The Merritt Centennials had a spirited bout within themselves on Friday morning, and Team White was able to find the late magic to prevail 3-1 in a tight checking, physical affair.
In period one, the teams came out flying in what's been the closest to real game action they've experienced so far. With the pace ramping up, Liam Visram went across the blue line to Lucas Lundy who fired up to Josh Olson. Olson was able to out maneuver the d man, and cut in with a short-side snipe - glove high on Josh Dias to open the scoring in the Intrasquad Barnes Cup. Despite chances, that would be all the scoring provided from the first period. Shots after 1 were just 6 aside.
It didn't take long for Team Red to level the ledger in period 2 as Grayson Valente chopped the puck up the wall to Jake McLean who made a clever bank play to himself to cut around the defender at the line, that sprung McLean and Brandon Dent on a two-on-one and after a pass across the offensive zone, Brandon Dent pulled to the backhand and had just enough to squeeze it under the pad of Colton Phillips-Watts five-hole. After the early goal, the physical play really took off with some crushing hits, some players taking exception, and some after whistle scrums, but none of it led to more offense on the scoreboard. After 2 shots were 15-10 Team Red.
The final frame started off a little more muted than the second period ended, but the pace didn't slow. It wasn't until midway through that the deadlock at 1's was finally broken. Mark Thurston was working hard behind the net, worked his man off the puck, and found an unmarked Carson Preston open in front who was able to tuck the puck under the bar from the sharp angle over Dias to make it 2-1 White. Team Red continued to push for the equalizer, and even pulled the goalie in the final minutes to try and get the tying goal, but a Lucas Lundy prayer was answered when he found pay dirt from the opposite end of the rink to ice the game 3-1. Final shots were 22-18 Red.
After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter said that he was impressed by the pace.
"What we were looking for coming into this game was could they keep the pace up for the entire game, and the boys did that. It was nice to see the intensity out here as well, we have 30 guys that all want to be Merritt Centennials out there, and they are going to force us to make some tough decisions to get to 25."
The Centennials will look to play game 2 of the Barnes Cup on Tuesday morning at 11:30am - free to view on at hockeytv.com.
A reminder to look for Merritt Team Red or White as opposed to Centennials when searching for the games as they are not part of the official schedule.
The Merritt Centennials had another internal battle on a Friday where the BCHL is starting to play host to exhibition games across the league. Team Red managed to survive a late scare from Team White in game 1 to hang on with a 2-1 victory, and Team Black came back with a vengeance after surrendering the opening goal to Team Green with a 5-2 win.
In the early contest, the teams were skating evenly until the first penalty of the game. On the powerplay, veteran Talon Zakall opened the scoring with a seeing eye shot from the line that went top shelf after a dish from Zack Dallazanna and Joe Davidson. The newcomer Davidson then did some more digging behind the net, working the puck free for Dallazanna at the right circle where from bended-knee he blasted through to make it 2-0 Red heading into the first intermission.
The second half was more evenly contested with Team White pushing for the equalizer throughout the frame. Alex Ochitwa would net his first of the morning by picking five-hole to give Team White some life. Sparked to life, Team White tried to pull the goalie to get the equalizer, but Team Red would stand tall for the 2-1 win.
Team Black and Team Green came out flying with some pace and an early goal was found by Josh Olson after a good passing play between Grayson Valente and Zakall. The 1-0 lead for Green wouldn't last long as Jacob Dewitt went to work from the blueline unleashing a lethal shot with his large frame after Ben Ward set him up. Then returning forward Jerzy Orchard would get on the board after some more solid work by Ben Ward and Chase Cooke to set him up. Dewitt went back to work from the blueline after a dish from Lucas Lundy, he wired a lazer towards net that caught Ochitwa in the midsection and deflected in to make it 3-1 Black at the end of the first half.
The boys in black kept rolling in the second half as Orchard would add another after a nifty feed from Ward got him open in front, Orchard popped it upstairs on the backhand to make it 4-1 Black. Dallazanna would get sprung by Ochitwa for a breakaway, and despite bobbling the puck on the approach, he got enough of a shot away to fool the goaltender and make it 5-1 Black. Team Green would get a late one after a rocket from Zakall on the line would find Carson Preston to the side of the net for a rebound goal.
Overall it was another good internal test for the teams ahead of exhibition play which begins when the Trail Smoke Eaters come to town on October 9th.
The Merritt Centennials have made a pair of transactions today as they continue to tinker with the roster ahead of the opening of the exhibition season.
Early Monday the Cents sent forward Hunor Torzsok (00) to the Prince George Spruce Kings in exchange for future considerations before acquiring defender Trevor Isaksson (00) from the Trail Smoke Eaters in return for future considerations.
Hailing from North Delta, the right-handed defenseman is a big body at 6'3" 205 pounds who can crash and bang, but also has some skill in his back pocket. Used primarily as a 7th D-man last season with the Smoke Eaters, Isaksson picked up 3 assists over 35 games. He does have some offensive pedigree in his history as evidenced by being a point-per-game player in his final season of Major Midget where he Captained the then Valley West Hawks and had 36 points over 36 games. The acquisition gives the Centennials balance on the defensive end with 4 left-handed shooters and 4 right-handed shooters patrolling the blueline.
Head Coach and General Manager Derek Sweet Coulter says that Isaksson will bring a little bit of everything to the D-core.
"Trevor is a big physical player, who has a long reach, and can block shots. He's an experienced right handed defender that we were looking to add on the backend. He's a great person who will put his teammates first and add to our culture with his leadership abilities."
Torzsok put up 19 points last season with the team including 16 goals.
The Centennials begin their 2020-21 journey October 9th against the Prince George Spruce Kings in exhibition play.
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.
It has been another busy day in Cents’ land as the team has made a pair of moves as main camp approaches.
The newest commit for 2020/21 is Victoria native Jacksenn Hungle. Hungle, born in 2004, spent last season with the Yale Hockey Academy putting up 27 points, 10 goals and 17 assists, in 34 games played.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter was excited to land the young forward.
“We have had our eye on Jacksenn for a while now, he improved and raised his level every camp with us and as the competition got stronger, he elevated. He has a really good motor and competes hard, finishes his checks, goes to the hard areas, and is very creative around the net,” said Derek. “He also has very good hands in tight spaces around the net. He has a long reach and good size at 6’2”.”
“Jacksenn is a high-end character person that will fit into our culture of being a good person and doing the right things on and off the ice. He impressed at our Merritt ID Camp and our Fall Evaluation Camp and it became clear he was ready to be a Centennial,” added Derek.
Not returning this season will be goaltender Tanner Marshall.
The Cents have traded the veteran goalie to the Humboldt Broncos of the SJHL in return for future considerations.
Last season with the Cents Marshall went 7-19 with a 4.86 GAA and a .882 SV% in 30 games played.