A camp that began just two weeks ago with 80-plus players has slowly been whittled away to around 25, with final cuts expected this weekend.
For Cents fans the trajectory of this year’s edition of the team must be promising. While they did begin 0-3, fans in attendance got to see glimpses of what a Barry Wolff team can and will be.
Finally, on Friday night in the exhibition finale, Coach Wolff iced what many expect to be a very close facsimile to his opening day roster, and the squad responded with their best effort so far.
There was a one-word game plan on the whiteboard in the coach’s office pregame, ‘WIN’, and that’s exactly what Merritt did, defeating the defending BCHL Champions 4-3 in the skills competition.
Preseason hockey is undoubtedly about evaluating talent but seeing your team experience different situations is a bonus that doesn’t always become a reality. For Merritt, the players experienced almost everything possible in their final tune-up.
The Cents experienced playing with the lead, coming from behind, giving up a late go-ahead goal and scoring the late equalizer all within 60 minutes of hockey, plus 3-on-3 OT and a shootout.
For Coach Wolff seeing how your team reacts to different scenarios can be invaluable come the regular season.
The Cents' powerplay continued to shine versus the Spruce Kings. After going 3 for 4 in Prince George earlier in the week, Merritt would replicate the results at the NVMA with another three powerplay goals.
Special teams as a whole continued to perform well, with the penalty kill only allowing two goals in six PG attempts.
Ryan Winter got to play the entire 65 minutes for the Cents in the blue paint and after fighting off some early Prince George chances the netminder truly settled in and kept his team in the contest. Winter also proved his prowess in the skills competition guiding Merritt to the win.
Whilst the powerplay unit looked extremely dangerous and scored a trio of goals, the Cents were held off the scoresheet at 5-on-5 for the second straight game.
The next chance to see the Cents is Friday, September 6, at the NVMA versus Wenatchee for the home opener.
The game will be broadcast on Q101 with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve beginning at 6:45 with the pregame show.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt
The Merritt Centennials finally found the win column in the preseason thanks to some shootout heroics from Daniel Tkac to vault them over the defending Champion Spruce Kings 4-3.
Early on it was a feeling out process, but the Cents rode their red hot powerplay to a lead. Payton Matsui found a rebound in front after some impressive sustained pressure to make it 1-0. Prince George would even things up late in the period on a 3-on-1 with a simple drop pass to McGregor-Bennett to make tie the game at 1-1. Ryan Winter got the call for the full 60 minutes for the first time in exhibition play. Shots after 1 were 15-9 in favour of the Centennials.
The second period started on the powerplay for the Cents, but after some early pressure it was the Spruce Kings who found the back of the net. On the powerplay, Brett Pfoh found a soft spot in coverage in the middle of the Cents box to take the 2-1 lead. The Cents would tie it, again on the powerplay, and again from Matsui, but this time he was set up by a lovely centering feed from Thomas Manty. Manty found Matsui cutting across the crease with a pass from the left point, and Matsui was able to flip it over Jack McGovern's pad from a sharp angle to make it 2-2. The second period ended with the shots 28-25 in favour of the Spruce Kings.
Things stayed knotted up early through the third period, but a late penalty to Ben Ward gave Prince George another chance to take the lead. They didn't need long as a shot from the point fooled Winter just 7 seconds into the man advantage. The Cents looked to be up against the ropes, but they didn't give in. Late in the third they got their chance on the powerplay, and once again they made good. Just as time was expiring with the extra man, Joey Berkopec unleashed a sharp angle shot, top-corner glove side to tie the game at 3's. Overtime would solve nothing so the game went to a shootout.
The first two skaters, scored for PG and Merritt respectively and then the goaltenders were locked in a stalemate stopping the next three shooters. Daniel Tkac finished the game with a lulling move over the blue line. He skated over, and then simply let the puck like on his stick, once he got below the hash marks he put a late move on, backhand forehand to make it a 4-3 final.
The Cents will get the season going for real next Friday at the NVMA versus the Wenatchee Wild.
The Merritt Centennials conclude their exhibition schedule at home hosting the defending BCHL champion Spruce Kings tonight.
The Cents are coming off their best effort of the preseason, but it still wasn't enough to top Prince George in Prince George. For the third game in a row the Cents opened the scoring, with Troy Quinn threading a pass through the throng of bodies in the middle to Daniel Tkac behind the D to make it a 1-0 game. However, like in all three games so far, hanging on to the lead has been difficult as less than a minute later Chong Min Lee countered for the Spruce Kings. Aiden Hosein had a good showing between the pipes, and got plenty of help from his best friend the cross bar as it was hit at least 4 times during his time in net. The Spruce Kings then got the go ahead goal from former Cents affiliate Brett Pfoh in the 2nd period, Matsui would tie things up after another pass from Quinn sprung him down the left wing and his shot beat Jett Alexander upstairs. Unfortunately, Pfoh would find the back of the net again just 2 minutes later to restore the lead. PG then jumped out to a quick goal in the 3rd, just 11 seconds in to widen the margin to two. Troy Quinn would finish his night with a PP goal, a top corner snipe glove side from the left point after a good play by Joey Berkopec to keep the puck in at the point.
The Cents have faced some stiff competition throughout the exhibition season, and it doesn't get any easier tonight. However, they should have the closest rendition to the opening night roster on display and have gotten some time this week to start to gel as a team. What started as a main camp of 88 has slowly dwindled down to a size of well under 30.
One thing that has been strong for the Centennials so far is their special teams. They went 3/4 against the Spruce Kings on Tuesday, and have only allowed two goals while shorthanded through the preseason.
Merritt will have to exorcise the demons of 3-1 and 5-2 losses to the Penticton Vees and a 5-3 loss to Prince George. The Cents will face another stiff test, but one they'll have to conquer if they want to go into the regular season with a win in their pocket.
Puck drop 7pm. Pre-game 6:55 on hockeytv.com with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
A reminder to sign up for the Centennials weekly 5050 draw here: https://centsweekly5050.thelottofactory.com/
The Centennials mustered the most offense they have in the post season, but it wasn't enough against the defending champion Spruce Kings as Merritt fell 5-3.
For the third game in a row the Centennials struck first. After going unsuccessful on the powerplay for the first two preseason games, the Cents finally managed to light the lamp with the extra man. Newcomer Troy Quinn threaded a needle up ice to Daniel Tkac who snuck in behind the D and went top corner on Jett Alexander to make it 1-0. However, much like in the first two preseason games, the Centennials had trouble defending the lead as under a minute later Chong Min Lee would tie things up for the Spruce Kings beating Aiden Hosein. After the first, shots were 13-12 in favour of Prince George.
In the second period the Spruce Kings got the go-ahead goal from former Centennials AP Brett Pfoh at the 10:01 mark. This time it was the Cents turn to play spoiler as Quinn found Payton Matsui with a go-ahead pass and he scored just over a minute later with a shot up and over the blocker-side of Alexander to tie things at 2's. Brett Pfoh would regain the lead for the Spruce Kings just two minutes later in a back and forth period of action. Shots after 2 were 25-17.
The third saw the Spruce Kings jump out to an early lead as just 11 seconds in Nicholas Poisson tallied with a move to the backhand on Kosik to give PG the two goal lead. With the Cents heading to the powerplay, Quinn had enough dishing and rifled one top corner after a pass from Joey Berkopec to get the Cents back within one at 4-3. Finn Williams quickly restored the 2 goal lead on the following shift and that would be the final, 5-3 in favour of the Spruce Kings. Final shots were 35-31.
The Cents will look to capture their first win of the exhibition season in their finale on Friday at the Nicola Valley in a rematch against the Spruce Kings.
The Merritt Centennials get set to do battle with the reigning BCHL Champion Spruce Kings in exhibition action tonight.
The Cents are coming off a pair of losses to the Penticton Vees over the weekend that was. The first match on Friday resulted in a 3-1 loss, and the rematch on Saturday was a 5-2 loss. The Centennials have made some tough decisions since the weekend and have slimmed the roster to 16 forwards, 7 defenseman, and 4 goalies.
In goal, Aiden Hosein and Jakob Gullmes shined in the 3-1 loss to the Vees on Friday. The score could've been much worse if not for the combined efforts of the Centennials netminders. Ryan Winter and Pierre Olivier-Couture had a much harder time on Saturday night and the Vees capitalized on more of their chances. The battle for the crease and up front seems to be the most wide open judging on how many players remain.
The Cents will come in to PG with a much clearer picture of who is going to be on the opening day roster that should lead to them being more competitive as a result. They will definitely have their hands full with a battle-hardened Spruce Kings squad that will be getting their first taste of exhibition action after going all the way to the National Championship Final last year.
Head Coach and General Manager Barry Wolff says that he was happy with how the team played on the weekend.
"It wasn't really about the result, it was about seeing the team compete on the ice, and I believe they did that."
Tonight he expects a little more from the lineup.
"We are playing a good team, but the focus will be on us. What are we doing well, what can we do more, how do we take the next step."
The Cents will look to take the next step against the Spruce Kings and earn their first preseason victory tonight.
7pm puck drop from the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena. The game will be available on Hockeytv.com.
A reminder to sign up for the Cents online weekly 50-50. Draw goes today at 3pm. Enter here: https://centsweekly5050.thelottofactory.com/