Merritt Centennials
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The Merritt Centennials (0-1) welcome the Penticton Vees (2-0) to the NVMA for the first time in the regular season tonight.

The Centennials are coming off a 3-1 loss in their season and home opener to the Wenatchee Wild. Vincent Guy scored the lone goal of the contest for the Centennials on their first powerplay. He made a quick move from skate to stick to get a shot off the far post and in. Joey Berkopec and Daniel Tkac helped set up what is so far the Cents only form of offense this year. The Wild tied the game late in the first period before getting the go ahead goal in the 2nd period, and icing the game with an empty netter to make it 3-1 after a chance to tie it up from Rylan Van Unen went just wide.

The Penticton Vees are coming off a double-header against the Trail Smoke Eaters in which they came away victorious from each game. In their season opener, the Vees topped the Smoke Eaters 4-1 with two goals from Tristan Amonte, and a goal from David Silye and Evan McIntyre. The follow up game saw the Vees storm out offensively with a 7-1 victory. Danny Weight, son of NHLer Doug Weight, led the way for the Vees with a goal and 4 assists and now leads the league in scoring. Liam Malmquist and Jay O'Brien each had 3 point nights, and Steve Holz and Conner Hutchinson added some offense from the backend.

The Cents can rely on some experience with the Vees as they met twice in the preseason, albeit a pair of losses. The Cents fell 3-1 in their preseason opener in Penticton with Olson Werenka scoring the only goal for the Cents, and they followed that up with a 5-2 defeat at home. The one thing the Cents can hope to take advantage of is the fact that in those two games they were still carrying a number of prospects that didn't make the final roster. Now at full strength, the Cents will look to put their new look roster to the test.

The teams split the early season special teams battle. The Cents hold the edge on the PP while the Vees have been perfect on the penalty kill so far.

Powerplay                  Penalty Kill

Cents - 50% (3rd)     Cents- 80% (11th)

Vees - 27.3%  (6th)   Vees - 100% (1st)

The Cents only have 3 players with points so far Guy with the lone goal, Berkopec and Tkac with the assists to lead the team offensively.

The Vees are led by Danny Weight with 5 points, while Jay O'Brien and Liam Malmquist each have 3 points.

The goaltending battle will see the Vees come in with both tenders seeing action, while Ryan Winter was the lone Cents goalie to see action so far. Winter is 0-1 with a .946 SV% and a 2.00 GAA. Of the goalies involved in a loss in opening weekend he sports the best numbers of the bunch.

Yaniv Perets is 1-0 with a .958 SV% and a 1.00 GAA while Derek Krall is even better at 1-0 with a .967 SV% and a 1.00 GAA.

Assistant Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says that the Cents just have to continue to get better as a team.

"There's lots to work on right now, but we continue to work hard in practice and we will be ready for the games this weekend."

The Cents will look to be the better team tonight.

Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game 6:45 on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.

Be sure to come by the NVMA early to catch carvers from the Merritt Loggers Sports Show performing a quick carve from 6-7pm!

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Cents opener 2019

The BCHL regular season is officially underway with teams across the province beginning their new campaigns this weekend. For the Merritt Centennials, everything kicked off yesterday evening against their foes from south of the border the Wenatchee Wild.

When all was said and done, it was 3-1 Wenatchee victory, but the scoreboard only ever tells part of the story. We’ll dive deeper, in this weekend's quick hits.

Positives;

Freshly appointed starting netminder Ryan Winter continued to impress in the blue paint despite the loss. Early on, Winter gave up a couple of juicy rebounds but was able to settle in, much like in the final preseason contest, and keep his boys in the contest. Winter made 35 stops including a few for his highlight reel.

With a doubleheader next weekend I expect backup Dylan Kosik to see his first game action of the year in one of the two games.

Special teams continue to execute. The powerplay has been on fire, scoring 7 times in 9 attempts, dating back to the preseason. The unit clicked again early for the Cents vs Wenatchee finding twine for the opening salvo when Vincent Guy went skate to stick to the back of the net to open the scoring.

The PK as been just as special, limiting the Wild to only 1-5. Including the preseason, the Cents are averaging one goal against on the kill per game, despite giving their opponents plenty of opportunities.

The ‘line formally known as energy’ consisting of Daniel Tkac, Brett Roloson and Vincent Guy continued to impress, showing what familiarity and chemistry can do.

Olsen Werenka, who boxes in the offseason, showed he’s not a player to be trifled with. Early in the final stanza, Werenka laid a huge open-ice hit, then promptly stood up for himself, dropping the mitts and winning by unanimous decision.

Negative;

Five on five hockey.

Merritt has not scored an even straight goal in 10 full periods of hockey. While the specials teams have been clicking, even strength has been an issue and one that will need to be resolved.

Your next chance to see the Cents at the NVMA is next weekend, Friday vs Penticton and Saturday vs Victoria.

 

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The Merritt Centennials began their new era in front of a solid crowd of nearly 900 at the NVMA, but they couldn't keep up the pace they set in the opening frame and Wenatchee iced the game late to make it a 3-1 final. 

Despite the pressures of the Home Opener upon them it was the Cents who came out flying in the first frame. For the 5th game dating back to preseason the Cents scored first, and unfortunately 1-4 when they do. On the powerplay, the Cents capitalized on some quick puck movement up high. Daniel Tkac played it across the blue line to Joey Berkopec, who quickly fed Vincent Guy, who made the quick move from his skate to stick to a shot off the post and in at the 8:37 mark. The Cents were in the drivers seat for much of the period, but late in the frame off a scramble in front Brian Adams was able to find the puck to the side of the net and put it past a sprawled out Ryan Winter to tie the game at 1. Shots after 1 period were 16-14 in favour of the Wild. 

In the second period the Cents had trouble finding the same jump they were able to start the game with. The Wild slowly were able to put more pressure on and drew a couple penalties consecutively. The Cents were able to kill off the first two, but not the third as Wild forward Nick Caferelli was able to streak into the zone, break through the box, and pick the corner on Winter to make it 2-1 at the 14:33 mark. The Wild kept up the torrid pace, but some solid stops from Winter kept the Cents in the game. After 2 periods, shots were 28-22 in favour of the Wild. 

The final period started with some fireworks. Olson Werenka lowered a big hit to negate an odd man rush at his own blue line, and the Wild took exception and learnt that you don't want to get on the wrong side of Werenka. After tackling Emerson to the ground, Werenka fed a flurry of fists to fire up the crowd and his team. The Cents tried to harness that energy, but despite chances couldn't muster the equalizer. With an extra man on and a play drawn up the Cents go their shot from the slot, but couldn't hit the net and Brett Chorske scored on the empty net to make it a 3-1 game. That would be the final, with the Wild holding a 38-30 edge on the shot clock. 

After the game, Assistant Coach Derek Sweet Coulter said there were still a number of positives to come out of the contest. 

"I really liked our start. I thought we really overcame some of the pressures that are involved in a home opener well. I think we also started to develop some chemistry with our line, but ultimately we need to sustain that pressure for longer periods, make some better shot choices, and capitalize on our chances." 

The Cents will get their next chance to pick up their first win of the season against the Penticton Vees on Friday September 13th. 

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cents

We are only hours away from the Merritt Centennials regular-season debut at the NVMA versus the Wenatchee Wild. But before the games start counting for real, Q101 sat down with Head Coach and GM Barry Wolff for a look back at training camp and the season ahead.

“We were happy with how things progressed, the camp was very competitive, a lot of high-end players with high-end compete. Made some decisions hard and we still have a few to go but we’re ready to go for Friday night,” said Wolff

“Obviously it’s tough making cuts, but guys pretty much weed themselves out as the tempo gets stronger and faster every day. When you start putting them through different drills at practice you can see their strengths, their weakness. It’s kind of easier than people think,” added Wolff.

With over 80 players in camp for the first few days, Wolff and his assistant Derek Sweet-Coulter got to look at a large group of younger players, who normally wouldn’t attend the main camp.

“Those kids we identified, we thought maybe they could be future guys. You bring them in, and they can get to know you a little better and the area and the town. Hopefully, you build that relationship over that time and then continue with that over the season,” said Wolff.

As far as the preseason goes, it's hard to get a grasp on exactly what the team’s identity will be.

“We don’t know yet, we’ll find out here in the next couple of weeks. We’re trying hard to create an identity, the way we want to play, so hopefully we can start that tonight. We want to play fast and, in your face, and make sure we win games at home,” said Wolff.

Tonight, the Cents welcome the Wenatchee Wild to the friendly confines of the NVMA, and Coach Wolff expects a hard-fought battle.

“They are going to be skilled and fast and they love to cycle out of the corner in the offensive zone. They’ll throw pucks at the net from anywhere and everywhere, so we need to be aware of that,” concluded Wolff.

Puck drop tonight is 7 pm. If you can’t make it to the rink, Q101 will broadcast the contest beginning at 6:45 with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.

 

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The Merritt Centennials get set to begin a new era against the Wenatchee Wild to embark the 2019-20 season under new Head Coach and General Manager Barry Wolff.

All told the Centennials will have 8 players returning from last season's roster, but have added 5 more players with a wealth of Junior A experience in various leagues. The players returning to the Cents are led by 4 year man Rylan Van Unen, 3rd year Cent Joey Berkopec, and then the young guns who got their first taste of BCHL action last year Brett Roloson, Vincent Guy, Payton Matsui, Ben Ward, Daniel Tkac, and local Talon Zakall. GM Wolff has made some additions to the squad through trades during the summer. Incoming are former Salmon Arm Silverbacks defenseman Olson Werenka at the expense of Jackson Munro, rearguard Troy Quinn who cost Mattias Dal Monte, and forward Matt Osadick who was swung for a pair of Centennials in Frazer Dodd and Vincent Duplessis. Tanner Mortenson from the Notre Dame Hounds and Chase Nameth from the Chilliwack Chiefs were added by way of future considerations.

Headlining the additions to the team out of camp is a name that's become familiar in the Nicola Valley - Josh Van Unen. He was a 2 point-per-game player in his season with Shawnigan Prep School of the CSSHL last season with 58 points in 29 games. Spencer Schneider comes in with a commitment to Bowling Green, and also has some leadership qualities serving as Captain for his High School team Lakeville North High. He compiled 31 points in 21 games. Thomas Manty is another import from Andover, Mississauga and he put up 44 points with his high school team. Wyatt Marlow, a young 17 year old, comes to the Cents after spending last season with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks where he put up 3 points in 36 games. Sean Michalevich has all the physical attributes of a power forward in a young mans body as he's a towering 6'4 and 215 pounds. He's spent time with the Danish national team on the U-16 team and played midget hockey in Red Deer where he had 13 points in 33 games. Isaac Alvarado comes from the PJHL's Richmond Sockeyes where he had 26 points in 38 games played last season. Colton Sun spent time in the BCMML's Vancouver NW Hawks program last year putting up 16 points in 39 games as a defender. Brophy Dunne comes from the BCMML as well, but through the Cariboo Cougars program, where he had 9 points in 33 games played.

After having their starter Austin Roden graduate to Omaha and Vincent Duplessis traded to acquire Matt Osadick one of the burning questions heading into the regular season has been goaltending. Coach Wolff hopes he's found the answer in the tandem of Ryan Winter and Dylan Kosik. Winter is a 20 year old goaltender who's gotten some seasoning in the NOJHL and the NAHL before coming to the Centennials. Last year he played 18 games and sported a combined 2.93 GAA and a .895 SV%. Dylan Kosik played with the Rockland Nationals and got into 23 games with a 2.53 GAA and a .915 SV% and is the younger of the goaltenders at 18.

The Cents are coming off one of their most successful campaigns in franchise history. Under the guidance of Head Coach Joe Martin the team went 36-15-4-3 and tied with the Penticton Vees atop the regular season standings in the Interior Division. The Wenatchee Wild finished 3rd in the division with a 32-20-2-4 record after winning the BCHL championship in the 2017-18 season.

By way of comparison the Wild only have 6 players returning to the team from last year, and 2 that were acquired by way of trade that have BCHL experience on their resume. Brian Adams, Matt Dorsey, Hunter Hastings, Dylan Herzog, and Trevor Greibel all come back to the fold for the Wild. Wenatchee also made a pair of trades with Mainland Division teams to bolster their ranks acquiring forward Dallas Farrell from the Coquitlam Express and goaltender Daniel Chenard from the Chilliwack Chiefs.

Both teams shared a rough preseason finishing 1-3 respectively. The Centennials started out with 3 straight losses before heading into the regular season on a winning note, while the Wild did the opposite - starting with a win and then dropping three straight coming into the campaign.

The Cents lost 3-1 in their preseason opener to the Penticton Vees with Olson Werenka registering the only goal, and followed that up with a 5-2 loss the following night at home against the same Vees club. The Cents had a much better second week of the exhibition season against Prince George. They fell 5-3 up North but looked much improved with Payton Matsui, Daniel Tkac, and newcomer Troy Quinn all lighting the lamp. When they returned to the NVMA for their preseason finale on Friday it was a tightly contested 4-3 shootout thriller that saw the Cents pick up their only W. Payton Matsui scored two goals in regulation, Joey Berkopec had the late dagger in the final minute to tie the game, and Daniel Tkac had the slick moves in the shootout to give the Cents the edge.

The Wild started out strong with a 3-1 win over the Mainland Division and Regular Season leading Chilliwack Chiefs 3-1. They followed that with a 5-0 loss at the hands of the Langley Rivermen, an 8-5 loss to the Coquitlam Express, and a 3-2 defeat to the Surrey Eagles.

Regardless of the outcome in the preseason, both teams will come in hungry wanting to not only start the season off on the right foot, but to set the tone against each other. The Cents and Wild will lock horns 6 times before the end of November and 3 times in September alone. Both coaches will be wanting to lay down the gauntlet as to what it will take to come out on top.

Head Coach Wolff knows that the Wild will still employ the same style.

"The Wild haven't changed their signature since they've come into the league. They play fast, they play with skill, and their specialty teams are always good. We need to make sure we finish hits and separate man from puck, keep things simple and get pucks and bodies to the net."

The Cents will hope that their new style will produce a W in their first game under new Head Coach Barry Wolff.

Puck Drop 7pm. Pre-Game on Q101 and HockeyTV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve starting at 6:45.

Be sure to stop by early for the Murray GM Home Opener Tail Gate Party with DJ Ben Lens and a food truck serving up hot dogs by donation from 5:45 to puck drop.

 

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