It’s the Cents and Warriors in the playoffs

By on March 2, 2017
Amongst the many intense match-ups in the upcoming Merritt-West Kelowna series will be the Cents’ Chase Bell (10) and the Warriors’ Cavin Tilsley (17). (Ian Webster/Herald).

Two weeks ago, we boldly went out on a limb and predicted a Merritt Centennials — West Kelowna Warriors first round playoff series. It looks like the hockey gods agreed.

The Cents and Warriors kick off their best-of-seven post-season affair this weekend with games one and two on Friday and Saturday at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna. Games three and four will be back in Merritt on Monday and Tuesday of next week. 

If the final regular-season meeting between the two teams is any indication, this year’s Coquihalla Connector series is going to be a frisky one. Merritt’s 8-3 home-ice trouncing of West Kelowna on Feb. 24 featured plenty of big hits, a bucket full of scoring, and a pair of scraps to close out the third period. The seeds of discontent have most definitely been sewn.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

The regular-season series between the two Interior rivals couldn’t have been much closer. West Kelowna won four of seven, with one of the victories coming in overtime. Each team managed a win in the other side’s barn. Merritt held the overall edge in scoring, 25 goals to 21. The Cents won the two most recent games versus the Warriors by a combined score of 14-5.

All of the above statistics go out the window, however, come playoff time. It’s how the players perform individually and collectively in the here and now that counts.

Centennials’ head coach and GM Joe Martin and his troops are very much looking forward to the upcoming series.

“I like the match-up. I like where we sit against [West Kelowna],” Martin said. “Hearing our players talk, I think they wanted the match-up, too. There’s a certain amount of animosity that’s built up over the season, and that’s carried over from previous years. With the older players especially, there’s definitely some hatred there.

The last time that Merritt and West Kelowna met in the post-season was in round one of the 2012-13 Interior division playoffs. The Warriors took the best-of-seven in a hard-fought five games, after overtaking the Cents in the Interior standings on the last day of the regular season, and gaining home-ice advantage.

The 2012-13 series featured a penalty-filled game three (145 minutes combined) in Merritt, and a steal of three of the games by the Warriors’ netminder Tyler Briggs. It left a bitter taste in Martin’s mouth, which is sure to factor into this season’s showdown.

Merritt Centennials’ supporters are encouraged to get behind their team early, and not wait for games three and four at home.

A Cents’ fan bus is being planned for game two in West Kelowna on Saturday. Departure time is 5 p.m. from the arena parking lot. For more information, and to reserve a seat, you can contact the Centennials’ game day co-ordinator Teresa Sybrandy at 250-350-9679 or tsybrandy86@gmail.com.

Three keys to victory in the Cents-Warriors’ series

special teams

(Ian Webster/Herald).

SPECIAL TEAMS:

The Cents’ powerplay was the best in the league for a good part of the season, but faltered down the stretch. Led by Zach Risteau, they need to re-find their form and make the Warriors pay dearly when playing shorthanded.

(Ian Webster/Herald).

(Ian Webster/Herald).

BETWEEN THE PIPES:

The Warriors rode great goaltending to a national title last season. The Cents just need their netminding tandem to be better than their counterparts in this series, and give Merritt a chance to win every night.

(Ian Webster/Herald).

(Ian Webster/Herald).

DISCIPLINE:

In past years, West Kelowna teams have had a track record of playing stupid, and losing their cool when the going gets tough. The Centennials need to play physical but not cross the line, and let the Warriors self-destruct.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

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