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.