The Merritt Centennials wrap their first week of meaningful hockey with a lot of promise, but in exhibition they fall to 0-2 as the Vipers were able to slither past on two occasions this weekend.
On Friday night, it was a goaltending affair until the third, with all goalies who saw action standing tall through two periods of play. Vincent Duplessis looked great in his first meaningful game action in almost a year stopping all shots he faced, and the team was playing well in front of him defensively. Despite a penalty filled second period, the Centennials managed to stay perfect on the penalty kill throughout the game, but cracks showed in the third and the Vipers were able to take advantage with two quick goals. The Cents showed some push back in the final 10 minutes and were able to come within one with a blast from the point from Mattias Dal Monte. Unfortunately, the Vipers were able to ice the game with an empty netter with just over a minute to go.
The follow up game on Saturday saw the Cents take the bus to Vernon, and it was another tight checking affair. With a veteran heavy lineup, the Cents again were having trouble breaking through on the score sheet despite a myriad of chances. Once again it was the Vipers who found the back of the net first, this time on a deflection from Teddy Wooding, it was the only blemish on 16 shots in the first start for Austin Roden. Vincent Duplessis barely got into the game before he fished a puck out of his net as Wyatt Andres was able to beat him five-hole. In the third, the Cents finally got their due as Mathieu Gosselin banged home a rebound from Brendan Schneider, and the line that developed some chemistry over camp with Brad Cocca all got a point on the play. However, it wouldn't be enough as the Cents couldn't rally another goal despite pulling Vincent Duplessis late in the third.
Despite losing both games (3-1 and 2-1 respectively) the Cents out shot the Vipers 90-59 over the two games, Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin feels like it's a matter of time before his new look line up starts producing results.
"It's still early there has to be some tinkering to be done with lines and figuring things out, but I think the signs look good right now."
Martin adds that coming together as a group is what is important now.
"There's guys out there that are available, we'll see if we want to add anybody at this point, but currently we like this group and it's important to us to start gelling right away and become better as a team."
The Cents will look to be better, and get their first win of the exhibition season on Wednesday when they travel to Prince George to take on the Spruce Kings, and will have a couple full days of practice as a group to work on things.
The Merritt Centennials continue the preseason campaign as they hit the road today to visit the Vernon Vipers for the second half of a home at home series.
Last night the Vipers edged the Cents 3-1, with all goals coming in the third period. Both teams iced a rookie heavy lineup, but tonight will be a different story for the Cents as plenty of veterans will see time. As opposed to last night where there were only 6 veterans in the lineup, tonight there will be only 6 rookies in the lineup: Nic Granowicz and Jaydon Fetter will get their first taste of BCHL action, while Brett Roloson, Josh Van Unen, Ben Ward, and Talon Zakall will get into their second game in a row.
Mathieu Gosselin, Brad Cocca, and Brendan Schneider who developed some chemistry during main camp will get their first opportunity to test it against a higher level of competition, while Nick Wicks will center a line that saw some time in camp as well between Rylan Van Unen and Nic Granowicz. Frazer Dodd draws in again, this time between Matt Kopperud and Christian Sabin, while the youngsters will power the energy line: Brett Roloson between Josh Van Unen and Ben Ward.
The back end will see Joey Berkopec, Jackson Munro, Jaydon Fetter and Colten Gerlib all draw into the lineup and join Mike Van Unen and Talon Zakall who will play back to back. Gerlib looked impressive during camp including a 5 point night, but intrasquad and exhibition are two different beasts.
Austin Roden will make his first start of the preseason, and has looked solid throughout camp. Vincent Duplessis, who stopped all shots he faced last night, will serve as back up and may see half the game as well.
Head Coach and Joe Martin says that the young guys set the bar high last night.
"We have a couple more veterans in the lineup tonight, and their goal is to at least match the effort we saw last night."
The Centennials were looking to start the preseason off with a win, but there were plenty of positives in a narrow 3-1 loss against the Vernon Vipers.
Both teams iced a rookie heavy lineup as they continue to gauge their unknowns, but a couple of the known quantities showed up in the first half of the game: the goaltenders. Vincent Duplessis and Aidan Porter were both perfect through their half of the game, and it continued as Jakob Gullmes and Johnny Derrick took over half way through the second.
It wasn't until the third that pucks started getting past the netminders. Vernon broke the goose egg when Nicholas Wildgoose opened the scoring after a centering feed from Elan Bar-Lev-Wise, and the lead was extended under a minute later by Kyler Shmigelsky.
However, the Cents showed some push back in the final ten minutes of the game and were rewarded for their efforts when Mattias Dal Monte took a feed from Christian Sabin and let loose a cannon from the point that went top shelf. Along with providing some scoring, Dal Monte also provided plenty of sandpaper using his big frame to level attacking Vipers on several occasions.
Ultimately, The Vipers managed to ice the game when Elan Bar-Lev-Wise found the back of the empty net from center with just over a minute to play.
After the game Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin said that there was a lot to like, but a lot to work on from each player.
"You look up and down the lineup, and I think you can find things that each player did well, but at the same time find something else that they need to work on. Overall, for a first effort I'm very happy with that, and we'll look to continue to improve as a group as we move on through the preseason."
Martin added that they will continue to adjust their roster.
"Tomorrow we will see a few more veterans in the lineup, and we will have to make some hard decisions in the morning."
The changes will come ahead of puck drop against the Vernon Vipers in Vernon tonight at 7pm.
The Merritt Centennials are set to open their preseason when they welcome the Vernon Vipers to the NVMA tonight.
The Centennials slimmed their main camp roster, and now have 30 players vying to make the final roster. Many of those bubble players will be in the lineup tonight as the Centennials coaching staff led by Head Coach Joe Martin and Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw are only opting to dress 6 returning players: Christian Sabin, Matt Kopperud, Rylan Van Unen, Mike Van Unen, Mattias Dal Monte, and Vincent Duplessis.
Up front, Newcomers looking to make a mark on the game include younger brother to the twins Josh Van Unen, Brett Roloson, Andy Moore, Brett Pfoh, Ian Tookenay, Bud Johnson, and Affiliate player from last season Frazer Dodd will anchor the energy line between Ben Ward and Brett Witzke.
On Defense, two Merritt natives will see action as Talon Zakall and Atreyu Johnny both continue to impress, and Kielan Toews and Preston Strafford will look to do the same.
Vincent Duplessis will get his first taste of BCHL action in nearly a year, as he returns to the crease after an injury shortened 2017-18 season, and Jakob Gullmes will likely get to experience half the game as well.
Last season the Vipers proved a stiff test for the Centennials as the team managed a 1-5 record against the perennial Interior Division contenders. However, the one win came on home ice and was a resounding 5-0 win.
Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin says that he expects his players to compete even though there won't be much of a veteran presence.
"I don't know what Vernon's done through camp... Usually the theme is dressing a lot of young guys and not too many veterans. I'm guessing that will be the story from Vernon and from us - possible first year guys in the league surrounded by some veterans."
The game is the first in a home at home series, with the Cents travelling to Vernon tomorrow to take on the Vipers.
A reminder that season tickets will be available for pick up at the door this evening, and if you get their early between 6:15 and 7pm you'll get them hand delivered by Brendan Schneider, Nick Wicks, and Joey Berkopec.
The intensity, the physicality, and the skill level were high in the final intrasquad matchup of Main Camp as Team White edged Team Red 6-5.
Once again there was a veteran presence in the scoreline, but with one last chance to impress many invitees made the most of it by finding the scoresheet.
Newcomer Tyler Witzke and returnee Brendan Schneider both lit the lamp twice for Team White, with the remaining goals coming from Dante Ballerin and Brad Cocca.
Team Red saw contributions from 5 different scorers: younger brother Josh Van Unen, Jacob Siebenga, Nic Granowicz, Nick Wicks, and Christian Sabin.
Coach and General Manager Joe Martin says he liked the intensity and noticed the younger players battling.
"The intensity was up a bit, we had a chat about how it might be our last opportunity to impress... There were some bright spots for some young guys, and I'm looking forward to getting down in numbers and seeing what we have to work with."
Martin added that the first round of cuts will come soon.
"We'll do that tomorrow, I don't know the magic number we'll get down to, we're at 40 right now we'll probably be closer to 30 or just under and that will lead us into Friday and then we'll take it day by day after that."
It sets the stage for the Cents first test in the exhibition season against the Vernon Vipers at the NVMA Friday at 7pm.