The Merritt Centennials and many of their players got the first taste of 5 on 5 hockey that they've experienced since early March on Friday morning. Playing with short benches, the coaches elected for 2 20 minute half games of intrasquad play. Team Red took on Team White in Game 1, and Team Green took on Team Black in Game 2. Due to there being a limited number of players available some skated in both games, while others had one opportunity to prove their stuff.
Both games started tentatively before getting rolling. In game 1 it was a Jake McLean steal that set up Walker Erickson as the trigger man on a two-on-one, Erickson kept and sniped blocker side to open the scoring. Team White was able to answer the bell when Jerzy Orchard shot through a crowd and found the back of the net to tie the game 1-1. White then took the lead after newcomer Dylan Sydor found mesh after a feed from former Osooyoos Coyote Jack Henderson. Team White was in the drivers seat after the first half with a 2-1 lead.
In the second half of game 1, Team Red started to pour it on. Jake McLean found a Lucas Lundy rebound to the side of the net and batted it past Colton Phillips-Watts to tie the game 2-2 early on. Newcomer Cubby Myers was able to ping one off the post, and off the back of Watts before it found the back of the net off a feed from Erichuk. 3rd year vet, Ben Ward was able to find a hole after another set up by Lundy to make it 4-2 Red, before Walker Erickson finished the game with another goal on another set up by Erichuk to make it a 5-2 final for Team Red over White in game 1.
Game 2 saw Team Green taking on Team Black, with Erickson and McLean staying on the ice to compete for Green. Things opened with a bang after a beautiful tic-tac-toe play from Henderson, to Erickson, to Ochitwa who finished things off after Dias was pulled out of position. Team Green continued with the pressure and again it was Erickson who chipped in with an assist to Jack Henderson in front, Henderson didn't get all of the shot but the change up baffled the goaltender to make it 2-0 Green. Wyatt Marlow answered for Team Black after a ring round the boards from Chase Cooke found Joe Davidson behind the net who dished it out between the hash marks. After the first half, again it was a 2-1 score in favour of Team Green.
Similar to game 1, Team Green put the pedal down in the 2nd half. Brandon Dent opened the scoring in the 2nd stanza by fighting off some checks in front and then sliding it over to McLean back door for his 2nd of the morning to make it 3-1 Green. Alex Ochitwa showed off his high end skill by picking the pocket of the a defender, and then picking the top corner short-side to make it 4-1. Erickson was feeling so confident that with some room behind the net he attempted the Michigan/Lacrosse style goal without hitting pay dirt. Alek Erichuk finished off his solid morning and the game with a wrister top corner glove side after Liam Visram found him wide open by creating time with his smooth skating around the zone. 5-1 would be the final in Game 2.
There was a lot to like out of the teams first foray into 5-on-5 hockey in nearly 6 and a half months. The players were flying, weren't afraid to get physical, and the strides taken by returning players were on display.
The team continues to train until the exhibition season starts with games scheduled for October 9th and 10th against the Trail Smoke Eaters and the Prince George Spruce Kings.