The Cents started well, but faded down the stretch as the veteran heavy Vees pulled away late to make it a 3-1 final.
The Merritt Centennials began their first exhibition game with a bang as Olson Werenka proved he's more than just a guy who bangs bodies. He scored the Cents first goal of the pre-season just 45 seconds into the first frame to give them the early lead after a pass by Daniel Tkac. However, David Silye quickly tied things up before the period was over a minute and thirty seconds old. Aiden Hosein got the start in net and after a shaky start settled in nicely making a couple huge saves to keep it tight throughout the remainder of the first period. Shots after one were 8-8 with the score tied at 1.
The second stanza saw the Vees slowly begin to impose their will on the game and the Centennials goaltenders had to be sharp to keep it close. Holtz scored for the Vees from the point midway through the frame to give them their first lead of the game after Jakob Gullmes took over duties in the crease. Shots after 2 were 26-16 as the Cents started to get buried in their own end.
The final frame saw the Vees continue to push the pace and the Centennials fall back on their heels. After earning their 5th powerplay of the night the Vees finally converted as former first round NHL draft pick Jay O'Brien performed a clinical deke from the point and then fired a shot past the blocker of Gullmes to make it 3-1. A 4-1 goal was called off due to a high stick, and the Vees played out the final minutes to secure the 3-1 victory. The Cents without much familiarity on special teams went 0/5 on the PP.
Troy Quinn looked good in his debut as a Cent, and Werenka anchored a young blue line. The standout among hopefuls was former Cariboo Cougars d-man Brophy Dunne, he contributed with a couple of big hits and some solid defensive play throughout the game.
Up front the Cents struggled to maintain zone time and apart from the first period didn't look overly threatening in the offensive zone. Tkac, Matsui, and Guy had some solid rushes, but the Cents will be looking for a more consistent attack up front tomorrow.
The Cents and Vees will do it all again Saturday night from the NVMA. Puck Drop 7pm, entrance by donation. The game will be available on Hockey TV.
The Merritt Centennials open up their exhibition season against long time rival Penticton Vees tonight at the SOEC at 7pm. The game will be available to watch on HockeyTV.
The Centennials will get their first taste of competition outside of their own team tonight after they played a very high paced, action packed intrasquad game on Wednesday night. Plenty of returning players got into the mix as well as a number of newcomers, but now the roster has been trimmed further with 35 players still competing to be a part of the opening day roster.
Reigning Playoff MVP Payton Matsui doesn't look like he's missed a step as he scored a natural hat trick in the game on Wednesday night. Newcomer Carson Preston from the BC Major Midget League's Valley West Giants also looked impressive as he netted two goals including the OT winner. Returners Brett Roloson and Vincent Guy both also managed to find the score sheet and it served as a solid tune up for the returning defenders - Joey Berkopec and Talon Zakall as well as the trade acquisitions, Olson Werenka, Tanner Mortenson, Chase Nameth and Matt Osadick. Most returning players got an opportunity to show their stuff to new bench boss Barry Wolff save for Ben Ward and Daniel Tkac. Expect them to be in the line up tonight.
The Penticton Vees are coming off a 2-1 win in their first exhibition game of the season against the West Kelowna Warriors, but could inject some more veterans into their line up in front of a home town crowd.
Head Coach Barry Wolff says they'll have to match the Vees intensity.
"We have to make sure that we match their compete level, you know at home they're going to ice a good line up. We might be a little younger than they are, but we need to make sure we rise to the occasion, play smart defensively, and try and win the game."
The Centennials will make additional releases after tonight's game before tomorrows home contest against the same Penticton Vees at the NVMA at 7pm. Entrance one again will be by donation.
Another former Centennials player is taking the next steps in his career as alumnus Jake Clifford who played with the Centennials from 2013-15 has signed with the Tulsa Oilers of the ECHL.
A native of Brecksville, Ohio, Clifford suited up for 102 games on the back end for Merritt scoring 12 goals and adding 32 assists that earned him a commitment to a then fairly new NCAA Division I program, the Arizona State Sun Devils. Over four years with ASU, Clifford played 97 games and is coming off his best NCAA season in his senior year where he scored 3 goals and added 4 assists and was a +7 over 34 games.
In the Tulsa Oilers he joins the ECHL affiliate of the reigning Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues.
(Graphic – Jared Thomas)
Merrittonians got their first look at the new team yesterday evening as the Cents played their annual white vs black intra-squad game.
Fans in attendance were treated to a thrilling game that couldn’t be contained to 60 minutes. Team White stormed back in the final frame to force OT with Carson Preston tipping home the winner.
Returning players look primed to take a step forward
The bulk of the returning Centennials players didn’t suit up during the first two days of camp but that didn’t seem to slow them down.
In the first frame, Brett Roloson found twine for the opening salvo. Roloson showcased his speed all game long.
Payton Matsui was the Cents playoff MVP last year and he hasn’t lost a step completing a natural hat trick for Team Black.
Vincent Guy was key in Team White’s comeback effort, flying down the left wing before wiring a rocket to the top corner for the tying goal late in the final frame.
New acquisitions find their footing
While he couldn’t find the goal column Matt Osadick showed glimpses of being a difference-maker for Merritt this year. On multiple occasions, he showcased his wicked shot and high hockey IQ.
Former Salmon Arm Silverback rearguard Olson Werenka showed why Head Coach Barry Wolff traded for him, using his size to muscle the opposition off the puck in the defensive zone. He also had a few good rushes up the ice, including one in OT which almost ended the game.
Tanner Mortenson dropped the gloves in a third-period bout versus Brophy Dunne. Dunne won the tilt by unanimous decision scoring the takedown and drawing blood.
The battle continues for the blue paint
Six goalies remain on the roster with all the tenders manning the cage for one frame.
Caelen Armstrong from White City Saskatchewan was the only goalie to pitch a shutout.
Merrittonian Colton MaCaulay allowed one goal in his twenty minutes of work for Team Black.
Dylan Kosik from Kanata provided the most action beginning the third period with a turnover behind his net that led to Matsui’s hat trick goal. Kosik would settle in from there to make two sensational saves. One saw him reach back to somehow keep the puck out, the second had him go strong from right to left for the pad save on a two-on-one.
Your next chance to see the Cents will be Saturday at the NVMA versus Penticton, puck drop 7 PM.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt
Earlier today it was announced that former Centennials defender Colten Gerlib has made a commitment for the 2019/20 BCIHL season with the SFU Clan.
A native of Kamloops, Gerlib played with the Cents during the 2017-18 season where he put up 12 points in 44 games before being traded early last year to the Nipawin Hawks of the SJHL. In Nipawin, Gerlib took flight as an offensive puck-moving defenseman, netting 21 points in 54 games.
SFU head coach Mark Coletta likes Gerlib's speed and said in a statement that he is hoping it will ease his transition to the BCIHL.
“Most players coming in need to adjust to the size of the players and speed of our game. Colten’s skating should help him quite a bit, we’re hoping he can be an impact player for us.”
Gerlib plans on entering the Business Administration program at SFU.