The Merritt Centennials will hope for a better finish in their Home Opener against the Vernon Vipers, than the fate they suffered in their Season Opener against Salmon Arm last night.
Despite a strong first period that saw goals from Rylan Van Unen and Frazer Dodd, with assists from Nick Wicks and Matthew Kopperud, the Centennials lost focus in the early goings of the second period, and surrendered 3 goals. The story of the night was the special teams battle. The Centennials couldn't manage a goal with the man advantage despite a lengthy 2-man advantage and ended the night 0/7 while the Silverbacks scored 3 of their 4 goals with the extra man and finished the night 3/6. The brunt of the scoring came in the first half of the second period where the Backs were able to ride a momentum wave and score 3 unanswered in the first 10 minutes of the 2nd. To stem the momentum, the Centennials pulled starter Vincent Duplessis in favour of Austin Roden. Duplessis stopped 20/23 shots he faced while Austin Roden stopped 6/7 in relief as the Cents lost 4-2.
The Centennials didn't suffer from lack of chances in game one of the season. They hit numerous posts, and may have even had a goal from Joey Berkopec that bounced in and out fast enough for it to go unregistered on the ice. The missed marker, would've tied the game at 3 and given the Centennials something to build off of on the powerplay, but none of the officials or bench staff seemed to notice.
Discipline will remain a theme throughout the season, but many of the newcomers played well in their BCHL debut. Despite it not being his first BCHL game, Frazer Dodd registered his first BCHL goal. In 7 games as an affiliate player last season, he got on the score sheet, but only registered 4 assists. He was set up by a beautiful give and go with line mate Matt Kopperud. Talon Zakall, Brady Ziemer, and Jaydon Fetter didn't look out of place on the blue line, and Fetter's confidence seemed to go throughout the game jumping up in the rush and trying to create offense. Brett Roloson and Ben Ward had exceptional nights, but saw limited action as the Cents opted to go with 7 defenseman, and different players cycled in to play with them.
The veterans held their own as well seeing plenty of ice-time, time on the powerplay, and providing the scoring punch, but will need to stay consistent for the whole game to pull the Cents past the Vipers.
The Cents will have to put that behind them, try and learn from the game film, and move on as the Vernon Vipers come to town on the heels of a loss of their own. The Vipers Home Opener was spoiled by BCHL Champions, the Wenatchee Wild, as they also came back to win 5-3. The Vipers were also the victim of the special teams battle as the Wild ran wild on the powerplay going 3/4 while the Vipers went 0/1. With plenty of returning talent in the Vipers lineup the Centennials will face a stiffer test than the young Silverbacks squad. Both teams will be hungry for their first win of the year.
There will be plenty of festivities on hand for the Murray GM Home Opener. Free Hand Clappers for the first 150 fans through the door, giveaways in the first intermission, and the Murray GM Bungee Battle for an oil change in the second intermission. Tickets will be available at the door.
Puck Drop 7:05, Pre-Game 6:45 on the air at Q101.1FM, and online Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials impressed in the first period of their season opener, but faltered as the game went on especially in respects to special teams and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks were able to come back and pull out a win 4-2.
The Centennials accomplished one of their game goals, coming out strong in the first ten minutes, and were rewarded early with the first goal of the season and the game going to Rylan Van Unen after a Nick Wicks faceoff win. Van Unen was able to rip a wrister top shelf blocker-side on rookie netminder Ethan Langenegger to open the scoring 3:15 into the first. Former affiliate player, Frazer Dodd, widened the margin for the Centennials halfway through the frame, on a beautiful give and go play with Matt Kopperud in which Kopperud baited Langenegger across the crease before finding Dodd who had a wide open net to bury the puck in. Despite the 2-0 lead the Cents and Silverbacks took a combined 5 penalties in the first, a sign of things to come.
The middle frame saw the Centennials caught on their heels to start, and even though the Centennials and Silverbacks matched penalties with 3 a piece, the Cents couldn’t match the scoring output on the powerplay. The Silverbacks converted on two powerplay opportunities in the 2nd with goals from Akito Hirose and Matthew Verboon before adding another on the rush at even strength from Justin Wilson to score 3 unanswered. That was the end of the night for starter Vincent Duplessis who stopped 20 of 23 shots up to that point, but with the Cents looking for a way to swing momentum in their favour getting Austin Roden into the game proved to be the tonic. The Cents were able to stem the tide, and push back getting a lengthy two-man advantage, and what was possibly an unseen on the ice in-and-out goal from Joey Berkopec. That would be the best chance of the period, including a few posts, but the Centennials couldn’t ripple the mesh.
The third period was a bit more back and forth with both teams aiming to be a little more disciplined and succeeding. However, on the lone Merritt penalty of the period Salmon Arm was able to capitalize once more to make it 4-2 on a Hudson Schandor third whack at a rebound. Despite pulling the goalie in the dying seconds the Cents couldn’t find life and would fall by a 4-2 final score.
They will have to get their affairs in order quickly, and review the tape in regards to special teams to make sure their ready for the Home Opener on Saturday night against the Vernon Vipers.
Cheer on the boys at the NVMA tomorrow night at the Murray GM Home Opener, giveaways at the door, and during the first intermission with a chance to battle for a free oil change in the second intermission as the Cents search for their first win of the season.
Puck drop 7pm, Pre-Game at 6:45 on the air at Q101.1FM or stream online at Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.
The Merritt Centennials get set to open the season tonight against a division rival - the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
Last year the Centennials finished 6th in the Interior Division, leap frogging the Backs in the final week of the season, with a 24-27-5 record. The season series between the two teams saw the Centennials with a 4-2 edge. They series swung in the Cents favour by taking all games on home ice, plus a double OT thriller in Salmon Arm. Offense was never an issue as the teams combined for 46 goals over their rivalry last year, but goaltending is something Salmon Arm has addressed in the offseason.
There will be many familiar faces on the Centennials in all positions as it's one of the strongest returning rosters in Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin's tenure. 14 players will return that saw time last year, 15 if you include affiliate player Frazer Dodd.
The net will be a position of strength for the Centennials as they believe they have one of the best tandems in the league. Austin Roden returns after a spectacular year in the crease for the Cents going 12-11-0-3 with a save percentage that was tied for best in the league at .931, and a goals against average that was 5th best in the league at 2.40. Vincent Duplessis comes back after an injury plagued rookie season. He only saw action in 2 games, 1 in which he suffered a season ending injury, but impressed enough for the Cents to carry him all year on the roster, and now it's time for him to prove the Cents right and he has looked great in preseason.
On defense the Centennials will enjoy nearly a full starting 6 coming back. Mike Van Unen, Joey Berkopec, Colten Gerlib, Jackson Munro, and Mattias Dal Monte will all be back, and have all improved immensely in the offseason and come in with something to prove this year. Dal Monte suffered an injury in preseason and will be out for the next couple weeks, but there's plenty of talent to fill the void in the meantime. A Merritt local will don a Centennials jersey for the first time in 5 years, as Talon Zakall has made the club out of camp, Jaydon Fetter comes over from the GOJHL, and Brady Ziemer who was signed yesterday will provide some grit from his time as Captain in the US High School League.
Up front the Cents will have a number of offensive weapons to lean on, while the newcomers get accustomed to the speed of the league. Nick Wicks leads the returning group in offensive output as he put up 42 points last year, but he will get plenty of help from Mathieu Gosselin, Brendan Schneider, Brad Cocca, Rylan Van Unen, Matt Kopperud, and Christian Sabin. There's plenty of incoming talent with the additions of Nic Granowicz, Daniel Tkac, Brett Roloson, Ben Ward, and former affiliate Frazer Dodd.
The preseason wasn't terribly kind to either club in tonight's matchup. The Cents went 1-2-1-0, the lone win coming in extra time against the Prince George Spruce Kings, the rest hard fought one goal games, including an overtime loss in the preseason finale to Prince George. The Silverbacks didn't fare much better going 1-1-1-1, including a shootout win.
The Cents and Silverbacks both look to start the season on the right foot, but due to the new BCHL overtime rules, there's no longer room for a tie so only one team will go home happy.
Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 with Play by Play Broadcaster Jared Thomas on HockeyTV, on the dial in Merritt at Q101.1FM, or audio only at Q101.ca
The Merritt Centennials announced the signing of 2000 born right shot defenseman Brady Ziemer today.
The Carver, Minnesota native joins the Centennials by way of the Holy Family Catholic Fire in the United States High School League where he served as Captain and tallied 7 goals and 21 assists for 28 points in 25 games played.
Ziemer has also earned a commitment to the St. Cloud State University Huskies for the 2019-20 season.
Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin says that he feels Ziemer will make life difficult on the opponent.
"He's a right handed defenseman, he plays a hard nose style. He's a medium sized defenseman but has a low centre of gravity, likes to play physical, and should help us against some of the better players in the league."
Martin adds that Ziemer should get some game time this weekend as the Centennials open the season against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, before coming home to take on the Vernon Vipers.
Both games will be available with Play by Play Broadcaster Jared Thomas on the dial at 101.1FM or online at Q101.ca.
The Merritt Centennials traded chances with the Prince George Spruce Kings all night, but in the end were a little unlucky, and got a taste of their own medicine as Prince George came back to win it in overtime 4-3.
The first period echoed the first exhibition game against the Vernon Vipers, exceptional goaltending, exceptional chances but no goals as both netminders,Austin Roden for the Cents and Bradley Cooper for the Spruce Kings, stood tall in the first stopping 11 shots a piece. Penalties were a plenty in this contest and the first set the tone: three minors for the Cents and four for the Spruce Kings.
The middle frame followed suit and got a little unruly with both teams trading 5 penalties a side over the course of 20 minutes. Despite the multitude of penalties, not many goals goals were scored on the powerplay in the frame, however, there were goals scored. The first of the game came off the stick of Craig Cunningham who found a rebound off a Keranen point shot and put it past Roden. The Spruce Kings widened their lead on the powerplay, with Nic Granowicz in the box for roughing it didn't take long for the Spruce Kings to find the back of the net after Liam Watson-Brawn unleashed a point shot that was deflected by Patrick Cozzi and in. The Centennials answered on a beautiful play off the rush with Brad Cocca streaking down the left wing, and dropping a pass for a wide open Colten Gerlib who had time to pick his spot and snipe it blocker-side over Cooper. Gosselin drew the secondary assist on that goal. The Cents were pressing and appeared to have a powerplay set to carry over to the 3rd, but more undisciplined play resulted in a Matt Kopperud double-minor for roughing, and the third would start 4-on-4.
The 3rd saw the Cents come out with jump, and they jumped out to a tie, courtesy Nick Wicks who got a free pass towards the net after defender Layton Ahac lost his stick. Wicks was able to beat Cooper short-side, glove-side to tie the game at 2. The Cents finally converted on the powerplay when Mathieu Gosselin, who looked untouchable with the man-advantage, finally converted a wrister top corner to give the Centennials their first lead of the game at 3-2. The Cents were set to take the lead into the homestretch when a stroke of bad luck struck, an Ahac shot bounced off the end boards, and off the backside of Roden and into the net to tie the game at 3.
In overtime, the Spruce Kings had a brief powerplay, but were unable to convert. As a result, the Cents and Spruce Kings skated 4 on 4 for a part of OT, but when the game reverted to the new 3-on-3 rules Chong Min Lee of the Spruce Kings was able to break free, and collect his own rebound for the winning goal to make it a 4-3 final.
During the course of the game, Mattias Dal Monte went off with an injury and didn't return. His prognosis is uncertain for next weeks season opener against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
Despite the loss in overtime, Head Coach and GM Joe Martin cited discipline and the lack thereof as the biggest culprit in the game.
"I think the biggest we have to work on is staying away from the undisciplined calls. It's one thing when calls are being made for plays on the ice, but the extra shots, and the slashes, the stuff within our control has to be addressed for us to succeed as a team."
The Cents will have a week off to enjoy to get out into the community and come together as a team. They will be volunteering at the Rodeo over the weekend, and following that up with a rafting trip to Adams River to bond as a group.
The next game opens the regular season, Friday Sept. 7 against Salmon Arm in Salmon Arm before the Cents have their home opener against the Vernon Vipers.