-kill.
Their PK ranks last in the 17-team BCHL, at 61.45 percent, which is 13 percent worse than the next closest team (Prince George). 40 percent of their goals against have come when they’ve been on the PK. They’ve been tagged for 32 power-play goals against, which is 11 more than any other team. Obviously, Merritt will want to keep this game five-on-five as much as possible, as they Vees own the league’s third-best power-play.
They’ve allowed a lot but they can score a lot too. The Cents’ are the sixth-highest scoring team in the BCHL and have seven players who have 10 or more points. By comparison, the Vees have six. The big three are Zak Bowles, Colin Grannary and Gavin Gould who are one, two, three in team scoring; Bowles leads the way with 21 points. The Vees will have to mindful of them whenever they’re on the ice.