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GAME PREVIEW: Smoke Eaters Head To Merritt In Search Of Four Straight Wins

PHOTO: Mike Hockley

The Trail Smoke Eaters aim for four straight victories as they make their way to the Nicola Valley to conclude their season series against the Merritt Centennials on Saturday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.

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Smoke Eaters vs. Centennials 2018/19 Schedule:

Saturday, November 17th @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (4-2 Centennials) (BOXSCORE)

Friday, November 23rd @ Trail Memorial Centre (2-1 Smoke Eaters/OT) (BOXSCORE)

Friday, December 21st @ Trail Memorial Centre (5-2 Centennials) (BOXSCORE)

Saturday, December 22nd @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (5-3 Centennials) (BOXSCORE)

Saturday, February 2nd @ Trail Memorial Centre (3-2 Smoke Eaters/SO) (BOXSCORE)

Saturday, February 16th @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (7:00 PM)

The Smoke Eaters and Centennials conclude their season series tonight with Trail look to even the six-game set after a 3-2 shootout win at the Trail Memorial Centre in early February. Carter Jones and Spencer McLean scored 21 seconds apart in the 1st period before Kent Johnson scored the only goal in the shootout to help the Smoke Eaters to the win. Adam Marcoux was terrific in goal for Trail, stopping 32 of the 34 shots he faced in the game along with all three shooters in the shootout in the victory.

Trail comes into tonight’s tilt after earning their third straight win on Friday night in posting a 4-2 victory over the Langley Rivermen at the Trail Memorial Centre. Kent Johnson scored a pair of power play goals while affiliate player Chase Dafoe and Carter Jones added singles in the win. Donovan Buskey turned aside 20 of the 22 shots he faced on the night to earn his 4thwin of the season between the pipes.

Smoke Eaters Leading Scorers:

Carter Jones (15-36-51)

Chase Stevenson (18-31-49)

Kent Johnson (20-24-44)

Trevor Zins (11-32-43)

Braeden Tuck (13-25-38)

In a game on Friday night that was dominated by special teams, the Smoke Eaters penalty kill continued to shine, as it did throughout the duration of Trail’s six-game home stand. The Smoke Eaters went 7-for-7 on Friday against the Langley Rivermen when it came to the PK and overall through their six-game stretch at home saw Trail go 22-for-23 when down a man which helped them to a 4-2 record during that span of home games.

Adding another two-point night on the resume kept the recent stretch of strong play going for Bemidji State University commit Carter Jones, who has now collected points in seven of his last eight games. The Hillyard, Washington native has 3 goals and 10 assists for 13 points in that span including a good night on Friday in registering a goal and an assist to take over the team lead in scoring and be the first Smoke Eater to the 50-point plateau on the season with his 51 points.

Kent Johnson has found his offensive groove as of late as he now has points in three of his last four games with a pair of goals on Friday night. The University of Michigan commit has scored 3 goals while adding 3 assists for 6 points over that four-game stretch and is the first Smoke Eaters to eclipse the 20-goal mark this season with his power play efforts on Friday in a 4-2 win over the Langley Rivermen.

The Merritt Centennials enter tonight’s game sitting in 2nd place in the Interior Division standings with a 32-15-4-2 record after a big 4-2 win of their own against the Penticton Vees on Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Daniel Tkac, Rylan Van Unen, Nick Granowicz and Matthew Kopperud all tallied in the victory while Austin Roden turned aside an impressive 53 of the 55 shots he faced in the game in his 23rd win of the season.

Centennials Leading Scorers:

Bradley Cocca (21-41-62)

Nick Granowicz (29-26-55)

Nicholas Wicks (16-38-54)

Mathieu Gosselin (18-34-52)

Matthew Kopperud (26-22-48)

The Cents play their second-to-last home game of the regular season tonight and the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena offers a unique environment that Merritt has taken full advantage of. The Centennials hold the 4th best record on home ice in the BCHL, owning an 18-6-2-1 record at the NVMA and have won two of their last three contests in front of their home faithful while tallying the most goals of any other squad on home ice this season with 116.

Denver, Colorado native Matthew Kopperud has been lighting the lamp with frequency over the course of the last handful of games that has helped the Centennials to just two points behind the Vees for top spot in the Interior Division. The Arizona State University commit has points in five of his last six games and has scored in four of those contests, amassing five goals and an assist for six points during that stretch and sits second behind Nick Granowicz in team goal scoring with 26 tallies.

A massive 53-save performance by Austin Roden was key in helping the Cents triumph over the Vees on Friday, including a huge 29-save effort in the 3rd period alone on 30 Vees shots. The Victoria, BC native has won four of his last five starts, facing over 30 shots in each of those five contests. Roden has compiled a 2.40 GAA and a .939 SV% over that span as well as adding his second shutout of the season which was a 40-save performance against the Coquitlam Express on February 6th.

The Smoke Eaters and Centennials drop the puck on the final game of their season series at 7:00 PM tonight from the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. The pre-game show gets underway at 6:50 PM with a free audio stream at mixlr.com/trail-smoke-eaters as well as on pay-per-view at HockeyTV.com with the Voice of the Smoke Eaters, Trevor Miller.