The Merritt Centennials opened main camp with a trio of practices earlier in the day, but ended with an Intersquad match as Team Red took on Team White.
Hopefuls from both sides battled hard, and played with pace, but after some early pressure from Team White, it was Team Red who got the first goal, and never looked back. A signee from earlier in the summer, Matt Kopperud, got his first of the game as Team Red went on to win over Team White 6-1.
Blake Sidoni got the second goal of the first period on the Power Play with Lane French in the box for elbowing, and that's how things ended after 20 minutes with the shots 15 for Team Red, and 10 for Team White.
Period 2 was back and forth in throughout with neither team able to get extended offensive zone time, and half way through the second frame the goalies were replaced. Vincent Duplessis stopped all 14 shots he faced for Team Red, while Jordan Naylor allowed 2 goals against for Team White, but was the busier of the two netminders. Jonathan Holloway came in for Team Red and Cale Dolan for Team White.
With 6 minutes remaining in the second period, Kopperud got his second of the game, which was the lone goal of the period. After 40 minutes of play, Team Red led 3-0.
The third period saw some early life from Team White as Joey Berkopec, a right-handed defenseman acquired during the summer, scored the lone goal for Team White finding his way to the net, and burying a rebound past a down and out Holloway. Then Team Red seized the momentum and didn't look back scoring 3 more goals. Gideon Cooper got the 4-1 goal before Ashton Stockie, yet another acquisition from the summer scored his first of camp to make it 5-1. Blake Sidoni had a goal called back, but Team Red followed it up with another marker shortly after by Mathieu Gosselin.
After the game Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin said he was encouraged by the performance of some of the players he brought in over the summer.
"You want to be as sure as you can, and you never are until you have the eyball test in your own rink, and the guy is playing here in Merritt. So it's always good when they show up, and they confirm what everyone has been saying and confirm what video has shown us in the past."
Tomorrow morning brings another round of practices before another Intersquad game at 7pm.
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.