Merritt Centennials
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The Vipers had their home opener spoiled by the Wenatchee Wild, and tonight at the NVMA they did the same to the Merritt Centennials.

Despite a good crowd in the building to cheer on the hometown side for the first game of the season, the Centennials once again couldn't pull out a full 60 minute effort.

Things started great when newly minted Captain Nick Wicks got the party started just over 5 minutes into the game with his first goal of the season, and the Cents first goal on the powerplay. The assists went to the twin brothers Rylan and Mike Van Unen. The Vipers were on their heels early, but managed to get a break on the counter-attack. Michael Young found a juicy, but uncharacteristic rebound from Austin Roden and potted that to tie the game 1-1. The Vipers followed the same formula 5 minutes later and Jesse Landsdell was the beneficiary of another big rebound to take the lead for the snakes 2-1. 3 minutes later the Captain arrived again to tie the game, finding a loose puck in front and potting it in with the assist going to Nic Granowicz.

For the second game in a row, the Centennials had a strong first period, but in the middle frame it was a much tighter checking affair. The teams managed to stay out of the box for the most part, but just over halfway through the period the Vipers pulled ahead with a quick snipe from Nicholas Wildgoose to regain the lead 3-2.

In the final frame, things started to unravel for the Centennials and it seemed to be one step forward, two steps back. Just when the Centennials were about to go on the powerplay, they took a penalty to go to 4-on-4 hockey. In the third, Head Coach Joe Martin started to throw the lines in a blender and it was the young guns that made the impression. However, Vernon was the only team that made an impression on the scoreboard adding 2 to pull away and spoil the opener 5-2.

After the game, Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin wasn't too high on his own teams effort.

"I think it takes a full team. And we're getting effort from the top of the line up, and from the bottom, but there's a lot of players in the middle that need to start showing up."

The Centennials will look to regroup and show up as a full team for the full 60 when they take on the Surrey Eagles on Tuesday night at the NVMA.

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The Centennials announced their leadership group ahead of their Home Opener tonight against the Vernon Vipers.

Assuming the role of Captain will be forward and 3rd year Cent, Nick Wicks. The Assistant Captains will be second year Cent Brendan Schneider, and newcomer Nic Granowicz.

Nick Wicks takes over from Tyrell Buckley as Captain for the 2018-19 campaign. He is the highest scoring returning player for the Centennials after supplying 42 points in the 2017-18 campaign. During the summer his hard work was awarded with a commitment to the University of Alaska Anchorage Sea Wolves for the 2019-20 season.

Brendan Schneider will be leading through his hard nose, hard working play on the ice. Last year Schneider was the highest scoring rookie on the roster with 16 goals and 20 points for 36 points.

Nic Granowicz may be a new member of the Centennials, but he's no stranger to junior hockey. Now playing in his 4th year of Junior 'A', he served as the Captain for his team in the NAHL, the Topeka RoadRunners before transitioning to the USHL and the Cedar Rapids Roughriders.

The lettermen will take the ice officially as a leadership group for the first time tonight at the Home Opener against the Vernon Vipers. Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 online at Q101.ca.

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The Merritt Centennials will hope for a better finish in their Home Opener against the Vernon Vipers, than the fate they suffered in their Season Opener against Salmon Arm last night.

Despite a strong first period that saw goals from Rylan Van Unen and Frazer Dodd, with assists from Nick Wicks and Matthew Kopperud, the Centennials lost focus in the early goings of the second period, and surrendered 3 goals. The story of the night was the special teams battle. The Centennials couldn't manage a goal with the man advantage despite a lengthy 2-man advantage and ended the night 0/7 while the Silverbacks scored 3 of their 4 goals with the extra man and finished the night 3/6. The brunt of the scoring came in the first half of the second period where the Backs were able to ride a momentum wave and score 3 unanswered in the first 10 minutes of the 2nd. To stem the momentum, the Centennials pulled starter Vincent Duplessis in favour of Austin Roden. Duplessis stopped 20/23 shots he faced while Austin Roden stopped 6/7 in relief as the Cents lost 4-2.

The Centennials didn't suffer from lack of chances in game one of the season. They hit numerous posts, and may have even had a goal from Joey Berkopec that bounced in and out fast enough for it to go unregistered on the ice. The missed marker, would've tied the game at 3 and given the Centennials something to build off of on the powerplay, but none of the officials or bench staff seemed to notice.

Discipline will remain a theme throughout the season, but many of the newcomers played well in their BCHL debut. Despite it not being his first BCHL game, Frazer Dodd registered his first BCHL goal. In 7 games as an affiliate player last season, he got on the score sheet, but only registered 4 assists. He was set up by a beautiful give and go with line mate Matt Kopperud. Talon Zakall, Brady Ziemer, and Jaydon Fetter didn't look out of place on the blue line, and Fetter's confidence seemed to go throughout the game jumping up in the rush and trying to create offense. Brett Roloson and Ben Ward had exceptional nights, but saw limited action as the Cents opted to go with 7 defenseman, and different players cycled in to play with them.

The veterans held their own as well seeing plenty of ice-time, time on the powerplay, and providing the scoring punch, but will need to stay consistent for the whole game to pull the Cents past the Vipers.

The Cents will have to put that behind them, try and learn from the game film, and move on as the Vernon Vipers come to town on the heels of a loss of their own. The Vipers Home Opener was spoiled by BCHL Champions, the Wenatchee Wild, as they also came back to win 5-3. The Vipers were also the victim of the special teams battle as the Wild ran wild on the powerplay going 3/4 while the Vipers went 0/1. With plenty of returning talent in the Vipers lineup the Centennials will face a stiffer test than the young Silverbacks squad. Both teams will be hungry for their first win of the year.

There will be plenty of festivities on hand for the Murray GM Home Opener. Free Hand Clappers for the first 150 fans through the door, giveaways in the first intermission, and the Murray GM Bungee Battle for an oil change in the second intermission. Tickets will be available at the door.

Puck Drop 7:05, Pre-Game 6:45 on the air at Q101.1FM, and online Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.

 

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The Merritt Centennials impressed in the first period of their season opener, but faltered as the game went on especially in respects to special teams and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks were able to come back and pull out a win 4-2.

The Centennials accomplished one of their game goals, coming out strong in the first ten minutes, and were rewarded early with the first goal of the season and the game going to Rylan Van Unen after a Nick Wicks faceoff win. Van Unen was able to rip a wrister top shelf blocker-side on rookie netminder Ethan Langenegger to open the scoring 3:15 into the first. Former affiliate player, Frazer Dodd, widened the margin for the Centennials halfway through the frame, on a beautiful give and go play with Matt Kopperud in which Kopperud baited Langenegger across the crease before finding Dodd who had a wide open net to bury the puck in. Despite the 2-0 lead the Cents and Silverbacks took a combined 5 penalties in the first, a sign of things to come.

The middle frame saw the Centennials caught on their heels to start, and even though the Centennials and Silverbacks matched penalties with 3 a piece, the Cents couldn’t match the scoring output on the powerplay. The Silverbacks converted on two powerplay opportunities in the 2nd with goals from Akito Hirose and Matthew Verboon before adding another on the rush at even strength from Justin Wilson to score 3 unanswered. That was the end of the night for starter Vincent Duplessis who stopped 20 of 23 shots up to that point, but with the Cents looking for a way to swing momentum in their favour getting Austin Roden into the game proved to be the tonic. The Cents were able to stem the tide, and push back getting a lengthy two-man advantage, and what was possibly an unseen on the ice in-and-out goal from Joey Berkopec. That would be the best chance of the period, including a few posts, but the Centennials couldn’t ripple the mesh.

The third period was a bit more back and forth with both teams aiming to be a little more disciplined and succeeding. However, on the lone Merritt penalty of the period Salmon Arm was able to capitalize once more to make it 4-2 on a Hudson Schandor third whack at a rebound. Despite pulling the goalie in the dying seconds the Cents couldn’t find life and would fall by a 4-2 final score.

They will have to get their affairs in order quickly, and review the tape in regards to special teams to make sure their ready for the Home Opener on Saturday night against the Vernon Vipers.

Cheer on the boys at the NVMA tomorrow night at the Murray GM Home Opener, giveaways at the door, and during the first intermission with a chance to battle for a free oil change in the second intermission as the Cents search for their first win of the season.

Puck drop 7pm, Pre-Game at 6:45 on the air at Q101.1FM or stream online at Q101.ca with Jared Thomas.  

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The Merritt Centennials get set to open the season tonight against a division rival - the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

Last year the Centennials finished 6th in the Interior Division, leap frogging the Backs in the final week of the season, with a 24-27-5 record. The season series between the two teams saw the Centennials with a 4-2 edge. They series swung in the Cents favour by taking all games on home ice, plus a double OT thriller in Salmon Arm. Offense was never an issue as the teams combined for 46 goals over their rivalry last year, but goaltending is something Salmon Arm has addressed in the offseason.

There will be many familiar faces on the Centennials in all positions as it's one of the strongest returning rosters in Head Coach and General Manager Joe Martin's tenure. 14 players will return that saw time last year, 15 if you include affiliate player Frazer Dodd.

The net will be a position of strength for the Centennials as they believe they have one of the best tandems in the league. Austin Roden returns after a spectacular year in the crease for the Cents going 12-11-0-3 with a save percentage that was tied for best in the league at .931, and a goals against average that was 5th best in the league at 2.40. Vincent Duplessis comes back after an injury plagued rookie season. He only saw action in 2 games, 1 in which he suffered a season ending injury, but impressed enough for the Cents to carry him all year on the roster, and now it's time for him to prove the Cents right and he has looked great in preseason.

On defense the Centennials will enjoy nearly a full starting 6 coming back. Mike Van Unen, Joey Berkopec, Colten Gerlib, Jackson Munro, and Mattias Dal Monte will all be back, and have all improved immensely in the offseason and come in with something to prove this year. Dal Monte suffered an injury in preseason and will be out for the next couple weeks, but there's plenty of talent to fill the void in the meantime. A Merritt local will don a Centennials jersey for the first time in 5 years, as Talon Zakall has made the club out of camp, Jaydon Fetter comes over from the GOJHL, and Brady Ziemer who was signed yesterday will provide some grit from his time as Captain in the US High School League.

Up front the Cents will have a number of offensive weapons to lean on, while the newcomers get accustomed to the speed of the league. Nick Wicks leads the returning group in offensive output as he put up 42 points last year, but he will get plenty of help from Mathieu Gosselin, Brendan Schneider, Brad Cocca, Rylan Van Unen, Matt Kopperud, and Christian Sabin. There's plenty of incoming talent with the additions of Nic Granowicz, Daniel Tkac, Brett Roloson, Ben Ward, and former affiliate Frazer Dodd.

The preseason wasn't terribly kind to either club in tonight's matchup. The Cents went 1-2-1-0, the lone win coming in extra time against the Prince George Spruce Kings, the rest hard fought one goal games, including an overtime loss in the preseason finale to Prince George. The Silverbacks didn't fare much better going 1-1-1-1, including a shootout win.

The Cents and Silverbacks both look to start the season on the right foot, but due to the new BCHL overtime rules, there's no longer room for a tie so only one team will go home happy.

Puck Drop 7pm, Pre-Game 6:45 with Play by Play Broadcaster Jared Thomas on HockeyTV, on the dial in Merritt at Q101.1FM, or audio only at Q101.ca

 

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