The Merritt Centennials began their 45th Anniversary season on the right foot by beating the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Keeping to his word Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin played a lineup of mainly Centennials hopefuls with the exception of veteran Zach Court.
Despite the lack of experienced BCHLers, the Centennials did just fine. They managed to topple the Silverbacks 7-4.
The first period started with penalties. Timber Lewis of the Silverbacks was the first player to go to the box less than two minutes into the game. The Cents couldn't convert and ended up going shorthanded minutes later when Connor Bowey went off for a minor for head contact and a ten minute misconduct. Blake Sidoni, who looked good throughout main camp, continued to impress by scoring the first goal of the Cents preseason.It was a nifty play where he got the puck in tight after a turnover at the line, managed to pull it to the back hand and tuck it between the legs of Pelletier. The Cents killed off another penalty before the Silverbacks' Trey Thomas tied things up after skating onto a bank pass, pulling it backhand, and chopping it past Jordan Naylor glove side.
In the second period the Cents came to life. The period started slowly with each team taking two minor penalties before newcomer Ashton Stockie was the recipient of a beautiful passing play on the power play. Kevan McBean slid a hard pass up the near side wall, and Mitchell Gove gave the perfect one touch, poke pass ahead to Stockie who gathered the puck and went bar down on Pelletier to make it 2-1. That's how things ended heading into the BCHL Media time out. Naylor finished with 13 saves on 14 shots, and Pelletier finished with 13 saved on 15 shots. After the timeout is when the Cents goalscorers came to life. Fraser Dodd added a goal after a nice passing play with Mitch Gove, then within a minute Sidoni scored his second of the game to make it 4-1. The Silverbacks tried to grab back the momentum by scoring against the flow of play to make it 4-2, but the Cents just kept rolling. Alex Bourhas got credit for the goal, after a Christian Siban shot went off both posts and out before Bourhas finished off the play, and then Dodd was the recipient of a beautiful pass from behind the net from Sidoni to make it 6-2 after 40 minutes of play. The shots were 24-17 for the Cents at that point.
The third period saw the Cents come back to earth a little bit. Bar Lev-Wise scored for the Silverbacks to make it 6-3 early in the 3rd, but then Court did yeoman's work on an ensuing powerplay bowling over a player while he had the puck, returning to his feet, turning over the puck, and then finding Sabin with a cross ice feed that was finished beautifully to make it 7-3. The Cents got into a bit of penalty trouble in the third, with Court and Peakman going to the box within a minute of eachother, but the Centennials managed to kill off the 5 on 3 advantage and go perfect on the special teams throughout the game. Harley Bootsma added a late goal for the Silverbacks to get the score to 7-4.
After the game, Martin said the will to win was there, the boys were enjoying the game, but some hard decisions regarding trimming the roster will have to be made tomorrow.
"Think we let go about 8 this morning, and we're at the low 40's and by tomorrow we want to get to the low 30's, so 10 to 12 is probably the number we'll have to let go."
Looking forward to Friday's contest Martin says the team needs to work on making the right plays.
"We have some structure that we want to improve upon, but you want to start creating good habits at the start of the season. Hockey players are creatures of habit, and you need to instill those in practice and carry them over into the game."
The next pre-season game goes on Friday on the road at 7pm against the West Kelowna Warriors.
After the final buzzer the score line was similar, but the difference between Intersquad games in a matter of 24 hours was major. The flow of play was smoother, and the physical intensity was bumped up a notch.
6-3 was the final with Team Red getting bragging rights once again. The teams, and lines were jumbled again, and several more returnees found their way to the lineup tonight. Tyrell Buckley, Rylan Van Unen, and Henry Cleghorn suited up for Team Red. Jacob Berger, Mike Van Unen, Zach Zorn, Chase Bell, and Nic Wicks suited up for Team White.
Despite the heavy veteran presence on Team White, it was Jack Vincent who found the scoresheet twice. On his first period goal, he managed to fight off a defender, bring the puck to his forehand and snipe one five hole on the previously unbeaten Vincent Duplessis. He got his second of the game in the third period. Blake Sidoni had the other tally for Team White, after scoring once and having one called back during game one last night.
Team Red had two goals from veteran Henry Cleghorn, one was a beauty bar down shot, and the other was a great two man give and go play with Rylan Van Unen. Defenseman Berkopec looked good in his second game on the Nicola Valley ice, finding the scoresheet once again showing he has a good nose for the net and a good sense of when to jump up in the play. Auston Ghiradelli, Mathieu Gosselin, and Jack Keough rounded out the scoring for Team Red.
Vincent Duplessis looked good in net once again for Team Red, only allowing one goal during his tenure in net. He was relieved by Cale Dolan, the towering goaltender from Surrey. Berger got a full game on the other side of the ice for Team White.
One of the biggest differences between Game 1 and 2 of main camp was the physical play. There were several big hits, and hard puck battles all over the ice. After the game, Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin says that being hard to play against is going to be one of the keys for the Centennials throughout the season.
"It's how we want to play the game, play a little bit harder than the opponents, it's something we have to be known for. There's some really good, fast, skillful teams in our division, and we'll have some good skill on our team, but we have to be able to compete in other parts of the game and make it hard on them."
Game one of the exhibition season starts tomorrow. A home game against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at 7pm.
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.