The Merritt Centennials returnees and coaching staff have had 24 weeks, or 168 days to contemplate their 2nd round, Game 7 exit from the BCHL Playoffs at the hands of the Penticton Vees.
The quest back to the playoffs and beyond begins this Monday, August 21, as the Cents open main camp for a two day affair before beginning the exhibition season against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Wednesday, August 23rd.
Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin says that there will be a strong contingent of returnees coming back to the Cents this season, but they can't afford to sit back as no spot on the roster is safe. With 38 forwards, 18 defensemen, and 5 goaltenders hoping to make the squad it will make for a very competitive camp.
"We need the best guys out there to help us move forward. It's going to be a competitive camp, and some of our returning guys if they go through the motions they could be in trouble."
Expect to see some veterans in the lineup on Wednesday night, but a healthy mix of new players who need to get a closer look under the watchful eyes of Martin and the coaching staff.
The Cents have bolstered their ranks again, this time behind the bench.
Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin says he’s glad to welcome Brandon Shaw to the coaching staff from Barrie, Ontario.
Shaw joins the Centennials after spending the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Cambridge Winterhawks of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League. During that time he’s also operated as a scout for the Cents and has helped them acquire players from the Ontario area.
Martin says Shaw will help spread out the coaching duties evenly
"He's going to be taking over the defensive part of the bench, and we'll move Matt to his more natural position up on forward, and then it gives me a chance to oversee the whole bench."
The extra eyes and voice on the bench should help the Centennials during main camp which opens on August 21st.
The Merritt Centennials announced yesterday that they acquired a defenseman.
The Cents traded for 18-year-old Joey Berkopec from the Burlington Cougars of the Ontario Junior Hockey League for future considerations.
In his first season with the Cougars, Berkopec put up 4 assists along with 40 penalty minutes, and dressed in 10 playoff games.
Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin says he sees Berkopec taking big strides this year.
“We expect Joey to be a significant piece on our blueline this season. He is a solid, two-way defender who should excel in the BC Hockey League.”
This is the second player Martin has acquired from Ontario this offseason, after signing Ashton Stockie last week.
Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin confirmed news that some of the Cents best performers from 2016-17 will be moving on to USHL teams for the coming year.
The news doesn't come as a surprise as the players were drafted high in this spring's USHL draft. Forwards Tyler Ward, Michael Regush, Zach Risteau, and defenseman Zach Metsa won't be donning the red and black next season. Martin says that throughout the summer his staff has been hoping for the best, and preparing for the worst.
"Two of the four we held out a little bit longer to see where they were at, but we made roster decisions like they were gone."
All told they combined for 57 goals, 86 assists, and 143 points, but Martin says that this is an opportunity for new and returning players to step in and fill the void.
"What it does is provide other players an opportunity that maybe they wouldn't have been provided because other players that have proved it in the past are leaving. So it's up for grabs."
The first goals will be scored when the Penticton Vees come to the Nicola Valley Memorial arena on September 8th for the season opener.
The Centennials are stocking up as they head into main camp.
It was announced today that the Centennials have acquired forward Ashton Stockie from the Kitchener Dutchmen of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL). In 49 games with the Dutchmen, Stockie put up 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points. He added 10 points in 11 playoff games.
Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin says that he looks forward to Stockie contributing in all areas of the ice.
"He's a big strong kid, who's going to help us in the faceoff circle. I can see him helping in all sorts of facets of the game whether that's in the offensive zone, defensize zone, or special teams."
The move comes a month away from main camp.