The ice is back in at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena and we’re officially one week away from Cents main camp opening on August 19.
The Centennials have gone through an offseason of change after a first-round exit from last year’s playoffs versus Trail.
Gone is the BCHL coach of the year Joe Martin and his assistant Brandon Shaw to Alberni. Welcome, Barry Wolff and Derek Sweet-Coulter as your new duo behind the bench.
Gone is Captain Nick Wicks, starting goaltender Austin Roden, and six other graduating players to the NCAA. Welcome, Matt Osadick, Olson Werenka, and a goalie hopefully to be named later.
With all the changes this could easily be 50 burning questions, but I’ll cap it at two for today.
1. Who’s going to keep that little black vulcanized rubber disc out of the net?
Three weeks ago, I wrote an article on the current goaltender situation for the Centennials or lack there off for that matter (That full article can be found here). Since then all has been calm on the tender front.
Coach Barry Wolff has expressed his desire to find and bring in a veteran goalie but with a week to go until camp opens that opening remains vacant and so too does the depth chart with zero goalies inked.
There are two answers to this question.
Number one is easily the preferred outcome, Wolff finds his man at the eleventh hour and they enter camp with an established starter and a fight for the backup role.
Number two, the Cents enter camp next Monday and the handful of goalies invited fight tooth and nail for the two available spots. While less appealing in the short term, only one BCHL team misses the playoffs each year and a rough start from an unexperienced goalie could be overcome.
2. Who’s going to lead the offense?
Merritt saw eight players graduate to the NCAA level this offseason. Quick math shows those players taking 60 per cent of the Cents points with them. While turnover is nothing new in the BCHL where the goal is to get players to the next level, filling the void won’t be an easy job.
The only answer to this question is the hope that with more ice time players step up. Last year’s energy line of Brett Roloson, Ben Ward and Frazer Dodd along with Daniel Tkac, Payton Matsui and Vincent Guy combined to fill out the bottom six on most nights last year and totaled 67 points. For comparison sake leading scorer Bradley Cocca had 68 alone.
Also returning from last year is Rylan Van Unen who collected 27 points. The returning forward corps will undoubtedly need to find another gear if this year's team is to be successful.
The Cents will also be looking to recent acquisition Matt Osadick to replicate and hopefully even improve on his effort from a year ago in Manitoba. Osadick was brought in from Swan Valley (MJHL) where he was their third-leading scorer with 63 points in 45 games.
The first chance to see the new look Cents will be on August 24 in preseason action versus Penticton at the NVMA.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt
The Merritt Centennials announced earlier today that they have traded defender Jaydon Fetter('99) back to the Leamington Flyers of the GOJHL in exchange for future considerations.
The Windsor, Ontario native spent the 2018-19 season with the Merritt Centennials, but will be going back to his home province to rejoin his former club in Leamington. With the Centennials Fetter picked up 22 assists in 52 games played during the regular season, and didn't register a point in 3 playoff games. He returns to the GOJHL where he has 56 points in 95 games played - all with the Flyers.
With the move the Centennials now have 4 returning or traded for ahead of camp: Joey Berkopec, Mattias Dal Monte, Talon Zakall, and Olson Werenka.
The Merritt Centennials held their Annual Alumni Golf Tournament over the August long weekend, and despite battling the circumstances of a long weekend and the crowds of Rockin' River they were able to raise just over $14,500 from the support of golfers, alumni, sponsors, and the local Merritt Golf and Country Club.
The low round on the day was a combined 10 under 62 from newcomers Greg Smith, Jared Smith, Chris Ryan, and Richard Lee. However, there were some groups of alumni in the mix. The foursome of Blake Stephen, Ryan Evardson, Nick Fidanza, and Matt Hans placed second two off the pace at 8 under 64.
Ryan Evardson was the winner of a challenging putting contest while Greg Smith also captured the closest to the pin.
Business Operations Manager Jared Thomas says that it all came together despite facing some difficulties.
"Our biggest enemy this year was the date of the tournament, but there wasn't much we could do to change it. Going up against peoples summer plans and one of the biggest weekends in Merritt was difficult, but I would like to thank everyone who was in the field, our sponsors, the local business community, and the Merritt Golf and Country Club for helping us pull it off."
With the tournament concluded, the Cents season is fast approaching. Main Camp opens on August 19th with the first exhibition game of the season happening on August 24th at home against the Penticton Vees.
Since 2017 there had been a consistent face in the Merritt Centennials' crease. Brought to Merritt in a Halloween 2017 trade with Nanaimo, Austin Roden began a battle with Cents goalie Jake Berger for the role of number one netminder.
The two goalies would share the crease throughout the rest of the season, but when playoff time came around Head Coach Joe Martin tapped Berger to be his starter in what ended up a four-game sweep at the hands of Wenatchee.
Those would be Berger’s last games in a Cents jersey as he went on to Minnesota State University.
That cleared the path for Roden to take over entering the 2018-19 season as the heir apparent number one goalie.
Roden would backstop the Cents to a 27-11-0 record with a .912 save percentage. Roden was leaned on heavily by coach Martin due to backup Vincent Duplessis being sidelined with injuries.
Roden who was named BCHL player of the week in the final week of the regular season would see his Centennials’ career end similar to Berger’s before him, bowing out in the first round of the playoffs versus Trail.
Thanks to his stellar year, he was able to grab the attention of the University of Nebraska-Omaha where he’ll begin his collegiate career this year.
Roden’s departure left Duplessis as the only goalie left in town heading into this offseason. But now as a new season appears on the horizon, Duplessis finds himself on the way to Manitoba thanks to a massive three-player trade swung earlier this week to acquire Matt Osadick.
The trade made one thing abundantly clear, new Head Coach and GM Barry Wolff isn’t afraid of pulling the trigger on a big deal, even if it means creating a massive hole on the depth chart.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, it wasn’t really a move we wanted to make, but it’s hard to find goal scorers like Osadick,” said Coach Wolff. “You always have to give up quality to get quality. It’s hard losing Duplessis, but it’s a business move and something we had to do.”
Wolff went on to mention how he believes it’s easier to find a quality goalie than a top-line scoring talent like Osadick. However, finding not only one but two goalies has certainly now jumped to the top of Wolff’s to-do list as the season nears.
“We’ll figure it out and there’s lots of time before now and camp. We’re obviously looking to find a veteran goalie for that hole. We may have that done before camp,” said Wolff.
The countdown has officially begun with zero goalies on the roster and camp opening on August 19.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt
The Merritt Centennials have acquired forward Matt Osadick (’00) from the Swan Valley Stampeders in exchange for forward Frazer Dodd (’99) and goaltender Vincent Duplessis (’99).
Barry Wolff is bringing in a player he’s familiar with in Osadick, as Wolff coached him last year in the MJHL. The 18 year old from Grande Point, Manitoba was a big part of the offense in Swan Valley last season putting up 29 goals and 63 points in just 45 games which had him the 5th highest scorer in the league. He also added 18 points, and 11 goals in 17 playoff games that saw the Stampeders fall in overtime of game 7 of the MJHL final. In addition, he was also a part of Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge, winning a bronze while being held scoreless in 6 games.
The 5’10”, 180 pound forward also has a commitment to the University of Maine.
“Matthew is a top end player with lots of upside. He’s a player I know well, he’s going to slide into the top six, he’s going to work hard, and put his skill on display night in and night out.”
Dodd spent his first full season with the Cents in 2018-19, after being an Affiliate the year prior, contributing 13 points in 34 games. After an injury wiped out his first season with the Cents, Duplessis posted a record of 9-8 with a 3.21 GAA and .906 SV% last year.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt