Sunday, September 29, 2013

Late Goal By Patterson Boosts Cents Over Capitals:

It took more than two-thirds of the hockey game, but the Merritt Centennials and Cowichan Valley Capitals offenses awoke in the third period, scoring 6 of the games 7 goals in the final 20 minutes.

Fans in Merritt got a bang for their buck as the Centennials improved to 4-5-0-0 on the season, dropping the Capitals to 4-4-0-1.

An exchange of goals by either team in the final 1:09 of the game led to the Merritt win, as at that mark Myles Powell tied the game, but with :43 left on the clock Scott Patterson put his team back in front as they cruised to victory.

Scoring for the Centennials aside from Patterson was Jeff Wight, Tyler Martin, and Sebastien Pare(who collected his first of the season). Pare and Patterson each finished with a goal and an assist as Wight also added a helper.

Goaltender Connor LaCouvee was at his best for much of the game against his former team, stopping 21 of 24; which included a very sharp glove save late in the opening period. For Cowichan Valley, Francis Marotte made 38 of 42 saves, and for not playing in six starts, looked particularity good for much of the game.

Taki Pantziris got the Capitals on the board with a pair, while Steen Cooper added two assists and Powell also added an assist to his goal.

Both teams received their fair share of power plays, as the Centennials went 2-for-8 on the man advantage and Cowichan Valley went 1-for-6 during the Sunday matinee game.

Prior to the game, the City of Merritt gave recognition to Head Coach Luke Pierce for his Interior Division Coach of the Year Award last season, which came in just his second year at the helm. I have to personally commend Luke for everything I have been witness to him doing with the organization, and also for his integrity and humbled response during our post game interview when I brought up how the recognition made him feel. Hear those thoughts on the morning news on Q101 with... me!

These two clubs won't meet again until February 15th in Duncan. It will be nice to see Coach Beatty and PxP voice Dustin Forbes in their barn this time around!


The Centennials now have the week off before returning to the game action on Nicola Valley Arena's ice on Friday night as the Victoria Grizzlies are in town for a 7:30 PM puck drop.

Get your tickets at Cooper's Foods and Canadian Tire, or listen to Q101 to win your way in. The Q101 broadcast begins at 7:00 PM both Friday and again on Saturday when the Cents hit the road for Trail.

Merritt vs Cowichan Valley Game Preview (Game 9):

The Cowichan Valley Capitals fell 5-0 at the South Okanagan Events Centre last night, the same sight as the Merritt Centennials previous game; also a loss. The two clubs look to turn things around and return to winning ways this afternoon at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena in Merritt.

The Centennials got a goal from Tyler Martin on Friday in Penticton, after Martin missed three games prior with an injury. Injuries have been slowly healing up for the Cents, with Russell Sanderson, Rhett Willcox and Zach Hartley still on the mend.

With a win, the Cents would build valuable momentum, and hopefully confidence. A victory won't come without hard work and a consistent, honest effort. Coach Pierce has pushed lately that the club needs to perform consistently from game to game, rather from period to period.

Puckdrop is 2:00 PM today, as Sunday afternoon games get an early start, while the October 20th home game will start at 4:00 PM - the only off-timed Sunday game this season.

Details on the Q101 broadcast can be found below!

 Cowichan Valley Capitals (4-3-0-1) 9 pts, 2nd Island

Goaltender Robin Gusse has started all but one game for the Caps this season, which has now reached six games in a row. Gusse attended Montreal Canadiens Training Camp as a member of the QMJHL's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in 2011. We may get a taste of backup netminder Francis Marotte tonight, as the 18 year old Quebec product hasn't played since game two of the BCHL Showcase.

Bob Beatty has a knack for teams that don't give up. Teams that go hard in to the offensive zone and aren't afraid of the dirty areas. You should expect that today from that club, although fatigue may begin to play a factor. I'm excited to chat with Bob for the first time since early February when he was with the La Ronge Ice Wolves in the SJHL.

Mason Malkowich has been in on both of the goals during this road trip for the Capitals, who got off to a late start on Friday in Trail, and didn't arrive in Penticton until early yesterday morning. It's been a tiring trip for the Caps, who managed just 18 shots in Penticton. They'll have put up 1,500 kilometres on the bus by the time they get home late tonight, and with that much bus time it's hard to believe their legs are feeling fresh and ready to go.

 Merritt Centennials (3-5-0-0) 6 pts, 6th Interior

Fresh off signing up for University of Connecticut Division 1 Hockey, Centennial forward Jeff Wight will have a few eyes on himself, as he is also the Cents leading scorer currently this season. Wight's decision as to when he begins his University education will come prior to the end of the 2013/14 season. For now, he's committed to this Centennial team and that's what it will take from everyone in the dressing room if they want a win tonight.

It wouldn't be fair to say this team is fragile right now, but it would be fair to say they are nearing a point in which changes could be made. Luke Pierce hasn't ruled out not making any changes, though, as he has said several times he is happy with the group and just wants them to play the way he knows they can.

If Merritt wants to have success tonight, they will need to continue getting the puck deep in to the offensive zone and quickly. Against Penticton, pucks seemed harder to retrieve on dumps so hopefully tonight the forwards have their legs under them and are able to win more puck battles. That goes for the defensive zone as well, the team that leaves the boards with the puck more often than not is more than not victorious.

The Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show starts up at 1:30, after I log off from the Q101 airwaves a little early to run over to the rink. We'll chat with Bob Beatty and Luke Pierce during Kal-Tire Between the Benches, before we check on former-Centennial Steven Munn as a part of Yesterday's Stars.

We'll also be joined by the scholarship-man Jeff Wight in the intermission, while Caps play-by-play voice Dustin Forbes may just slide on over to the Q101 Press Box as well. Forbes was with La Ronge last season as well with Beatty, and I was fortunate enough to have build a friendship with him that has carried over to the BCHL.

Tune in online on Q101.ca or BCHL.ca! Puckdrop is 2:00 PM!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Centennials Forward Jeff Wight Commits to UConn Huskies NCAA:

The Merritt Centennials are proud to announce forward Jeff Wight(1995) has committed to play for the Division 1 University of Connecticut Huskies of the NCAA.

Wight has scored 17 goals and added 12 assists in his 54 games as a Centennial, including 4 goals and 2 assists in 8 games this season.

Jeff is from Coquitlam, BC and is a product of the Vancouver Northeast Chiefs BCMML program. He was the Athlete-Scholar Award winner for the Cents in 2012/2013.

It is not yet decided whether Jeff will depart Merritt in the 2014/15 season or the 2015/16 season.

Congratulations Jeff and his family on this tremendous accomplishment!


I will be chatting with Jeff tomorrow prior to the Centennials taking on the Cowichan Valley Capitals, make sure to catch the broadcast on Q101 beginning at 1:30! 

Vees Get Late Offence, Defeat Centennials 4-1:

In front of over 3600 fans at South Okanagan Events Centre on Friday, the Penticton Vees came out as expected, taking a 1-0 lead and dominating in the shot department through 20 minutes. But the Merritt Centennials resiliency showed in the 2nd, when their offensive output matched Penticton's opening frame numbers, tying the game up at 1 and pulling within one on the shot clock.

The gates would open for the Vees in the final period as their offensive firepower returned and momentum shifted back in the home teams' favour. Three straight goals for Penticton helped them pick up a 4-1 win, which got the Vees back on the winning track with a 5-2-0-0 record, as Merritt fell to 3-5-0-0 on the season.

Head Coach Luke Pierce isn't sure where the answer lies in the way the Centennials have performed this season, as at times they show exceptionally and at other times seem to lack desire. Pierce hopes that the club can come out on Sunday with the consistency they will need to be present if they want a victory.

Devin Kero, despite allowing three in the third, was great between the pipes for the Centennials, stopping 25 of 29 shots. For the Vees, Hunter Miska played in his second straight game and made 20 of 21 stops.

 

Penticton came out with jump and with an early powerplay, got out to a 9-1 shot advantage as Merritt looked flat and energy-less. Their energy would improve in segments of the period, but for the most part the Vees controlled the majority of the play. Ben Dalpe got stuck on the right point during a late period man advantage, but less than 30 seconds after correcting himself in to his comfort zone in the slot, he got a pass from Brad McClure and fired it in the back of the net. The 1-0 goal came at 15:19 as Brett Beauvais picked up the second assist. Shots in the first favoured the Vees heavily, 12-2.

What ever Coach Pierce said to the Cents in the intermission, worked. Merritt came out with a sense of desire and intensity and they reeled off several consecutive shots and opportunistic chances, but they wouldn't get their goal until later in the period. On the chances Penticton did get, Cents netminder Devin Kero was able to cover all the angles on and keep the Vees chances to a minimal risk. A patient play at the blue line by Tyler Martin, in his return from injury, got the Cents on the board off a strong forecheck from Sebastien Pare and Gavin Gould, who both added assists. Martin's snap shot was his 2nd goal of the season. Merritt outshot Penticton 14-5 in the period and fans had to have been sitting on the edge of their seats.

Third period. Queue Penticton. It took just over 9 minutes but Ryan Gropp finished a jam play at the side of the net to get the puck by Kero and put the Vees up 2-1 as Brad McClure drew a helper as he too, was hunting for the puck in tight. 5:02 later, Cody DePourq and Travis Blanleil came in 2-on-1 and finished the play as DePourq put the Vees up by a pair. Despite falling behind by a pair, Luke Pierce kept his club focussed and disciplined, and at 18:08 the Vees added insult to injury with Cam Amantea converting from Blanleil and rookie Jarod Hilderman. Penticton held on to that 4-1 lead while outshooting Merritt 12-5 in the period for a overall margin of 29-21.

The Vees speed was impressive, and although up front they may lack some size, they make up for it with a strong core of defenders. They have a chance to win a second straight game on home ice tonight while potentially helping Merritt out by tiring the next opponent for the Cents. These two clubs will meet again October 16th at SOEC.


The Centennials have a quick turnaround, as they take the day off Saturday before returning to the rink Sunday afternoon as they host the Cowichan Valley Capitals. The Caps will be coming in with some heavy legs as they played a delayed game in Trail Friday, in Penticton Saturday, and then in the Nicola Valley on Sunday. Gametime is 2:00 at the Memorial Arena, with the Q101 pregame show getting underway at 1:30, presented by Norgaard Ready Mix. The Centennials next evening game will be next Friday as the Victoria Grizzlies make their one and only visit of the season.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Merritt @ Penticton Game Preview (Game 8):

The Penticton Vees are looking to end a 2 game losing streak that was capped off on Wednesday with a 3-1 loss to Vernon. For the first time this season, the Centennials are looking for a second straight win. It will come through hard work and consistency, as the Vees won't go down easily in their home opener.

Following nearly a week between games for Merritt, some of teams' injuries have been allowed time to heal, while in Penticton's favour on Friday is the return of University of Minnesota commit Jack Ramsey. Ramsey missed Wednesday's game while attending the USA Hockey All-American game in Pittsburgh.

Connor LaCouvee made his debut in Vernon for the Cents on Saturday night, stopped 32 of 34 Viper shots. Devin Kero appeared in consecutive games prior to that, allowing 3 goals on 55 Trail Smoke Eater shots.

The two teams meet again October 16th in Penticton.

Merritt Centennials (3-4-0-0)

The Centennials work ethic came to play in the 2nd and 3rd periods against Vernon on Saturday, a work ethic that must be matched or topped tonight at South Okanagan Events Centre. The Cents do know how to succeed against the Vees, as they won 5 of 7 games against their division rival last season. 

Their captain, Payton Schaefer has shown flashes of brilliance, and he has already matched his goal total from last season, while rookie Gavin Gould had a two goal night last weekend which included a overtime winner in Vernon. The offensive improvements need to continue, as experienced guys like Jeff Wight and Sebastien Pare have looked better and better from game-to-game.

Pare had a point in all but one game at SOEC last season, a game his team won anyways 1-0. Sam Johnson also enjoyed some success in the season series along with Dane Birks and Tyler Martin. Regan Soquila was hands-down the best Cent against the Vees last season, but who will fill his shoes in 13/14?

Penticton Vees (4-2-0-0)

The Vees are coming in having lost two games in a row, which is just going to bring more anxiousness to the team as they head in to their home opener as well. Max Coatta had the teams' only goal in Vernon, while guys like Ben Dalpe and Brad McClure have seen recent success with goals against Prince George a week ago today.

If you look at special teams, there isn't a whole lot of seperation between the Cents and Vees. In fact, Merritt has taken just one more penalty than Penticton, and they killed that extra penalty off; leaving the Cents .3% better on the penalty kill. Penticton's powerplay is slightly better at this point, after going 5-for-25 last season against Merritt. This season, they're 8-for-32, which is good for 3rd in the BCHL. Six players have scored PP markers.

The Vees played three home games in exhibition, allowing two goals, while they haven't won a regular season game on home ice since February 27th. Worth adding is that the Vees won 7 straight home ice playoff games in the spring, before falling in OT to Surrey in the Championship game. I wouldn't mind if one day, Penticton and Vernon both have to relocate games to their old barns... What a thrill that would be to see once again!

Except Fred Harbinson's team to come out very quick and very disciplined. I don't expect a lot of penalties tonight and with strong goaltending at both ends on any given night, we should be in for a terrific hockey game. 


The game will be broadcast live at 6:30 on Q101 in Merritt, and Q101.ca on the web. Catch the FASTHockey webcast at BCHL.ca!

We'll be joined on the broadcast by Luke Pierce, Fred Harbinson, Shane Poulsen, Gavin Gould, and quite possibly the voice of the Vees Fraser Rodgers

Catch you on the airwaves!

 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chatting With Pair of Former Vernon Vipers Voices:

Last season's play by play team for the Vernon Vipers featured Don Klepp and Todd Miller, a duo that has since gone their separate ways, even if they do work closely together for a common goal. I was given a chance to interview both of these men recently, and I'm happy to share those chats with you!

Klepp left his role as Vipers Colour Commentator to take a more important role in the organizing committee for the 2014 RBC Cup. Don is now the Communications Director for the committee, and I was given a chance to talk with him back at the BCHL Bauer Showcase. I wanted to save this interview until I had some of Vernon's attention, and last night's game between the Centennials and Vipers turned eyes toward the Centennials online spouts, such as this one.

Miller spent over 10 years as the voice of the Vipers, and of those years, I hardly missed a game until I became too deep in the game myself around 2007. His talent behind the mic is second to none and I was very honored to have been interviewed by him this summer, but last night it was an even larger honor of mine to stick Todd in front of my mic and ask him some questions. Todd carries a strong role with the Vipers as the Business Operations Manager and Assistant GM, and he can be seen running around making things happen at every Vipers home game.

I have to thank these two individuals for giving me the chance to chat with them, I hope you enjoy the listen!

Did I mention Miller was also the voice of the Centennials at one point? From 1997 until 2003, you could hear his voice in the same slot as you'd hear now-Vipers voice Graham Turnbull last season on Q101.



Centennials Get Deserved OT Win In Vernon:

The Vernon Vipers came out as fans aware of their situation expected; fast and aggressive and tenacious offensively. They were able to score early, and it seemed as though they might have found their niche.

But that would change, the Merritt Centennials game turned around near the midway point of the opening period and never looked back, scoring twice in the 2nd and Gavin Gould potted the winner with 1:21 left in overtime en route to a 3-2 Centennial final score.

In goal, Connor LaCouvee made his Centennials debut and he was sharp as could be, ESPECIALLY considering how many games he'd played this season. He kept out 32 of 34 shots, 11 of which came in the first 6-7 minutes of the hockey game.

Vernon's Austin Smith was very good in the net, although I'm sure his left leg will be sore today from making so many saves with it. He stopped 36 of 39, including 14 in the 1st period.
 

Mason Blacklock opened the scoring when he sniped a shot in the top right corner from the slot with Trail boys Dallas Calvin and Craig Martin drawing in on the assists. Martin made it 2-0 at the side of the net just under 10 minutes later, with help from TJ Dumonceaux and Liam Coughlin. Shots were 14-14 after the opening period, with the majority of the Vipers pressure coming early in the period. The play of Blacklock impressed me in the 1st, and I wouldn't be surprised if he continues to light the lamp this season before heading to Michigan Tech in the fall of 2014. Merritt improved their play immensely from start to finish in the period, with much of their shot count coming in the final half of the period.

In the middle frame, the Cents continued their rally by scoring 6:40 in when Gavin Gould found a puck near the blueline, wove his way in to the slot and sniped his 2nd goal of the season. Adam Tracey and James Neil picked up the assists, with Neil providing excellent offensive support to lead to the puck pressure for Merritt. 10 minutes later, a goalmouth scramble resulted in captain Payton Schaefer tying the contest up, after Malik Kaila made a nice dish in front and James Neil and Schaefer wacked away until the puck went in. The game was knotted up at 2 after 40 minutes with the Cents in front on the shot clock 26-22.

The 3rd period produced little to elaborate on, although both goaltenders had to make some big saves on difficult sequences. Cents 'tendy Connor LaCouvee made 2 or 3 huge stops to keep the game tied, while Smith did the exact same in the Vernon net. This was an exciting period that just failed to produce any offense, and it also failed to produce a single penalty, something both teams did a good job of avoiding in the game. Shots in the 3rd were 12-11 Cents, and after regulation they led 38-33.

In overtime, Gavin Gould would be the hero when he worked a perfect tic-tac-toe with Scott Patterson behind the net and finished it off with a toe drag to the backhand and in to the back of the net. Gould's 2nd of the net allowed him to show some excitement and jump in to the glass and encourage more noise from a strong gathering of Cents supporters. It was a much needed win for the Cents as they showed the effort Coach Luke Pierce was waiting to see, and they had just 16 skaters in the lineup, 10 of which were rookies.

Merritt's record is now 3-4-0-0 as they move a point back of Trail for 3rd in the Interior with 6 points. Vernon falls to 1-2-1-2 and is tied for last with Salmon Arm, despite having played one less game than Trail and Merritt both.


Merritt is off until next Friday, when the South Okanagan Events Centre welcomes the club for the first time this season. The Vees host the Cents beginning at 7:00 PM that night, with the pregame show beginning 30 minutes prior on Q101. The Cents return home that Sunday to face Cowichan Valley at 2 PM.

Shout out to Vernon's Colton Sparrow. I never got the chance to get to know him well growing up but we have more than our fair share of friends in common, and his disappointment in the loss was evident as he sat in the booth frustrated post game for near 10 minutes. Sparrow is in his final season of Junior but is nursing an injury, but when he returns to the Vipers lineup; think David Morelli, Chad Murray, those types of local guys who have gone on to play KEY roles in the keys successes. That's the type of player Sparrow will prove to be, and for a kid who has grown up wearing that logo all through minor hockey, he has earned a chance to show the City what he has and who he is.

Anyway, much like Sparrow, injuries are a problem right now for the Merritt Centennials. A good 6 days off here for the team will be key in allowing for evaluation of some guys and essential rest for others. They worked hard last night and are deserving of the day off they're getting today. Guys like Wayland Williams, Russell Sanderson, and Malik Kaila will be looking to fill their extra time with a little GTA V, while I'm sure the rest of the boys will be on NHL 14.

On the topic of passing along some notes... Luke Pierce and Joe Martin deserve some praise for their hard work as of late. Their duties go so far beyond the dressing room and I haven't been around them for even 3 weeks and already I see how important they are to the organization and how important the organization is to them. It's going to be a fun tenure here in Merritt, and I'm very excited to be able to work with such great guys in the seasons to come.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Merritt @ Vernon Game Preview (Game 7):

Jason Williamson and the Vernon Vipers are the final team in the BCHL's Interior Division to eclipse the single win mark, with their lone victory coming back in the season opener at the Bauer Showcase when they defeated Surrey 7-3.

Tonight gives the Vipers a chance to hop over the Merritt Centennials in the standings and get back on track, while the Centennials have other plans. Head coach Luke Pierce wasn't all too pleased with his clubs game last night in a loss to Trail, so expect the injury-riddled Cents to come out with an edge to their game.

Much like Vernon, Merritt's struggles early on this season have been widely based on consistency issues, as neither club has really thrown in the towel in a game this season aside from Vernon's 6-1 loss to Salmon Arm in their home opener back on September 13th.

Details on the Q101 broadcast can be found at the bottom of the post!

 Vernon Vipers (1-2-1-1)

The Vipers aren't playing in the exact same boat as they were last season, because the expectations this year are just that much higher with the RBC Cup coming to town in the spring. That doesn't change much as far as approach goes, because you want to ice the best team possible in any season, but the 2013/2014 campaign has something special about it for the Vipers organization.

They've allowed 21 goals over their first 5 games, and if you discount a 1-1 tie with Chilliwack at the Showcase you get 20 goals allowed over the other 4 games. That's a number the Vipers will look to keep to a minimum tonight, as goal scoring hasn't been quite the difficult task, especially for Mason Blacklock, who has 4 goals in 5 games.

You look at this clubs roster, and it seems evident that there will come a point they come out of their shell and start winning games consecutively, the only question is.. Can the Cents avoid triggering that wake-up call?

 Merritt Centennials(2-4-0-0)

Speaking of wake-up calls, one would hope the Centennials got theirs when Jesse Knowler buried the game last night for Trail with a wrist shot from the blue line with just over a minute remaining. The Cents failed to play the entirety of the game, with the second half of the contest seeing less and less offensive development.

The key for the Centennials tonight is to play a full game, and play it well. There's no secrets to a simplified game, and that's all they need to do. There is a big two points on the line tonight and this team has a tonne of talent and with the home-and-home with Trail behind them, I wouldn't be surprised to see a much faster Centennial team tonight.

Injuries have been an issue early on, and the problem grew last night as Daniel Nachbaur left the game with a laceration on his arm, although he is expected to return to the lineup sooner rather than later. Nachbaur joins Tyler Martin, Diego Cuglietta, Zach Hartley, Rhett Willcox and Russell Sanderson in the stands; a list that contains far too much talent.


The Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show fires up at 6:30 PM, as we give you the low down of what's on the plate for tonight's game. We'll be joined by another new member of the Cents during the first intermission, as well as both teams' coaches in the pregame. If you can't turn to 101.1 FM and hear the game, check out Q101.ca or BCHL.ca for Listen Live links.

The Cents next game is nearly a week from tonight, next Friday, as they visit the South Okanagan Events Centre and the Penticton Vees who call it home. Looking forward to meeting Fred & Fraser and the gang in charge of the 2012 RBC Cup champs!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Smoke Eaters Score Late To Defeat Centennials:

The Merritt Centennials let two leads slip through their fingers in the first couple of periods on Friday
night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, before Jesse Knowler gave the Trail Smoke Eaters the 3-2 win with just over a minute left in regulation.

The Cents managed 38 shots on goal, which is a season-high, but the bounce back performance of the Smokies netminder Adam Todd was too much to overcome in the 3rd period. Trail responded with 27 shots, with roughly ten of those shots coming in the first 30 minutes of the game.

Once again it was a night of first's, as Wayland Williams scored his first BCHL goal, AP-call up Max James made his BCHL debut and got an assist, while Adam Ulfsax of Trail also picked up his first BCHL tally. On top of all of that, goaltender Todd picked up his first win on the season for the Smoke Eaters.

Devin Kero looked sharp once again, stopping 24 shots, however you can be sure he would have like to have stopped that shot from Knowler with 1:13 left in the game. Devin deserves huge props for a very professionally done interview before the game as well!

Merritt lost another forward in the game as well, with Daniel Nachbaur leaving in the 2nd period due to a skate incision on his forearm. Nachbaur isn't expected to be out long-term, but he will miss tomorrow night's contest in Vernon.

No period-by-period breakdown from tonight's game unfortunately, as I have to hop on some other tasks before nights' end to prepare for a trip to my hometown tomorrow!

In the meantime, I have posted some pictures courtesy of Ian Webster at the Merritt Herald! And check out the Smokies blog, http://trailsmokies.blogspot.ca/!


The Vipers host the Centennials at 7:00 from Kal-Tire Place, in the two clubs' first meeting of the season. Both teams are tied for last in the BCHL's Interior Division, with four points.

The Q101 broadcast begins at 6:30, with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show. We'll be joined by Jason Williamson, head coach of the Vipers, and Merritt's bench boss Luke Pierce.



Merritt vs Trail Game Preview (Game 6):

After dropping three straight games after a come from behind win in the season opener, the Merritt Centennials returned to the win column on Tuesday as they defeated the Trail Smoke Eaters 5-0 in Trail.

Tonight, the two clubs do it all over again as the Cents come in with momentum, as Scott Patterson is coming off a hat trick performance and goalie Devin Kero is riding high after a 28 save shutout performance in which featured several highlight saves.

For Trail, they haven't had much for bright spots as of late as Nicholas Patey as the teams lone goal in their past trio of games, and goaltender Adam Todd's goals against average is approaching 5.00 while his back up Dustin Nikkel's numbers are up at a similar point. The Smokies; if they want to be successful tonight, need to consistently play strong in both ends of the rink.

 Details on tonight's Q101 broadcast can be found below.

 MERRITT CENTENNIALS (2-3-0-0)

Something the Centennials were unable to do until their victory on Tuesday, was play with a lead and adapt to that approach to the game. Coach Pierce made a point in saying on the post game show that it was important the guys got used to playing in front, and that it may not always be a four goal lead they're defending heading in to the third period.

The effort put forth on Tuesday was superlative at times, and everyone in the lineup from top to bottom was chipping in on the ice whenever needed. The Centennials did take some hits though, as Rhett Willcox and Diego Cuglietta both left the game with injuries and did not return; their status' this evening will be revealed during the pregame show.

If the Cents want to be back at .500 after tonight's game, they need to continue to play a simplified game on both ends of the rink. They will be in front of a hometown crowd this evening, so expect the atmosphere to be electric as the game Tuesday was just a foreshadow of excitement for what we'd see on the smaller Nicola Valley Arena ice surface.

 TRAIL SMOKE EATERS (1-3-0-1)

The Smokies are desperately looking for offense, after scoring just once in their past three games. If you separate the Smoke Eaters lone win from the losses, they've been outscored 21-4 in four games. Their win was a 6-2 victory over Cowichan Valley, which came in the second game of the BCHL Showcase. 

One thing I noticed during Tuesday night's game, was the lack of the Smoke Eater's ability to keep the puck active around the boards in the offensive zone while keeping that body in front. I have been impressed with the Cents ability to cycle the puck early this season, even if it isn't always successful, but Trail needs to try and step it up in the offensive zone and put some pressure on the Centennials. That said, there was still pressure put on the Cents on Tuesday, but Devin Kero had a good sight line on the majority of shots and the few rebounds that did get out were more often than not swept out by Merritt's defenders.

Greyson Reitmeier is a new face for the Smokies, after being released last week by the Saskatoon Blades. Reitmeier is a Nakusp product and was a free-agent invite by the Blades to training camp, where he potted his first WHL goal in exhibition. He is just 16 years old, and we'll have to wait until game time to see if he makes his debut in orange tonight.


The Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame show gets underway at 7:00 PM on Q101, as well Q101.ca and BCHL.ca. Puck drop is 7:30. On the pregame show, we'll discuss a former Centennial turned teacher that is currently playing pro in the land down under. We will also chat with Bill Birks and Luke Pierce as a part of Between the Benches, brought to you by Kal Tire.

The Cents will be back on the airwaves tomorrow night from Kal Tire Place in Vernon as they take on the Vipers, the team I grew up watching in that very barn. It should be a very entertaining game, hope to see you make the journey!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Cents 'Tender In Town By Weekend:



This is the article I wrote for MerrittCentennials.com

The Merritt Centennials are pleased to announce the acquisition of 19-year old goaltender Connor LaCouvee from the Grande Paririe Storm of the AJHL in exchange for future considerations.

The product of Qualicum Beach, BC spent the majority of last season with the Cowichan Valley Capitals, posting a 3.61 GAA and a .904 Save Percentage in 20 games.

Proior to his time in the BCHL, LaCouvee was with the Notre Dame Argos Midget AAA program in the SMAAAHL, where he appeared in 31 games posting a .901 Save Percentage in the regular season, and a .931 Save Percentage in 8 playoff games.

LaCouvee was born in 1994 and is the third goaltender on the Centennial roster, joining fellow '94s Devin Kero and Russell Sanderson, who has been placed on the 30-day injured reserve.

Head Coach Luke Pierce and Assistant Coach Joe Martin would like to welcome Connor to Merritt, and look forward to seeing him suit up in a Cents uniform.


Pierce said Tuesday night that LaCouvee is expected in Merritt on Thursday, and will be in the lineup on Friday. 

Smoke Eaters Can't Beat Kero In Cents 5-0 Win:

Devin Kero earned his first BCHL shut out on Tuesday night as Scott Patterson picked up the hat-trick, in a 5-0 Merritt Centennials win over the hometown Trail Smoke Eaters.

Gavin Gould also made his presence in the game known, scoring his first BCHL goal. Sebastien Pare was an offensive weapon as well, picking up a helper on Patterson's 2nd goal and Jeff Wight's 2nd period marker.

Kero made 28 saves, while at the other end it was Adam Todd in the Smokies net, while he stopped 20 of 25 as the Smoke Eaters fell to 1-3-0-1 on the year while Merritt improved to 2-3-0-0.

On the man advantage, opportunities were limited for both clubs as Trail went 0-for-4 and Merritt 0-for-3. Malik Kaila was the penalty minute getter of the night along with Trail captain Adam Wheeldon; after the two dropped the mitts late in the 3rd period.

Merritt and Trail rematch on Friday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena in Merritt at 7:30.


It was more than just a family affair between the Birks boys, it was also a return of sorts for Shane Poulsen to Trail, while Brendan Lamont faced his former team in the Centennials for the first time as well. The Cents lost Rhett Willcox on a blind side double-whammy hit that came just 30 seconds in to the opening frame. Willcox did play some more shifts but returned to the dressing room with a suspected concussion. Merritt also lost speedy centre Diego Cuglietta, who took a Smoke Eater stick to the nose in the opening frame, ending his night on a very bloody note. On a positive note, Scott Patterson opened the scoring when he picked up a puck in the right circle and send a wrist shot under the glove of Trail goaltender Adam Todd, hitting the back post for a 1-0 lead. That was all for the action in opening twenty, with Merritt outshooting Trail 12-7 to open the game.

In the second, the flood gates would open although shots would end up very close. At 8:22, a shot was sent from Poulsen at the line and there in front was Scott Patterson to tip home his 2nd of the night. Dylan Bowen also got a helper, but for Bowen, he had an assist last year with Salmon Arm meaning it wasn't his first BCHL point, but he does continue to seek his first BCHL goal. If fans thought Jeff Wight got a piece of the 2-0 goal, Wight made his mark count otherwise when he buried to make it 3-0. His goal came off a Dan Nachbaur shot from the bottom of the left wing circle, that deflected off Wight and in to the top corner. Sebastien Pare was a late add-on for an assist, and Pare wasn't done there as 3:31 later he would set up Scott Patterson, who dished off to Jake Clifford on the left wing before centering a backhand pass for Patterson to complete the hat trick. Trail edged Merritt on the shot cloud 9-8(20-16 Merritt after 2) but the Cents were comfortably in front 4-0.

During the post game show, Head Coach Luke Pierce said that playing with a lead was unfamiliar territory for the Cents, and that could have been evident during the third as the team worked the puck D-to-D inside of their own zone several times before trying to make the quick play to get the puck deep in the offensive zone. Trail outshot Merritt 12-7 in the period, but it was the Centennials whose ability to play with the lead that prevailed. Along with the help of a very hot and fast glove from Devin Kero, the Cents were able to hold off on any prolonged Smoke Eater forecheck, and Gavin Gould scored his first BCHL gino to really seal the deal just before the 9 minute mark of the period. Gould's goal went unassisted, as emotions would begin to bubble over following that goal. In the last half of the period, 13 infractions were issued compared to just 7 through the rest of the Hockey game.

In the end, the Cents left happy with a 5-0 shutout win over the Smoke Eaters, a team they won 5-of-7 against last season.

The Smoke Eaters visit the home of the Centennials on Friday night. Game time at Nicola Valley Memorial is 7:30, and the broadcast on Q101 begins at 7:00 sponsored by Norgaard Ready Mix.

The Cents will be on the road on Saturday night, when they travel to Vernon to face the Vipers, that game starts at 7:00 with the Q101 broadcast at 6:30.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Merritt vs Trail Game Preview (Game 5):

Much like the Merritt Centennials, there was some success for the Trail Smoke Eaters at the BCHL Bauer Showcase to open up this new season. Along with the Centennials, the Smoke Eaters dropped a close game to the Langley Rivermen(in OT), while picking up a pair of points in a big victory over another Coastal Division opponent.

Consider in the two extra games now in the books for both of the clubs, and that's where the results vary. Merritt fell short in back-to-back games (3-2, 4-3) with the West Kelowna Warriors over the weekend, while the Smokies struggled on home ice against the Penticton Vees, falling 5-1 in their home opener on Friday and 7-0 the night after.

The two clubs meet at Cominco Arena tonight both looking for win number two on the BCHL season, with the Merritt Centennials having won the season series last year by taking 5 of 7 games. Trail was stronger at home last season, where they went .500 in their four games with the Cents on home ice.

 Details on tonight's Q101 broadcast can be found below.

 MERRITT CENTENNIALS (1-3-0-0)

The Cents had plenty more success on the man advantage during Saturday's home opener, and that is something they need to continue to carry over from game-to-game if they want to be a league wide threat on the power play. Going 3-for-5 is always nice, but when power play perfection occurs, the even strength game needs to step up.

To continue on the special teams topic, Head Coach Luke Pierce said in the post-game show Saturday that the important role players need to stay out of the penalty box, despite his club showing great discipline for the majority of the game.

In goal, I won't make any predictions for tonight's game but the situation is sound for the Centennials, with Devin Kero and Russell Sanderson both seemingly ready for battle. Sanderson is fresh off a start against the Warriors on Saturday while Kero was sharp on Friday in West Kelowna.

 TRAIL SMOKE EATERS (1-2-0-1)

Former Merritt Centennial Brendan Lamont has been a contributing factor for the Smoke Eaters, as the 19 year old has knotted two goals so far this season. After playing in nearly 120 games as a Cent, Lamont was dealt to Trail this off-season for Shane Poulsen, who scored on Saturday for Merritt.

Listen for names like Lamont, Bryce Knapp and Jake Kauppila. With help from those players offensively the Smoke Eaters could be tough to handle, while guys like Braden Pears and Valik Chichkin man the back end for the orange, white 'n black.

With ten 1994's in the lineup, along with five 1993's; the Smoke Eaters are an older team that could see some shake ups before the January 10th deadline in order to better prepare for next season. Take that with a grain of salt though, because if the Smokies look to be making a run for a Fred Page Cup, they may rather decide to load up. In comparison, the Cents have seven 1994 born players(who will play their final seasons of Junior in 14/15), while two of those seven are goaltenders.

Speaking of goaltenders, this is the department where Bill Birks and his stuff are hoping for results. Former North Okanagan Knight Dustin Nikkel allowed 7 against Penticton on Saturday, but at the Showcase was great in a 6-2 win over Cowichan Valley. Adam Todd, 19, lost both of his starts, and has an .857 save percentage through 120 minutes played.


The Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame show gets underway at 7:00 PM on Q101, as well Q101.ca and BCHL.ca. We'll continue our breakdown interview with Jeff Jones during the pregame show, while we also chat with the head coach of both hockey teams. Puck drop is 7:30.

The two teams duke it out once again on Friday night in Merritt, that game too, will start at 7:30.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

One-on-One with Former Cent Jeff Jones:

In my first Merritt Centennial feature interview of the year, I was given the chance to sit down and chat over the phone with Revelstoke's Jeff Jones, who not only was an opponent of mine growing up but a member of the Cents from 2009 to 2011.

Jones is now playing in the NCAA with Robert Morris University Colonials. He put up 4 goals and 15 assists last season, as he more than doubled his numbers from his freshman year.

This season, he hopes to step up offensively and lead the team while playing a more important role. Jones established himself as a key player in Merritt, picking up 49 goals and 111 points in 119 games, while picking up 10 playoff points in 8 games.

Thanks to Jeff for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat, best of luck this season!

Centennials Fall To Warriors In Home Opener:

Jeff Wight scored his first and second goals of the 2013/2014 BCHL season as his Merritt Centennials were edged by the West Kelowna Warriors on Saturday night by a score of 4-3.

Russell Sanderson stopped 26 of 30 West Kelowna shots, while Shane Poulsen added a single for the Cents, who went 3-for-5 on the powerplay, after going 1-for-7 the night prior. Six Cents picked up assists, all of whom played in the BCHL last season.

Getting West Kelowna on the board was Carl Hesler, Matt Anholt, Tyson Dallman and Braxton Bilous. Anholt and Bilous also added assists as Ambrose Firkus set up two Warriors goals. Andy Desautels stoppefd 22 of 25 Merritt shots in the win.

With the loss, the Centennials fall to 1-3-0-0 on the season while the Warriors are now 2-2-0-0.



Merritt's powerplay woke up in this hockey game and what a joy that was to see. For them to go 60% was great, and their penalty kill wasn't bad either at 75%. Jeff Wight scored with the extra man 13:34 in to the opening period, after Carl Hesler opened the scoring for the Warriors at 7:08, also on the man advantage. The Warriors had three of their four powerplays in the first period, as the Cents showed great discipline through the entire game. Shots in the opening frame were 10-7 West Kelowna, and the game was split at 1.

The 2nd period was a bit of a back and forth battle, as icings and offsides took over the bulk of the period and neither team developed any offense. The only real opportunities were stopped easily by the teams goaltenders', who were both keen on their game all night long. Both teams picked up 11 shots in the 2nd, but with just a single penalty aside, there wasn't much for sparks.

The 3rd period was very exciting, and under two minutes in the game would pick back up as Braxton Bilous wired a wrist shot through several players in traffic, putting West Kelowna up 2-1. Bilous would then head to the box shortly after, and 2:05 after his goal Shane Poulsen would fire a point shot through to the back of the net to tie the game. Payton Schaefer and Diego Cuglietta finally had their hard work pay off with points on the board. But don't blink yet; West Kelowna restored their lead under 5 minutes after that as Tyson Dallman used his long stick to his advantage to score his first BCHL goal. The game would then settle down for several minutes before the Warriors went up by a pair, as Brennan Clark chose to dish off to Matt Anholt who scored blocker side on Sanderseron. Clark was robbed by Sanderson earlier on the game on a even strength breakaway. 2:40 after the 2-goal lead was built up, Jeff Wight added his second goal of the night on a goal mouth feed, with assists to Sebastien Pare and Dane Birks. The Cents pushed late with the empty net but couldn't force pressure, and the Warriors were able to pick up the win for the second straight night, and sweep all four points from the Cents in the two game set. Shots to end the game were 30-23 in favor of the Warriors.


Merritt travels to Trail on Tuesday night for the first meeting of the season with the Smoke Eaters. Game time at Cominco Arena is 7:30, and the broadcast on Q101 begins at 7:00 sponsored by Norgaard Ready Mix.

The Cents return home next Friday as the Smoke Eaters visit the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena at 7:30.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Merritt vs West Kelowna Game Preview (Game 4):

24 hours after the West Kelowna Warriors hit the ice one-by-one for their home opener, the Merritt Centennials will do the same in front of their own fans; and Cents fans are hoping to leave the rink just as proud as Warrior fans did last night.

The Cents and Warriors get going at 7:30 in the 2nd half of a home-and-home set to open the home schedule for both clubs, following a 3-2 West Kelowna victory last night at Royal LePage Place.

Sam Johnson scored in his season debut last night, while Jake Clifford picked up his first BCHL goal for Merritt, as getting on the board for the Warriors was David Pope, Liam Blackburn and Ambrose Firkus.

After tonight, it will be nearly a month before these two rivals meet again, as West Kelowna hosts Merritt on October 11th. The Warriors will then play host on December 12th once again before the two teams finally engage in a contest in Merritt on January 31st.

Details on tonight's Q101 broadcast can be found below.


 1-2-0-0 Merritt Centennials 
 
Expect local product Russell Sanderson to get the call between the pipes as Luke Pierce stated during last night's pregame show. Devin Kero was great last night but the 1-2 combination of Sanderson and Kero now has a chance to prove itself as a duo to contend with in the BCHL.
 
The Cents man advantage improved immensely from the start of last night's game to the end, as the team even capitalized on the power play for the first time this season in the 2nd period. Special teams will play another important factor tonight as these two teams proved last night the rivalry is alive and well.
 
I've been very impressed with the rookie group of Centennials. Not only have they been stepping up off the ice, but on the ice as well. We saw last night several rookies getting out there for penalty kills, power plays and late period shifts. Expect Luke Pierce to continue to give the younger players a chance to prove themselves and grow their games to the Junior A level and beyond.


 1-2-0-0 West Kelowna Warriors 
 
Before last night's game, Warriors coach Rylan Ferster told me that his team was struggling to establish an identity. As last night's game went on, that identity began to clarify itself as the Warriors lineup stepped up from top to bottom. They were quick to move the puck, very creative in the offensive zone and worked their way under the skin of the Centennials.
 
I wouldn't be surprised to see the path to the penalty box continue to be paved tonight, following a tight game called last night by Mike Langin. West Kelowna may not get away with as much in Merritt, where the crowd hopes to play a factor in frustrating the Warriors.
 
The Warriors looked great up front, but in their own zone they will have to continue to step their game up in keeping pucks to the outside, although last night several Cents shots were blocked by Warrior players in great defensive position.



Game time between the Cents and Warriors is 7:30 at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show beginning at 7:00 sharp. Catch the game on the radio dial at 101.1, or online at Q101.ca or through BCHL.ca.

Click this link to listen live!

Following tonight's game, the Cents focus will shift from West Kelowna to the Trail Smoke Eaters, as the Red, Black 'n White make the trip to the Cominco Arena for a 7:30 start. The Q101 broadcast begins with myself at 7:00!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Warriors Edge Cents 3-2; Teams Prepare For Rematch:

It was a night of firsts' for the Merritt Centennials on Friday at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna.

For the first time in the BCHL season, the Merritt Centennials scored a powerplay goal, as Ohio-product Jake Clifford buried his first goal north of the border - although it wasn't enough to earn his team two points, as the West Kelowna Warriors slipped by the Cents 3-2 in the clubs' first teams following the BCHL Bauer Showcase.

Devin Kero was great in net for Merritt stopping 39 shots in his second straight start, although Coach Luke Pierce confirmed that Merritt's Russell Sanderson will start the Saturday game. Pierce compared the duo to Lino Chimentti and Tyler Steel, a tandem that manned the crease together for the Cents in Luke's first year as a coach in 2011/2012.

In net for West Kelowna, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan's Andy Desautels was strong but struggled to contain pucks in close. He finished the night with 26 saves, and through 2 and a half games played has faced just 59 shots this season. We may hear Tanner Burgardt's name tomorrow, as the former Prince Albert Minto is expected to get his first BCHL start.



In the opening period, it was the Warriors who found the back of the net midway through, as Ambrose Firkus found time on the right side, roofing it on Cents goalie Devin Kero. It wasn't long after that in which Kero had to make his nicest stop of the young game, when Brennan Clark flew in shorthanded but couldn't get by the left pad of Kero. Special teams were consistently busy in tonights game, from the drop of the puck until the final buzzer. West Kelowna had Merritt's number in the opening period, out shooting them 12-7 and leading 1-0 in to the break.

Another highlight of the night would come from Kero in the 2nd period, as the Warriors looked to go up by a couple goals. Kero robbed Firkus who found a wide open slot, by sticking his glove way out to his side while going low in to position. The Warriors would get their two goal wish though, as David Pope beat Kero for a 2-0 lead. Less then 30 seconds later, the Cents responded as Jake Clifford found the back of the net with the assists coming from Gavin Gould and Adam Tracey. West Kelowna's Liam Blackburn added a single marker before the break to restore the two goal lead and give West Kelowna momentum heading in to the third. Merritt was out shot 14-12 in the middle frame, but trailed the game by a score of 2-1. Also in the middle frame, the 1012 fans in attendance got their taste of the rivalry when Brett Mennear and Sam Johnson dropped the mitts with a couple minutes to play.

Just over five minutes in to the final frame, Sam Johnson picked up a puck beneath the goal line and scooped it back out front and in to the net following a Daniel Nachbaur rush which had Nachbaur pull goaltender Desautels way out of position on a high speed rush. Nachbaur impressed with his ability to keep the puck on his stick, much like James Neil and Jeff Wight did throughout the game as well. The Cents pressured for most of the third but would be penalized three times in the final 10 minutes which seemingly took the wind from the teams sails, although the Cents still did get the puck deep with a shorthanded empty net in the final minute. Tyson Dallman nearly put home the empty netter as the buzzer went, with the Warriors narrowly escaping with the victory in their home opener while outshooting Merritt 42-28.

See the boxscore here!



Merritt will need an effort tomorrow night that was similar to the effort put forth at times of tonight's game. If the team can rally behind their home town crowd and get some confidence early; they should be able to get the wheels rolling and keep them going. It was nice to see the power play respond so watch for the Cents special teams to continue to improve in the coming games.

Faceoff time is 7:30 with the Q101 broadcast beginning at 7:00 with the Norgaard Ready Mix pregame show getting underway. There is a tailgate party at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena prior to player intros, so make sure to get down there early!

The Centennials hit the road on Tuesday to Cominco Arena in Trail for their first meeting of the season with the Smoke Eaters. Both the home opener and Tuesdays game in Trail can be heard on Q101.ca.

See you at the rink!