The Merritt Centennials are set to open their spring camp this weekend at the NVMA from Friday April 5th to Sunday April 7th and there's a healthy dose of locals in the mix.
Among the 100 invitees, 6 local products will be participating, as well as 3 younger brothers of current or former Centennials.
The name most familiar to Cents fans is the youngster who's proven you can make the hometown team. Talon Zakall will participate in a supporting role along with some other veterans to help run camp. Joining Talon to help with camp will be defenders Mattias Dal Monte, Mike Van Unen, and Jackson Munro along with forwards Rylan Van Unen, Ben Ward, and Brett Roloson. In his rookie season Zakall got into 45 games putting up one goal and 9 assists.
Chase Cooke is a name already known to the Merritt Minor hockey community. He won a provincial championship in Peewee, and has added to his trophy collection since then. Last season, the 2003 born defender spent time with the Thompson Blazers Minor Midget program and tallied a goal and 13 assists in 28 games played.
Atrayu Johnny is in his second stint at Centennials camp. The 2002 born Merritt local was one of the final cuts to the roster before last season began, and spent his season with the Princeton Posse of the KIJHL. With Princeton he had 6 points (1 goal) in 45 games played.
Another name known to Merritt is Anthony Tulliani. The 2000 born forward spent last season with the Osoyoos Coyotes of the KIJHL and had a goal and 5 assists in 41 games.
A pair of Merritt Midget alums are set to challenge camp as well. Colton MacCauley served as the teams goaltender and saw a ton of rubber over the season, and Justin Vinterwick is also in the mix in camp.
Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw says that continuing to develop local talent is great for not only the team, but the town.
"It's great to have the locals out. We want to be a part of building the hometown talent. If it leads to them making the roster, if it leads to them playing Junior B, or if it sets them up to be a part of the team in the future - that's huge. It's also great for Merritt to see the local talents that's on display, and I encourage fans to come check it out."
The other story line heading in to camp is some of the brothers that are hoping to follow in the footsteps of some current or former Centennials.
Younger brother to the Van Unen twins, Josh will suit up in camp. He was an affiliate player twice during the season, failing to register a point but impressing the coaching staff nonetheless. The 2001 born forward had an impressive season at Shawnigan Lake Academy of the CSSHL where he scored 26 goals, added 36 assists in 29 games played and managed to register 2 points a game. He will be itching to join older brother Rylan on next years roster.
Nick Wicks may be leaving the Centennials for the University of Alaska Anchorage, but younger brother Garrett will be looking to continue the former Captain's legacy. The 2001 born forward, Garrett suited up in 6 BCHL games this season, one of which against the Cents where he registered one of his two assists on the year. He spent the majority of last season as the Captain of the Greater Vancouver Canadians in the BCMML where he scored 18 goals, and set up 24 for 42 points in 38 games.
The 3rd brother to be in the mix has some NHL bloodlines just like his older brother Brett. Ross Roloson is a defenseman who spent last season with the Northern Alberta Elite 15 squad of the CSSHL putting up 6 goals and 17 points over 35 games.
"These younger brothers really reflect the characteristics of what has made their older brothers successful, but each brings something unique to their own game that will help them be great Junior players in the future."
With the camp having 5 teams going head to head over the three days, Assistant Coach Shaw says that each player will have to bring what they do best.
"We want players to come in and play their game, but hopefully find those that fit into what we are trying to build. We play a high tempo, exciting game with a blue collar work ethic like the town itself, but what I'm looking for is players that showcase their best, try their hardest, and show some character."
Below is the camp schedule over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday should any fans want to come and check it out.
Friday April 5
1200pm - Blue v. Red
130pm – Yellow v. White
300pm – Blue v. Grey
430pm – Red v. Yellow
600pm White v. Grey
Saturday April 6
1000am – Blue v. Yellow
1130am – Red v. White
100pm – Yellow v. Grey
230pm – Blue v. White
400 pm Red v. Grey
700pm – Gold Game – 1st v. 2nd
Sunday April 7
900am GAME: TEAM MUCKALT vs. TEAM BEERS
1100am GAME: TEAM WATTERS vs. TEAM KRUSE
200pm GAME: TEAM BIRKS vs. TEAM WILLCOX