Monday, October 28, 2013

Centennials Can't Overcome Silverbacks Sunday In The Shuswap:

In the first game of the season between the Merritt Centennials and Salmon Arm Silverbacks on October 18th, the game featured excitement in both ends of the ice for most of the 60 minutes in a 5-5 tie. During Sunday's second game of the season series, the Silverbacks capitalized once more than the Centennials in each of the periods, which included a three goal middle frame, boosting Salmon Arm to a 5-2 win over Merritt to close out the weekend.

Scoring for Merritt in the second period was Scott Patterson and Zach Hartley, both of which were smart hockey plays as Hartley now has 4 goals on the season, and Patterson leads the 10-9-1-0 Cents with 9. Devin Kero was tested several times by the 'Backs, facing 31 shots which included a first period penalty shot from Max Becker, which opened the scoring.

Salmon Arm got a pair of goals from Alex Jewell, matching his total from last season at 4, while singles came from Becker, Evan Anderson and Landon Smith; improving the Silverbacks to 10-6-1-1, a single point up on the Centennials with 22.

Merritt is in Chilliwack on Friday while Salmon Arm takes on the Vernon Vipers on Friday, as well.

After an offensive affair in the seasons' first meeting between the two teams, there was plenty of offence, something we didn't see during the first period at all as the teams played back and forth with much of the play in the neutral zone. Wayland Williams gave Max Becker a slash after Becker had a partial break, and by some oddity, Becker was given a penalty shot which he made a nice move to get the shot up high on Devin Kero to open the scoring. This was the most exciting play in the opening period, as Salmon Arm outshot Merritt 10-4. 

Things finally got going in the second period, as the legs seemed to be a little moving just a little bit more following the intermission. Alex Jewell put the 'Backs up by a pair as he flew in to the zone with a goal under 3 minutes in to the period, as helpers came from Cole McCaskill and Jeff Kennedy. 54 seconds later, the Centennials would respond as Zach Hartley crossed the blue line and fired a wrist shot which beat goaltender Angus Redmond to cut the lead in half on his 4th of the season. Momentum for the Cents continued 5:01 later as Scott Patterson got a pass on the right circle from Tyler Martin, where he beat Redmond with a bullet to tie the game. Bennett Huber, at this point, has been credited with the lone assist but there is zero doubt of where the puck came from on the left blue line. Salmon Arm wasn't done yet, as Jewell would pot his 2nd of the night under a minute later to restore the lead. Landon Smith opened the game back up when he brought a pass between his legs, up in front of him where he roofed the puck despite being just inches outside the crease. It was a highlight reel goal at its' best to make it 4-2 with 1:07 left in the period. Merritt was narrowly out shot by Salmon Arm, 12-10 in the period. 

Back down by a pair, the Centennials knew they needed to step their game up a level in the third period, and they did just that for much of the period with a much better forecheck and break out from their own zone. Still, errant passes in the neutral zone allowed the Silverbacks to balance the attack, resulting in few continued moments of pressure. On the topic of errant passes, the Silverbacks were shorthanded when they broke out on a 2-on-0 rush from a Centennial giveaway, and Evan Anderson made no mistake on the goal as he received a pass from Landon Smith, while McCaskill picked up his 2nd helper of the night. That made it 5-2, and that is where the game sat until the end, with Salmon Arm just putting the game away from that point on. There were still chances for the Cents, but any chance the 'Backs had to get the puck tied up along the boards, they took advantage of. Final shots ended at 31-28 Salmon Arm, as Merritt fell 5-2 to drop to 10-9-1-0 on the season.

Despite the loss, the line of Hartley-Tracey-Willcox impressed from start to finish with good puck moving skills in all areas of the ice, and they were paid off with a 'plus' on Hartley's second period goal. Dylan Bowen was strong on the blue line, as Malik Kaila also played a strong role. Kaila, in my mind, had his best game of the year, which featured a cross-bar shot that nearly ended up his first BCHL goal.

Merritt now takes on the Chilliwack Chiefs in a home-and-home series which begins on Friday. It is the only visit of the season for the Centennials to Prospera Centre in Chilliwack, before the Chiefs visit the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena on Sunday in their only regular season visit to the valley.

Notes from Scafer:

I do need to send out a very sincere thanks to some people in the hockey world for helping make my weekend as enjoyable as it was, despite Sunday's loss. 

On Friday I was fortunate to see Rob Abramenko, Todd Miller and Graham Turnbull in the booth in Vernon; three people in the industry I owe a lot to for the things they have done for me in terms of preparing myself day-in, day-out, but not just that, but also month-in and year-out. Todd was a driving force for my inspiration in the pursuit of this Merritt Centennials opportunity, and I am very fortunate to have been given so much to build from, from Todd as well as Rob and Graham. I also got to have a chat with Paul Beugling, a longtime Viper fan dubbed 'the ref' at games, who runs the Vernon Junior Hockey History website. Paul is owed a lot of credit for giving me and many others such an incredible source of learning over the years, and to finally meet him face to face is something I'll forever remember. Something else I'll forever remember is the game I broadcast with Dr. Duncan Wray sitting right beside me for much of. It was very humbling to have been given the chance to talk to Duncan and share our stories and I appreciate the work he put in over the years to give my hometown such great form of entertainment and community boosting. The man has shown the hockey world what Junior hockey should be, and I don't ever see him changing that tradition. Many of my friends and family also came to the game, so they get a big thanks as well for the support!

In Salmon Arm, the first one to come to mind is Troy Mick, someone who has pushed me to have achievable dreams for a long time, and someone I know is doing a great job of making that team stand out in the community. Kevin Cheveldave is a name I had not known for all these years, although if you even mention the name Chevy I think "Salmon Arm!!!". Little did I know; the man who has sharpened more of my skates from size 2-9 than few else, is one of the proud members of early-80s Centennials/Warriors alumni. Chevy's character is a strong implication of his reputation in hockey world. Scott Campbell was probably the guy I was most excited to see, as we haven't tied up since he gave me one of my first BCHL broadcast experiences, (2nd in fact) back in December 2011. Scotty is a great personality in the rink in Salmon Arm, and when he's in that building you can see he's a very passionate dude! Always great to see Soupy, and look forward to seeing him tie the knot next year! Lastly, but not least, Al Robert and Myron Crown, as a pair! Al came on as my colour guy for the broadcast, after serving as my colour commentator in Sicamous during the 2010/11 KIJHL season. He is a great voice for the community of Sicamous and their team! Myron came on with me for several broadcasts' early that 10/11 season, giving me a strong idea of everything I needed to do be prepared for a broadcast. His trademarked "Salmon Arrrrm Silllllllverbacks" announcement is forever etched in my brain and I appreciate his personalism in the pre game when I attempted to recreate his PA introduction, only to have him show me up seconds later on the loud speaker.

Anyways, if you read all through that, you learned a little about me as a person and who I am lucky to know! Thanks, and I appreciate your time. Any suggestions for the broadcast/blog, email me! always open to talk! 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Centennials Take 4th Point From Vipers In 1-0 Shutout Win:

Heading to Vernon for the 2nd game of the season series with the Vipers, the Merritt Centennials were able to get the games only goal midway through the middle frame, resulting in a 1-0 Centennial win.

Devin Kero gave Merritt a chance to stay in the game throughout the contest, making 35 saves for his 2nd BCHL shutout to improve the Centennials to 10-8-1-0.

Gavin Gould's 6th of the season was a power play marker with just under seven minutes to go in the 2nd period. Gould has now scored 3 goals against the Vipers.

Michael Stilliadis, who the Vipers recently acquired from the OJHL, was beaten once on 24 shots, and with his effort was able to draw in as 3rd Star, behind the two Centennial difference-makers. 

Merritt finished 1-for-4 on the power play, while the Vipers did not capitalize on the same amount of opportunisa, including a late-game man advantage in which the Centennials worked hard to clear the puck several times. 

Merritt was without Dane Birks, Jeff Wight and Diego Cuglietta, while Head Coach Luke Pierce is also in Calgary attending the WJAC camp. Vernon, meanwhile, had absent Dexter Dancs, Demico Hannoun and Jared Wilson. Mason Blacklock also missed the game due to injury, among others.

The Vipers and Centennials meet twice in November, with the first meeting set for November 5th in Merritt, followed by a date on the 27th in Vernon.

The Centennials head to Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm on Sunday. Merritt and Salmon Arm played to a 5-5 tie a couple short weeks ago in Merritt, in a game where offence came first and the rivalry was warming up nicely. 

The Q101 broadcast begins at 2:30 with Dustin Scafe. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Centennials Give Up First Period Blitz In 7-4 Loss To Prince George:

With only one trip to Prince George scheduled on the 2013/14 regular season calendar, the Merritt Centennials looked to build off a 4-1 win over the Spruce Kings back on October 10th, but a goal-heavy opening period helped PG to a 7-4 victory on home ice on Thursday night.

Merritt drops to 9-8-1-0 heading in to a pair of games this weekend in Vernon and Salmon Arm, and they'll be without Dane Birks, Diego Cuglietta and Jeff Wight, as the trio is off to try out for Team Canada West. Wight would eventually draw in with an assist, as goals came from Shane Poulsen, Gavin Gould, Dylan Bowen and Scotty Patterson. Devin Kero filled in for Russell Sanderson but wasn't as busy as Sanderson, making 11 of 13 saves. Russell returned to the net for the first time in 40 days, and he made 4 of 7 saves in the first period.

Prince George jumps a single point over Merritt in the overall league standings, with a record of 9-7-1-1, which is just two points back in the Mainland Division. No one needed to play hero on this night that had the Spruce Kings up 4-0 after the opening period, but Chad Staley took the spotlight with a hat trick. Karan Toor had a goal and an assist, while both Brent Lashuk and Jeremiah Luedtke had a pair of helpers. Jesse Jenks was the best player on the ice tonight, making 38 saves in the PG net.

Merritt outshot Prince George 42-25 in the game, although shots were 33-14 in the final two periods.

Prince George wanted to set the tone early and they did just that, just after the five minute mark, as Chad Staley found a bouncing puck off a forecheck rush with his line mates Jeremiah Luedtke and Brent Lashuk, who both picked up assists on the power play marker. To put the Kings up a pair, AP Donovan Law showed why he got the call up for this game as he set up a streaking Sean Landrey for Landrey's 1st of the season at 10:39. The third goal happened quickly as the Cents maintained chances in the PG zone, but the puck was cleared to Justin Rai and Bryant Christian, as the captain Christian set up Rai on the rush with six minutes to go in the period. Skylar Pacheco would then make it 4-0 as he found a puck on the left side and wound up to send it past Sanderson on the power play from Brogan O'Brien and Christian Weidauer at 17:12. The period flew by, aside from goals and penalties there were hardly and whistles. PG outshot Merritt 11-9 in the period.

Devin Kero would replace Russell Sanderson to start the 2nd, but when you look away from the stat sheet Sanderson looked sharp in the opening twenty minutes, making a few kick saves and blocker stops. Look forward to seeing Russ back in the pipes this weekend. Shane Poulsen gave the Centennials their first taste of life with his 4th of the season, which he scored by pin-pointing a shot off the far post and in at 8:51 on the man advantage. Scott Patterson then finished a play with his line mates in Sebastien Pare and Jeff Wight, making it 4-2 on another power play goal at 16:17. With the goal, Patterson now has the team lead with 8 goals. Late in the period, with a chance to get within one on an offensive zone face-off, things turned sour as Chad Staley scored again with just :11 seconds left to make it 5-2. Luedtke and Mitch Eden picked up helpers, as Merritt outshot Prince George 14-8 in the period.

They say when a good hockey team has a bad game, they usually respond with a good one. The same can be said for a player having a tough shift; and that was proven by Dylan Bowen as he responded from a shift where the puck wouldn't stop bouncing, by scoring his 2nd of the season. Bowen shows some great excitement when he scores, and he has been a key piece to the Centennial defensive core as of late. With just over 6:00 to go, Chad Staley got away on a breakaway but Tyler Martin was hot in pursuit and made a diving play, smacking the puck away from Staley before the two crashed the goal. The referee decided to issue a penalty shot on the play, which Staley scored on to make it 6-3. Regarding the call made on the ice, these players are trained to deal with adversity, and Gavin Gould made truth to that statement, beating Jesse Jenks with a hard wrister with 1:58 left to give the Centennials a breath of hope. Assists came to Jeff Wight and Tyler Martin, on a quick puck moving play up the left wing. Karan Toor would get away once, hitting the post, and twice scoring in the empty net to make it 7-4 Prince George and seal the victory for the Spruce Kings. Final shots were 42-25 Merritt.

Merritt finished 2-for-5 on the power play, while Prince George was 2-for-6. PG started the game with the leagues worst-PP but scored on their first two opportunities. The games 3rd Star as Diego Cuglietta, 2nd Star Jesse Jenks, and the 1st Star was Chad Staley.

Merritt is in Vernon on Saturday night at 7:00 to face the Vipers, while Cowichan Valley takes a trip up north to face Prince George. The Cents are in Salmon Arm on Sunday for a 3:00 PM game with the Silverbacks.

Tune in on Q101 beginning at 6:30 on Saturday, and 3:30 on Sunday as the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame show sets you up for puck drop!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cuglietta Joins Pair of Centennials In Calgary For WJAC Try-Outs:

Diego Cuglietta has been added to the list of 60 players from Western Canada invited to try out for Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge's Selection Camp which begins Saturday, October 26th in Calgary, Alberta.

Diego (95) joins Centennial teammates Jeff Wight and Dane Birks at the camp, which ncludes 21 other BCHL players, and 3 goaltenders from the league as well.

This season has been getting better from game to game for Cuglietta; after a broken nose forced him out of a pair of games, he came back stronger than ever, and he now leads the Centennials with 3 goals, 13 assists and 16 points in 15 games.

Wight (95) has put up 6 goals and 9 assists for 15 points in 17 games, many of which coming after committing to the University of Connecticut in late-September.

Birks (95) has been a difference maker night in and night out this season, and he is the top scoring defender with a goal and 9 assists through 17 games.

The three players will be competing for a spot on Team Canada West, which will travel to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia on November 4th for the beginning of the World Junior A Challenge. 

The selection camp roster was chosen by Canada West head coach Jason McKee (Spruce Grove, AJHL), along with assistant coaches Trent Cassan (Yorkton, SJHL) and Ryan Smith (Selkirk, MJHL), and team manager Shawn Bullock (Hockey Canada).

Luke Pierce, the Centennials head coach, is off to Calgary this weekend as well to scout the camp for the CJHL TopProspects Game 

CJHL Prospects Game #1 will be played on Friday, November 8th at the Digby Arena in Digby, NS at 4:00PM Pacific.

On Saturday, November 9th, Game #2 will take place at the Mariners Centre in Yarmouth, NS at 1:00PM Pacific.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Centennials Send Mom & Dad Home Happy With 5-4 Win:

A pair of Merritt Centennials finally shook the monkey from the shoulders on Sunday afternoon, as Rhett Willcox and Dylan Bowen scored their first BCHL goals' in a 5-4 Centennials win over the visiting Trail Smoke Eaters.

Bowen and Willcox worked to put the Centennials, now 9-7-1-0, up 2-0 early in the second period, before the Smoke Eaters made a game out of it and tied the game 2-2 before the end of the second. Zach Hartley picked up a goal and an assist and Scotty Patterson had a pair of goals in the third period to help lift his team to victory.

Replying for the Smoke Eaters was former-Cent Brendan Lamont, Jake Lucchini, Bryce Knapp and Travis Stephens. With just over a minute to go, Stephens made it 5-4 Merritt but the empty net did not help the Smoke Eaters in tying the game, as they fell to 4-11-1-1 and have yet to win in 9 contests'.

Devin Kero once again was strong in goal for Merritt, making 33 of 37 saves on the afternoon while Dustin Nikkel made 38 of 43 saves in the loss.

The game didn't seem to have a whole lot of flow to it in the early going, with both teams struggling to calm the puck down on the sticks in the offenive zone. Dylan Bowen picked up a reason to celebrate when he blasted home a point shot on the powerplay after a setup featuring Payton Schaefer and Deigo Cuglietta. It was Bowen's 1st goal in the BCHL, and it took him 37 games to obtain it, although only 11 with the Centennials. Merritt finished in front 1-0 on the scoreboard and led 14-11 on the shot clock.

Rhett Willcox scored his 1st on a cross ice pass from Adam Tracey, who was fed a blueline feed from Zach Hartley; and that line was easily Merritt's best on the night. Willcox's goal came at 7:34, but under 6 minutes later the Smoke Eaters would begin their attack. Jake Lucchini got the scoring going when he picked his corner on Kero, on an assist from Jesse Knowler. Brendan Lamont then showed Cents fans the speed they miss, scoring his 1st goal against his former team to tie the game :53 seconds after Trail initially got on the board. Like the opening period, shots were 14-11 Cents in the 2nd.

Four goals in the second period would be matched and beat in the third, as the two teams' combined for five goals, four of which came in a span of under 6 minutes. The first of the period was the 1st of the night for Scott Patterson, as line-mates Sebastien Pare and Jeff Wight weighing in with assists. It took just over :45 seconds for the Smoke Eaters to tie the game once again, as the Cents went down a man and Bryce Knapp deflected a puck by Kero to make it 3-3. Knapp tipped home a shot from Cody Bardock, in Bardock's debut for the Smokies. Patterson restored the Centennials lead later in the period at 11:34, as Wayland Williams and Devin Oakes both chipped in their 1st assists of the season. Zach Hartley intercepted a puck 1:29 later and put the Cents up 5-3 on his 2nd goal of the season, which came unassisted. Looking for life, the Smokies pulled Nikkel and Travis Stephens was able to convert as he went low blocker on Kero, while Adam Wheeldon and Knowler had helpers. The puck would bounce around for the final 1:12 as the Cents nearly got an empty netter, but the buzzer would go to expire Parents' Weekend with a 5-4 victory over Trail. Merritt outshot Trail 43-27 in the hockey game, with 15 shots apiece in the 3rd.

For the 3rd time in 4 head-to-head games this season, the Cents capitalized on a single powerplay, with three opportunities being presented, while the Smoke Eaters went 1-for-4 on the PP. Trail and Merritt will meet again December 7th in Trail.

The Centennials are in Prince George next on Thursday night, when the Spruce Kings host Merritt at 7 PM at the PG Coliseum. The Q101 Pregame Show begins at 6:30, sponsored by Norgaard Ready Mix.

I want to send a big thank you to all of the families for making the time to attend Parents Weekend, it is just the fourth season the Centennials have been doing this and I look forward to catching up with everyone before the end of the season!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Centennials Can't Pull Away From Silverbacks:

The price of tickets to Friday night's game between the Merritt Centennials and Salmon Arm Silverbacks may have exceeded $10.00 each, but every penny was worth it for the fans in attendance as the two teams played to a 5-5 tie with a combined 15 powerplays.

The Centennials got a three point night from Jeff Wight, who added a goal and assist in the 3rd period, while a pair of goals from Sebastien Pare nearly gave the Cents a chance to win. Dane Birks and Diego Cuglietta also picked up a pair of points, both being assists. In the tie, Devin Kero stopped 38 of 43 shots.

Salmon Arm had a strong showing from their top line of Alex Gillies, Evan Anderson and Landon Smith. Anderson and Smith each took home a pair of points as Gillies scored a single. Adam Clark got the nod in goal, and looked better and better as the game wore on, make 35 of 40 saves.

Salmon Arm and Merritt remain close in the standings, as a single point seperates the two. Merritt is 8-7-1-0 while the 'Backs are now 7-5-1-1, meaning the Cents have the one point edge heading in to Sunday afternoons matinee with the Trail Smoke Eaters.

Merritt's powerplay was 1-for-6 on the evening, while Salmon Arm went 1-for-9.

It was a feisty game, with many infractions being called before they boiled over as the officiating crew held the two teams tight on a leash. Perhaps the leash became too tight when Devin Oakes was tossed for a hit to the head in front of the Salmon Arm bench, which resulted in Coach Luke Pierce also being ejected for his reaction toward the referee.

Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm will be the venue of the next meeting, which is coming up October 27th, a game which can be heard live on Q101 30 minutes prior to puck drop.

The Centennials welcome a struggling Smoke Eater team at 4:00 PM on Sunday, the second time this season the Smokies visit the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.

Parents Weekend continues with the 19th Annual Icebreaker being held on Saturday night at the Merritt Civic Centre, an event feature dinner, entertainment, and a casino for everyone in attendance.

Friday, October 18, 2013

'Backs Visit Centennials To Kick Off Parents Weekend:

With the 19th Annual Icebreaker set for Saturday night, the on ice festivities begin on Friday for the Merritt Centennials, as they host the surging Salmon Arm Silverbacks at 7:30 with the Centennials also welcoming their families to the Nicola Valley.

Salmon Arm has a record of 7-5-0-1 coming in to the game, but many of those losses came in the opening weeks as they have now won 5 of their previous 6 games. Like Salmon Arm, Merritt has been cranking up the heat with wins in 5 of their last 7, and the Cents sit at 8-7-0-0 on the season.

Alex Gillies has been the leader to this point on the season for the purple 'n silver, scoring goals in his past 5 games, totalling 14 in just 13 games this season. He's had help though, as teammate Landon Smith is tied in points with Gillies. Back for one final season, Adam Clark has been solid between the pipes but still has more to offer.

Diego Cuglietta has been the Centennials best player as of late, scoring 10 points in the month of October(6 games). The Cents top line, although not on the stat sheet every night recently, has really stepped their games up, with guys like Sebastien Pare and Scott Patterson beginning to play in different areas of the ice. Devin Kero has begun to control the ship, with a 92.5 save percentage through 9 starts, along with a 2.20 goals against average. Russell Sanderson is back in action, so we could see him at some point this weekend.

Details on the Q101 broadcast can be found below!

SALMON ARM SILVERBACKS(7-5-0-1) 15 Pts - 5th in Interior

The offense is there, the goaltending is there, and with key contributions from the blueline I think it's safe to say the defense is there too. This is a 'Backs team that has the leagues best penalty kill, and although there poweprlay hasn't been great to date, the potential is there with depth throughout the lineup.

Players like Alex Jewell, Riley Hunt and Jeff Kennedy could be weapons ready to strike, as the three have a combined 5 points this season with a combined 247 BCHL games under their belts. With the way the overall team stats appear for the Silverbacks, it wouldn't be a stretch to say those three players are doing a great job at playing the roles coach Troy Mick wants them to play, and there the offensive numbers will eventually grow. Gillies and Smith are currently tied for 3rd in BCHL scoring with 20 points.

The 'Backs are fortunate to have returned their goaltending tandem from last season in Angus Redmond and Adam Clark. Redmond is committed to Michigan Tech for the 15/16 season which means he'll get next season to prove himself as the starter, but for now he'll work hard for his time behind Clark. The 20-year old from Sherwood Park, Alberta was a backup to Kurt Williams two seasons' ago and is looking to improve on a .914 save percentage from last season.

MERRITT CENTENNIALS(8-7-0-0) 16 Pts - 4th in Interior

The Centennials lead the 'Backs by a single point, but trail Vernon by a single point as well for 3rd in the division. The parity in the BCHL is unmatched for the most part this season, and the Cents are up to the challenge of staying near the top. Along with the improved play of Cuglietta, James Neil has stepped up big time getting the pucks from the dirty areas while Bennett Huber is beginning to really find his stride and plays a strong role in every game.
Devin Kero continues to hold the eight ball as Russell Sanderson isn't quite game ready, but when he is, he will have to play hard to dethrone Kero, who has kept his team in nearly every game he's suited up for. A below .500 record doesn't speak any volumes to his play, although his personal stats do refer more to his on-ice performance. Sanderson looked sharp in the early-season, and if he goes tonight we know we will see a goalie that is eager to make big saves for his team and pump the crowd up.

Payton Schaefer remained on the back end in Penticton on Wednesday during the double-OT victory, and it's possible he will suit up there again. The captain looked very comfortable and always supported his teammates, and he will sit 33rd all time on the Cents all-time games played list after tonight with 135 regular season games suited up in. Shane Poulsen had 2 goals and an assist in Penticton, so watch for him to continue with his momentum!

Tune in live on Q101 at 7:00 PM with the Norgaard Ready Mix pregame show, as we chat with Luke Pierce about his teams' game on Wednesday and what they need to do tonight to continue the success. We'll also be joined by Troy Mick of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, it will be great to finally interview Troy after knowing him for much of my life!

You can tune in online at, and, while the mobile broadcast is available on the TuneIn Radio App! 

Tomorrow night is the Centennials 19th Annual Icebreaker, and I hope to see lots of fans and parents out at the Civic Centre! I'll be emceeing the event so you know where to find me! Find a Centennials committee member at the game tonight and get your ticket, 50 bucks a pop!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Comeback Kids Don't Give Up In Cents Double OT Win:

With a chance to end the Penticton Vees winning streak of three games, the Merritt Centennials knew their work would be cut out for them on Wednesday night at South Okanagan Events Centre, as despite being down a pair,  the Cents walked away with a 3-2 victory thanks to Shane Poulsen's goal with 1:07 left in the 2nd overtime.

Poulsen also capitalized with the game tying goal in the third period, although the shot may have been deflected by Adam Tracey, but Poulsen's heroics didn't stop there as he set up James Neil's goal in the middle frame to get the Cents on the board. Diego Cuglietta had another excellent game, putting up 3 assists as Merritt improved to 8-7-0-0.

For Penticton, goals came from Travis Blanleil and Anthony Conti, both of which came in the opening half of the game. AP call-up Liam Finley of the Okanagan Rockets BCMML team recorded his 1st BCHL assist, as goaltender Hunter Miska made 30 of 33 stops in the loss, dropping the Vees to 9-3-0-1.

Devin Kero was once again fantastic in goal for Merritt, making 36 saves on 38 Penticton shots, including 17 in the 3rd period. Russell Sanderson returned to the lineup, getting in to the action during warmup and looking game-ready.

The Centennials host Salmon Arm on Friday, followed by their Icebreaker on Saturday and then the Trail Smoke Eaters on Sunday afternoon.

Penticton opened the scoring in the 1st period as Travis Blanleil beat Devin Kero with the pass coming from down low from the stick of Cody DePourq. Brett Beauvais also had an assist, as Blanleil suited up in career game #200 in the BCHL. Merritt looked better and better the period wore on but it didn't appear they had quite found their stride, trailing 1-0 after the period and 11-10 in shots. Neither team really 'brought the heat' fans desired.

Perhaps the dressing rooms have loud speakers from the crowd, because the PA announcers job of firing the crowd up in the intermission carried over to the on ice product as things heated up, before Anthony Conti received a goalmouth pass from Chris Rygus, who hung around at the top of the circle as Liam Finley fed him a puck for Finley's first career point. To that point, the period was fairly dull, and it would remain so for the next 7-8 minutes. Just over 10 minutes later, the Cents got on the board as James Neil put the puck where momma hides the cookies, shooting the puck so fast you could hardly tell it went in at first. Diego Cuglietta and Shane Poulsen each had their 1st of 3 points on the night. Merritt went to the break down 2-1, and were outshot just 7-5 in the period.

Midway through the 3rd period, with the Cents on the man advantage, Shane Poulsen blasted home his 2nd point of the night as Neil and Cuglietta worked the powerplay forecheck just perfectly, threading the puck back to Poulsen where it appeared Adam Tracey may have deflected it in front, but either way tie game. Merritt's comeback wasn't complete though, as the two teams battled for the final eleven minutes and couldn't find an answer. Shots after regulation were 35-36 in favor of the Vees.

In the 1st OT, the Centennials had their chances with a pair of powerplays but Miska stood tall in the net for Penticton, as his offense couldn't muster up much of a breakout to move up ice.

In the 2nd overtime, the Vees nearly won it on a breakaway by Travis Blanleil but the speed of Dane Birks eliminated the scoring chance as the barreled in to the net. Diego Cuglietta got a pass from Shane Poulsen in the defensive zone later in the period, and picked up speed as he flew up the ice and moved to the right wing, then danced around the defender and played the puck back to Poulsen who found time and space and beat Miska with a bullet, sending the Centennials bench in to an uproar of joy as they poured to the ice. Centennials get the win and improve back above .500 and end the Vees winning streak heading in to parents weekend in the Nicola Valley!

Merritt's powerplay was a difference in the game, as they hemmed the Vees in their own zone and had them scrambling at times, going 2 for 5 on the man advantage. Penticton did not capitalize on their 4 opportunities.

Merritt now has the 1-1 series split with Penticton as the two teams won't meet again until December 4th and 6th, the latter being back in the Nicola Valley.

I'd like to personally welcome all of the Centennial players' parents to town this weekend as the team hosts the families for the 19th Annual Icebreaker on Saturday night! The parents will get plenty of excitement, as the Cents host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Friday night at 7:30, before welcoming Trail at 4:00 PM on Sunday.

The Q101 broadcast is available at 7:00 on Friday, and 3:30 on Sunday, online at! On a personal note, I'm starting to feel 'in the groove' behind the mic and our operator at the station, Ravyn, is killing it on the board!

See you at the rink!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Centennials Return To SOEC To Meet Vees:

The last time the Merritt Centennials walked through the doors of the South Okanagan Events Centre, so did nearly 4000 spectators, and those hockey fans left happy as the Penticton Vees won 4-1 that night in their home opener.

Devin Kero has been freshly labelled as the starting goaltender until Russell Sanderson returns, and Merritt should be hungry to get back to winning ways, and back above .500 on that note as they sit at 7-7-0-0 heading in to the SOEC. Penticton, on the other hand, is looking for win #4 in a row as they sit at 9-3-0-0 on the season so far.

The Vees are coming in to the game following a rematch of the 2011 Fred Page Cup final on Saturday night in Powell River, a game which the Vees stormed back from down 3-1 to win 4-3 in overtime(with two goals in the final minute, might I add). Merritt picked up a win over PG on Thursday to win their fourth straight, but two losses to West Kelowna and Coquitlam have the Cents wanting some points.

Details on the broadcast can be found below!


Battling with the West Kelowna Warriors for top spot, the Vees know there is a lot on the line tonight as they have a chance to bet the Cents twice in their own barn and start the season series off on the right foot. With the Warriors off tonight, Penticton has a chance to jump a point over WK for tops in the division. 

The Vees lost forward Ryan Gropp to the WHL this week, and while it is a tough loss for the team, expect them to be perfectly fine. Gropp is a projected high draft pick and was off to UND next season, so it is natural a player of this caliber expects the most opportunity on the ice to excel, and that is something he will get more of in Seattle rather than in Penticton.

Brad McClure chipped in with a pair of goals and an assist over Powell River, as he and Cody DePourq added the only goals 24 hours earlier in Prince George during a 2-0 win. That game on Saturday was the Vees' first in which they won despite allowing more than two goals, so scoring goals against them seems to be a Achilles.


Tonight has the Centennials facing a tough test in the Vees, but it is no stretch to say the team has it in them to pass this test with a high score on the paper. There are pieces to the Centennials game we know can work as an advantage against Penticton and if we see the puck go deep with a player flying in behind it, the Cents could set themselves up to move to 5-3-0-0 away from home this season.

Devin Oakes scored his first goal of his fresh BCHL career on Saturday night, and he has brought a strong physical game to Merritt so far with a knack for the dirty areas as well, including in front of the net. Payton Schaefer moved to the back end on the weekend, so we'll see if he returns up front tonight or not, although he looked very good at D and not once looked over or under cautious. 

The play of Diego Cuglietta has been something else as of late. You'd think playing with a cage might affect a guy, buy he just shakes right through it and does his business as he will. He has 7 points in the month of October, and along with guys like Scotty Patterson and Sebastien Pare, there are sure to be many more points.

The Centennials need to play the kind of game their fans know they can tonight. Fast and bruising. Expect the puck to get to centre very quickly and then even quicker get in to the offensive zone, where the Cents should try to pressure turnovers (see: Cuglietta). Merritt has had great support in their own zone and up ice with players covering positions, and that helps a team always be accountable.

Listen live beginning at 6:30 on Q101 as the Centennials return to the same rink that was jam-packed for the Vees home opener back on September 27th. Luke Pierce will join us along with Fred Harbinson as a part of Kal-Tire Between the Benches, and Luke will also chat during the intermission as a part of BCHL This Week!

Listen live at and, follow @dustinscafe, @BCHLCentennials or @Q101Merritt for period-by-period updates on Twitter!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

LaCouvee Off To The Dog Pound In Alberni Valley:

The news that Connor LaCouvee is a Alberni Valley Bulldog became official today, and while the move is understandable, it is tough to see Connor go from Merritt. He is a great guy with a great talent in the pipes, and he will now have a chance to excel in Alberni Valley! 

Russell Sanderson remains on the Cents IR until late-October, and with Kristian Stead set as the lone AP 'tender, he should back up Devin Kero until Sanderson is ready to hit the ice in game action. I say should because Stead also plays in the KIJHL, and may not be semi-permanently available.

Connor and I recently had a long conversation about how to properly pronounce his last name and we settled with the following: LAH... LUH.... Say it however you please he says, but aim for 'LAH-COO-VAY'!  

Good luck, Connor!

Official release:

The Merritt Centennials have traded the playing rights of 1994-born goaltender Connor LaCouvee to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (BCHL) in exchange for future considerations.

Connor was 4-0 this season with a 2.24 GAA and .918 save percentage, after coming to the Centennials from the Grande Prairie Storm (AJHL) earlier this seaseon.

"This was a very difficult deal to make. Connor was an outstanding goaltender for us over the past month and is an exceptional young man. Our loyalty to both Russell and Devin dictated that we give them the opportunity that we said we would at the beginning of the year." said Head Coach Luke Pierce.

LaCouvee spent the 2012/13 season with the Cowichan Valley Capitals, and the Qualicum Beach, BC product now has an opportunity to play close to home.

"Connor deserves to be a starting goaltender in this league and we hope he will now get that opportunity. We want to thank Connor for his contribution to our hockey club and we wish him all the best in Alberni Valley." Pierce concluded.

The entire Centennials organization would like to wish Connor good luck with the Bulldogs, and look forward to seeing him on February 8th in Merritt!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Road Gets Rough To End Busy Weekend For Centennials:

Following a 3-1 loss to the hands of rival West Kelowna Warriors, the Merritt Centennials returned home on Saturday night hoping to rebound and get a win over the Coquitlam Express, the team they opened the season against on September 6th.

Daniell Lange scored his teams second goal, like he did back at the Showcase, but the Centennials were unable to replicate a comeback as they fell 4-2 on home ice to the Express, despite putting up 30 shots in the opening 40 minutes and 39 overall. Coquitlam improved to 7-3-0-2 on the season with the win while the Centennials fell to .500 at 7-7-0-0.

Devin Kero played in goal for the second straight night for just the first time this season, and made 30 saves on 33 shots. Gordie Defiel gave his team a chance to remain in front throughout the entire game and his 37 saves earned him 1st Star honours.

Merritt will have a couple days off for a Thanksgiving break before returning to game action on Wednesday in Penticton at SOEC. Coquitlam meanwhile, hosts Surrey on Wednesday.

Things would go Coquitlam's way in the opening period at times, but for the most part the Centennials seemed to put the most pressure on. Shots favoured Merritt and scoring chances probably did, too, but the Express picked up a pair of goals including the nights' first at 6:54. Cody Boyd was credited for that goal after he got the pack past Devin Kero on a Centennial defenceman miscue behind the net. Daniell Lange then converted on a smart dump in play from Marc Biega to make it 2-0 Express 14:38 in. Shots in the period were 15-12 Merritt. 

A misconduct penalty against Adam Smith of the Express put the Cents on an early-2nd powerplay, and they were able to convert as Diego Cuglietta received the puck on a feed from Jake Clifford on a sharp pass, after James Neil worked to out muscle his opposition to get the puck free to Clifford. It was a powerplay goal at 4:30, but the Express would strike back swiftly as Canon Pieper fired a shot past Kero 1:01 later. His brother Bo picked up a helper as well as Joey Santucci, who started the rush. Goaltender Defiel made one save after another to keep his team in it, as they allowed 30 shots in the opening two periods. Coquitlam trailed 30-23 on the shot clock to that point.

The Centennials got on the board once more as Dane Birks flew up the right wing, and reached the bottom of the circle when he threw the puck in front where it was deflected home by Devin Oakes. In just his 2nd BCHL game, Oakes buried his 1st goal, congratulations to him. Time of that goal was 12:03, as the Cents had life now down 3-2. Defiel made several more saves with his body to keep his team in front, including one on Rhett Willcox, who looked great in the game and nearly converted several times for his 1st. Adam Rockwood slid the puck in to the empty net as the buzzer sounded and the goal stood to give Coquitlam a 4-2 victory over the Centennials, dropping Merritt to the .500 mark and hopping over the Cents in the standings.

The Cents did not by any means play a poor game, just merely not a difficult enough game to play against. They took the body when need-be, but the Express countered and that is just evidence of coach Barry Wolff behind the bench. Was very impressed with the Pieper brothers once again, while Adam Rockwood looked strong but at times tried to be too fancy with his passing. His numbers definitely speak for themselves though. The Centennials got good efforts from Malik Kaila and Payton Schaefer, who both stood strong on the back end. Both blocked several shots and showed consistency throughout the game.

The Centennials need a win to stay in the early-season standings race, and they have their next chance on Wednesday night at South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton. It will be a 7:00 PM puck drop, as the Q101 broadcast sets up at 6:30.

Merritt then heads in to a busy weekend, with Friday night having them host Salmon Arm, and Sunday the Cents host Trail. In between, the organization hosts the 19th Annual Icebreaker, as parents and fans convene at the Civic Centre to celebrate Centennials Hockey!

Get your tickets at the Cents Marketing Office in the Merritt Chamber of Commerce Office!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Centennials Streak Ends With 3-1 Loss In West Kelowna:

The Merritt Centennials had previously failed to win their first two meetings of the season with the West Kelowna Warriors, and they had a chance to extent their first winning streak of the season on the road on Friday at Royal LePage Place, but the Warriors had other plans. With the Cents looking for their fifth win in a row, the Warriors hung out to a 2-0 lead, winning 3-1 over the Cents.

Merritt fell to 7-6-0-0 with the loss, but with the effort put forth in the last couple of weeks, they aren't playing like a team one game above .500, and will have a chance to get back in to the win column in front of a home crowd on Saturday. West Kelowna continues to lead the Interior Division, with a record now of 9-2-0-1. 

Both goaltenders were tested on several occasions, as Andy Desautels played arguably his best BCHL game making 36 saves, while Devin Kero made 18 saves in the Cents net. 

Both teams have quick turnarounds as the Cents welcome Coquitlam on Saturday and West Kelowna entertains the Prince George Spruce Kings. 

In the opening period, the Warriors nearly took a lead under three minutes after the puck dropped, but the goal was quickly waved off and the referee issued a goaltender interference call against West Kelowna. Devin Kero's gesture showed that it was undoubtedly a penalty, but his 'no-goal' arm waving was still fun to see. Both teams got off to the start they wanted to offensive opportunities being developed early both ways, but it was Seb Lloyd who opened the scoring as he roofed a shot on the goal line with the Warriors on the man advantage at 8:27. West Kelowna edged the Centennials on the shot clock 9-8 in the first. 

A play at the side of the net made it 2-0 2:40 in to the middle frame, as Liam Blackburn got credit for the goal after Dane Birks attempted to clear the puck from his own zone. Sebastien Pare wanted to fire the boys up, and did just that with a late period scrap with Adam Osczevski, one that Pare threw several hard rights during. Gavin Gould was the one to answer the call for the Centennials, as he used his speed to split the defenders before breaking in and beating Desautels between the legs to get the Cents within one before the break, as the Cents outshot West K 12-9 in the period.

The Centennials came out as anticipated in the final period,  but were unable to beat a sharp Warrior goaltender, as Andy Desautels made some miraculous saves to keep his team in front. At 14:12, to put the Warriors back up by a pair, Seb Lloyd once again buried a side-of-net scramble on the power play as his 4th of the season looked very similar to his 3rd. Merritt had 15 shots in the period, and many of which had them pushing the bar for Desautels, who continued to play strong throughout the game. 

Overall, the Centennials played a very sound road game, although they didn't get the result they had hoped for. A couple penalties proved to be the back breaker, but there were many positives to continue to build on on Saturday. Scott Patterson, Gavin Gould and Malik Kaila all had strong games, as newcomer Devin Oakes looked to get better and better as he got more ice time. It was nice to see Sebastien Pare step up and show he has more than good offense and defense in his game.

The Centennials welcome the Coquitlam Express to town for the second meeting of the season between the two clubs, after the Cents opened the season with a 5-2 win over Coquitlam at the BCHL Bauer Showcase. 

Tune in on Q101 - Merritt's Music Mix, beginning at 7:00 with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show!

One last congratulations goes out to head coach Luke Coach for being named to the coaching post for Canada West at the CJHL Top Prospects weekend!  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Centennials Add WHL Experience In Devin Oakes:

The Merritt Centennials are pleased to announce the signing of Prince Rupert, BC product Devin Oakes. Devin comes to the Centennials from the Kamloops Blazers(WHL), where the 18-year old forward suited up after spending the majority of last season with the Kamloops Storm(KIJHL).

"We are excited to add Devin to our group today. He is a hard-nosed player that will help to make us tougher to play against." Luke Pierce said of the 6 foot 1, 195-pound right handed shooter.

After playing in 8 playoff games with the Blazers last season, Pierce says his experience will be welcomed, "Devin will add some valuable experience to our group as well after experiencing games in the tough WHL playoffs last year with a very good Kamloops team. We look forward to seeing him on the ice tonight in Kelowna and welcome him to the community of Merritt."

Oakes posted 8 goals and 13 assists in 32 games with the Storm in 2012/13, while appearing in 1 regular season game with the Blazers and 8 playoff games. This season, he had been held pointless in a pair of games.

The entire Centennials organization would like to welcome Devin to the team!

Pierce Selected As Bench Boss For CJHL's Top Prospects Weekend:

CALGARY, Alberta - The Canadian Junior Hockey League, in partnership with Hockey Canada, is pleased to announce the appointment of the Head Coaches for the 2013 CJHL Prospects Games. Tom McCarthy of the Espanola Rivermen (NOJHL) will lead Team East and Luke Pierce of the Merritt Centennials (BCHL) will lead Team West at the 2013 CJHL Prospects Games on November 8th & 9th in Digby and Yarmouth, NS.

 "I am extremely honoured to be given this opportunity to work with Hockey Canada and the Junior A prospects," said Merritt Centennials GM / Head Coach Luke Pierce. "I look forward to being behind the bench with some of the best young players in our country and helping them to enjoy their experience at such a prestigious event."

Luke Pierce was born and raised in Merritt, British Columbia and has served as GM / Head Coach of the BCHL's Merritt Centennials since 2009-2010, when he joined his hometown team following a five-year CIS career with Royal Military College. Pierce initially joined the Centennials as an Assistant Coach, but in November of 2009 was promoted to Head Coach and General Manager.

Pierce, 30, has a lengthy list of accomplishments, both personally and with the Centennials hockey club. In 2011-2012, Pierce helped guide the Centennials to the franchises most wins and points since 1979. The Centennials have made the playoffs every season with Pierce behind the bench. Pierce is the defending Interior Division Coach of the Year, and just prior to the conclusion of the past regular season, surpassed the 100-win plateau in the BCHL.

"Naturally, it is an honour to be selected for this opportunity," said Espanola Rivermen Head Coach Tom McCarthy. "It is the dream of everyone in hockey to take part in Hockey Canada and CJHL events like the CJHL Prospects Games, and I look forward to serving as the bench boss when these 40 players come together." Tom McCarthy played 460 games in the NHL as a member of the Minnesota North Stars and Boston Bruins.

McCarthy was chosen in the first round (tenth overall) by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft. McCarthy played in the 1983 NHL All-Star Game and finished his career with 178 goals and 399 points. McCarthy has coached the Huntsville Otters and the Trenton Golden Hawks of the OJHL. In 2011, McCarthy was named Head Coach of the North Bay Trappers (NOJHL) where he coached for two seasons, leading the team to an NOJHL championship in 2013. McCarthy is now the Head Coach of the Espanola Rivermen (NOJHL).

The CJHL Prospects Game was created to showcase 40 of the top NHL prospects in the CJHL. The CJHL Prospects Games feature players from the CJHL's five western leagues competing against players from the CJHL's five eastern leagues. The event includes a two-game total goal series between Team East and Team West in a battle for the President's Cup, which is awarded annually to the winning team. Rosters for the 2013 CJHL Prospects teams will be determined following the World Junior A Challenge Selection Camps at the end of October. Player selection for the annual CJHL Prospects Games is a joint initiative of the CJHL and NHL Central Scouting.

CJHL Prospects Game #1 will be played on Friday, November 8th at the Digby Arena in Digby, NS at 7:00PM. On Saturday, November 9th, Game #2 will take place at the Mariners Centre in Yarmouth, NS at 4:00PM. Tickets to the CJHL Prospects Game in Digby, N.S., are on sale at the Digby Arena and at Tickets to the CJHL Prospects Game in Yarmouth, N.S., will be on sale at a later date.

Read more on the Centennials website:

Cents Trim Sprucies For Fourth Win In A Row:

With a chance to keep momentum rolling, the Merritt Centennials brought their A-game to their own barn against the Prince George Spruce Kings on Thursday night, scoring a pair in the first on their way to a 4-1 victory. With that win, Merritt improves to 7-5-0-0 with four straight wins now under their belts. The Spruce Kings, on the other hand, have dropped a pair going in to Penticton on Friday and they sit at 6-5-0-1.

Adam Tracey scored his first BCHL goal to open the scoring, while Dane Birks also scores his first of the season. Sebastien Pare had a pair for the Cents while Jeff Wight drew in with two helpers. Connor LaCouvee made 27 of 28 stops in net, and was tested at times and responded to the task.

Scoring for Prince George was Chad Staley, on a late 2nd period rush, while goaltender Alex Murray was tough to beat, making 34 of 38 saves.

Much like the Centennials, the Spruce Kings have a busy weekend ahead with a game in Penticton and then West Kelowna on Saturday. The Cents meet West Kelowna tonight and Coquitlam tomorrow back on home ice.

Adam Tracey got the nights first goal 14:36 in when he walked in to the zone, split the PG defense, and managed to fight off a stick check to get the shot on net, which beat goaltender Murray.
Sebastien Pare then made it 2-0 less than four minutes later when he deflected home a Jeff Wight shot, after Wight recieved a sharp pass from Shane Poulsen. Merritt controlled the majority of the opening period although Dave Dupas' Sprucies hung around and had a few chances. Shots in the opening period were close, though, at 9-8 Merritt.

Merritt's offense would start off the 2nd on a 5-minute powerplay, as Colin Chmelka was ejected for kneeing after he wiped out Dylan Bowen behind the net. Bowen left the game and did not return. Dane Birks was the second Cent to score his 1st of the season, as he blasted home a slap shot top corner, putting the Cents up 3-0 at 2:11. Shots cam aplenty for the Centennials, who ended up with 18 on the period. Prince George would get themselves some life late in the 2nd, as Chad Staley beat LaCouvee with a bullet off a creative pass from Justin Rai. Karan Toor also picked up an assist. PG picked up 10 shots in the period, with total shots counting at 27-18.

Sebastien Pare scored his 2nd of the night late in the final period, on a skill-first play that had him flying to the net while playing tic-tac-toe with Payton Schaefer, who perfectly placed the final pass on the stick of Pare at 14:40. Prince George got their share of opportunities, but most pucks bounced over their sticks or to the side of the net, where they created the most opportunities; although LaCouvee seemed to have cat-like reflexes to scoop up all the pucks. Merritt outshot Prince George 38-28 overall, with the final score counting as 4-1.

The game was as entertaining as it had hoped, and you have to commend the Cents for staying out of the rough stuff after the whistle. There were a few occasions where things could have turned sour but for the most part, it was a well disciplined game for Luke Pierce's club. Prince George nearly made it a 3-2 game in the 3rd, but their goal was disallowed as the net was off its' pegs by nearly a foot at the time the puck crossed the line. 

Hard work. If that continues to happen, then more success could be imminent. The Cents are on the road on Friday to face the West Kelowna Warriors for the first time since back-to-back home openers in early September. The Warriors are off to a hot start, with a record of 6-2-0-1 and are atop the Division, but the Cents are just 3 points back at 7-5-0-0.

The preview will be up here during the bus ride, there's just too much news today! Three more posts coming before the end of the day!

6:30 pregame show tonight on Q101 and, with puck drop set for 7:00 PM! Listen online also at!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Merritt vs Prince George Game Preview (Game 12):

Two teams on the upswing meet this evening at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena in Merritt, as the Centennials head in to the game on a three game unbeaten streak, while the visiting Prince George Spruce Kings have won four of their past five games. Both teams came out on the slower side, winning just one of the first four games, but it appears the tides have turned.

Prince George has been riding the hot play of their netminder Alex Murray, who continues the tradition of the Sprucies being solid-as-ever on the back end. Although his status tonight is questionable, Jake LeBrun has the ability to steal the game especially when you figure in the talents of Brent Laschuk and Bryant Christian.

Merritt has seen a big improvement over the past couple weeks, notably from the veteran players. Sebastien Pare has stepped up to the plate immensely and led offensively, while Scotty Patterson continues to show he can dominate each and every night. James Neil has settled in and things are looking good in the net with Devin Kero and Connor LaCouvee having big games every chance they get.

Details on the Q101 broadcast can be found below!

 Prince George Spruce Kings (6-4-0-1) 13 pts, 3rd Mainland Division

Defensive battles have been present in three of the past four Spruce Kings games, with no more than three goals being scored in those three contests'. Most recently, it was a 1-0 loss to the Victoria Grizzlies 24 hours after the Centennials knocked Victoria off.  Backup Jesse Jenks was solid in goal that night, but his offense failed to give him the support he needed.

The night prior to that, Alex Murray stopped all 20 Vernon Viper shots in a 3-0 win on home ice, as Mitche Eden, Jeremiah Luedtke and Christian Weidauer tinkled the twine in the third period. That night resulted in the loss of LeBrun for the Sprucies, and his status tonight is unknown. 

Prince George's special teams haven't factored in too much in their games played to date, but their penalty kill will have to be good tonight as the Centennials have the league's 2nd best powerplay conversion rate on home ice. Merritt tied PG in the North last September, before dumping the Spruce Kings 6-2 a few nights later in the Nicola Valley, a game which Pare had 3 points for Merritt.

Merritt Centennials (6-5-0-0) 12 pts, 3rd Interior Divsion

Merritt's balanced approach to the game is improving significantly, with the team having carried an equal force from their own zone right through to deep in the opposition zone in the past few games. Coach Luke Pierce has appeared to have felt out his lineup and found where everyone fits in, although injuries have made things difficult through 11 games.

Merritt's success last season against Prince George came in the opening month of the season, and the 2013/2014 season series will also see the two clubs play games close together, as the Cents visit PG on October 24th. With both of these teams having a chance to make big statements in October, it should set up for fiesty game tonight between two hardworking teams.

Scott Patterson has 6 points in the past 3 games, while Sebastien Pare has picked his offensive play up with 3 goals and 2 assists in the past 3 games. Diego Cuglietta has also been a very bright spot, with a pair of goals and 5 points in that same span, while Dane Birks has chipped in 4 assists since the Cents seemingly found their stride with the Sunday afternoon win over Cowichan Valley.

The Q101 broadcast begins at 6:30, with the early puck drop time set for 7:00. Find the broadcast online at,, and on your smart phones with the TuneIn radio app!

It's World Women's Hockey Awareness Weekend and I'll be joined by a special guest to commemorate the occasion during the intermission show!

Merritt takes to the highway for West Kelowna tomorrow, before returning home Saturday to host Coquitlam in the final game of the season series.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Complete Effort Boosts Cents To 6-1 Win In Trail:

With an opportunity to pick up their third consecutive victory on Saturday night, the Merritt Centennials took to the highways to boundary country, where a three-goal third period lifted the Cents to a 6-1 win over the Trail Smoke Eaters.

While a trio of players put up multi point games, six different Cents found the back of the net, including Bennett Huber who built a 2-0 lead with his first of the season in the opening period. Zach Hartley also garnered headlines, putting in his first BCHL goal in the third period.

Merritt finished on top on both the scoreboard and shot clock, as the 6-1 score translated to a final shot count of 39-17. Devin Kero’s toughest test came in the dying minutes, when he had to make a sharp glove save on a clear shot from the high slot.

Diego Cuglietta got the game off on the right foot midway through the opening period as he walked in with a hard snap shot which beat goaltender Dustin Nikkel as a result of a smart clearing play by Jake Clifford. Dane Birks gathered up the 2nd assist, with the time of the goal being 11:57. Gavin Gould then dropped a puck off for Bennett Huber with 1:34 left as Huber blasted home his 1srt of the season while Cuglietta drew the second assist. Shots after 20 minutes favoured Merritt 15-6.

Merritt got off to a quick start in the middle frame, as they picked up an early 3-on-1, and although unable to convert, the offense did return at 14:13 of the period. Sebastien Pare picked up a puck in the faceoff circle after Scotty Patterson got the initial shot away off the draw, with Pare beating Nikkel with a perfectly placed shot. The Smoke Eaters would finish the period hard though, as Jake Kaupilla fed a crisp pass to Curtis Toneiff who was sliding in from the point on the powerplay. Toneiff beat Kero with just 13 seconds left on the clock, as Trail held Merritt to fewer shots in the period, at 8-6 in the period favouring the Cents.

Three goals back-to-back-to-back for Merritt sealed this one, as Sam Johnson connected just 5:40 in on a setup from Clifford and Gould. Johnson's 3rd of the season put his club up 4-1 in the game. Under four minutes later, Rhett Willcox set up Zach Hartley for his first goal of his young BCHL season, in his 2nd game since returning from injury. At 13:57, the Cents would convert on the man advantage for the first time on the evening, as Scott Patterson fired home a goal right off the faceoff win from Jeff Wight. There wasn't many sparks after that point, although both goaltenders had to make sharp glove saves in the dying minutes, with Kero's stop being his best on the evening in which he made 16 stops on 17 shots. Dustin Nikkel made 31 of 37 saves in the loss, dropping the Smokies to 4-5-1-1 on the season. Merritt's win improves them to 6-5-0-0 on the year, good for 12 points and 3rd in the Interior Division. But don't blink, just 5 points separates last from first in the division.

Turning in impressive performances in the game were undoubtedly the top 4 lines up front, and the 6 players on defense, as well goaltender Kero. There wasn't any negative to take from that game, especially if you're Bennett or Zach, as getting that 1st goal of the year takes some of the anxiousness out of their games. I thought all six d-men stood out and it would be wrong to point out just one, as it was a smart game for everyone at both ends of the rink.

The Centennials will have a week of practice leading up to three games in three night’s next weekend, which begins Thursday when the Prince George Spruce Kings visit the Nicola Valley.

On Friday, Merritt heads to West Kelowna for the 3rd meeting between the teams’, while the Coquitlam Express pay a visit to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena on Saturday night.

Tune in to Thursday's game at 6:30 on Q101, while the Friday game is also set for a 7 PM puck drop. On Saturday, the puck will drop at 7:30.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Opening the NHL Season Among Friends At Boston Pizza:

 I was privileged enough this week to have been given the opportunity for a dining and NHL experience at Boston Pizza, as myself and some co-workers got together to watch the Vancouver Canucks take on the San Jose Sharks over ribs, wings and beers!

I hadn't been to the Boston Pizza location in Merritt to that point, so it was nice to get in there for the first time since there aren't many towns I stay in for hockey that don't involve monthly visits to the place where 'Hockey Lives'. It is a great setup with a wide variation of TV's in the lounge available for sports fans; small ones, big ones, LED ones, LCD ones and everything in between. It made the experience of watching the game very enjoyable!

On the side of what hit my plate, it would only be right to spoil myself and get the full rack of whiskey BBQ ribs! There's a picture at the bottom of the post of the aftermath of the wings we got for an appie.. The meal was topped with, in my mind, the best part, DESERT! They brought us all brownies and although I don't know what it was called it was probably the closest thing to a hat trick I have ever felt.

The staff treated us very well, and from the point we got there they were always making sure our visit was going as well as they'd hope. One of my friends actually requested to watch the end of the NFL Buffalo Bills game on the one TV, and after a couple tries, the waitress finally budged. Much to my demise of course, I'm all for being surrounded by Canucks!

There are some people out there that aren't all for supporting corporations in small towns, but in Merritt it's a completely small town setup there, and one of the biggest perks is that ALL YOU HAVE TO DO is tell them you're a Centennials fan and they'll send 5-10% of your bill to the Merritt Centennials Hockey Club. Not only do you enjoy a great meal, you also support your local junior hockey team while having a chance to watch your favorite NHL team play!

Boston Pizza - #HockeyLivesHere!

Centennials Slip By Grizzlies Thanks To Goal With 0.8 Seconds Left:

Check back late-morning on Saturday for highlights and period recaps.
Following a 4-3 win on Sunday over Cowichan Valley, the Merritt Centennials were bound and determined to pick up their second straight win on Friday night when the Victoria Grizzlies were in town.

Until this point, the Cents had failed to achieve consecutive wins, but thanks to James Neil's goal with 0.8 seconds left in regulation, the team will be heading to Trail coming off back-to-back 4-3 wins, and with confidence beginning to swing in their direction.

Also capitalizing for Merritt was Diego Cuglietta, whose first star performance also included two assists, and Sebastien Pare, who couldn't have gone any more top corner to put his team up by a pair early. Captain Payton Schaefer also scored, to tie the game late in the third on a goal you would hope a captain would score.

Goaltender Connor LaCouvee stopped 21 of 24, with a few key saves that could have allowed Victoria to take an earlier lead and perhaps a more widespread lead.

Replying for Victoria was Gerry Fitzgerald, who scored with a hard wrister while on a 2 on 1 with his brother Myles. Jesse Schwartz had the other two goals, with a game that included versatility in both ends of the rink.

Nic Renyard stopped 27 of 31 Centennial shots that came his way, 22 of which in the final two periods.

Merritt's powerplay went 1-for-4, while the Grizzlies capitalized on 1-of-2 powerplay opportunities.

With the win, the Cents are now 4th in the Interior Division with a record of 5-5-0-0 which is good for 10 points, while the Grizzlies record drops to 4-4-1-0, for 9 points on the season.

The Centennials visit the Trail Smoke Eaters on Saturday night with puck drop set for 7:30 PM, while the Q101 broadcast begins at 7:00 PM.

Game Notes:
-Zach Hartley returned to the lineup for the first time since the Showcase and looked to settle in to his game comfortabley as the game went on.
-Sam Johnson and Rhett Willcox both got in to fights during the 2nd period, providing sparks for the Centennials.
-Referee Brandon Liefke called a great game, something we see consistently from him.
-The Cents desire to win really showed in the late stages of the game; you have to give the guys credit for climbing back in front.
-0.8 seconds left, that's worth a note right there.