Saturday, November 30, 2013

Centennials Can't Produce Goals In Final Trip to Vernon:

A busy weekend for the Merritt Centennials on and off the ice kicked off with a loss in Vernon on Friday night, as Demico Hannoun scored twice for the Vipers in a 4-0 shutout victory.

In taking the loss, Devin Kero (32 saves) and the Centennials fell to 16-11-1-1, which is good for 34 points; 3 back of Vernon and 2 back of Penticton.

Hannoun also added an assist, as Austin Smith made all of 31 saves in his 1st shutout of the season. Scoring singles for the 15-7-3-4 Vipers was Chase McMurphy and Colton Sparrow.

Vernon finished the game at 1-for-7 on the man advantage, while the Cents failed to convert on each of their 3 opportunities.

Devin Kero had to be sharp early and often in this one, as the Kal Tire Place crowd of 1600 watched Kero make all but one save in the opening period. Four times Kero had to be sharp in the opening frame, stopping various potential Viper scoring opportunities. One of those plays had Michael Statchuk walk out from the corner in a NHL 14-like play, only in this one the goaltender actually made the save. Vernon did open the scoring as Riley Guenther centred a puck to a fresh legged Colton Sparrow in the slot at 16:09 on the man advantage. Josh Bryan also gathered an assist. Vernon outshot Merritt 12-7 in the period, and led 1-0 in to the dressing room. 

The Centennials brewed up some penalty trouble early in the 2nd, as Daniel Nachbaur dropped the mitts and squared up with Dexter Dancs at centre ice, although neither player was really able to free up any arms for too long. Nachbaur received the extra two for instigating, despite the two players both shedding the mitts and sticks at the same time in the defensive zone, before they backed off to centre. Momentum began to get difficult for the Cents to build, and Vernon began to take advantage of mis-reads from Merritt. Near the midway point of the period, Vernon had pressure in the Centennial zone following the expiration of a penalty, and Demico Hannoun added his first of two taking a pass from Michael McNicholas, although Statchuk has been credited with the lone assist. Just 1:29 later, Vernon struck again as Chase McMurphy beat Kero after a face-off in the Viper end which turned in to a crisp Viper break out in to a two-on-one rush with McMurphy and Hannoun, as Sparrow also picked up a helper. Demico Hannoun made it 4-0 when he got a ripped home a snap shot past Kero for his 9th of the season. Shots in the second period were 11-10 Vernon, but the scoreboard showed otherwise.

The third period wasn't much in terms of offensive excitement, although the performance from Devin Kero was nice to see after a tough second period in which Vernon fans got on his back during. Late in the period, the Centennials looked to become frustrated, and Sam Johnson provided the final spark as he dropped the mitts with Mark Hamilton right on the edge of the Viper bench. Johnson was in tough as his one arm was being used to propel himself from falling in to the bench, but he did a good job of avoiding a one-sided tilt and still got in a fair amount of rights. 

As Luke Pierce said on the Post Game Show, positives were far and few between but it's not too late for this group to turn that around. 24 hours later they get right back to work and the rest of Friday night was critical for the Saturday night game, in which fans should expect another strong effort from Bennett Huber, Devin Oakes and Payton Schaefer. 

It's Teddy Bear Toss Night tonight as the Centennials welcome the BCHL's top team in the Powell River Kings, along with BCHL Five Hole for Food Challenge Night, with puck drop set for 7:30.

Fans are encourage to bring their teddy bears to the game along with a non-perishable food item(or two!) to be donated to the local food bank.

Fans can purchase a Q-Bear during the Q101 fundraiser with help from the Cents Booster Club, which runs from 11:00-1:00 at Spirit Square in downtown Merritt.

Tickets can be purchased at the door, Cooper's and Canadian Tire.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Centennials Hit Road To Vernon Before Hosting Kings & Five Hole for Food Challenge:

With a record of 6-1-1 in the month of November, the Merritt Centennials take their 34 points in to a pair of games this weekend against two of the six teams in the BCHL with more points than Merritt. 

The Vernon Vipers host the 16-10-1-1 Centennials on Friday night at Kal-Tire Place, where the Cents have earned four points in a pair of games. The 14-7-3-4 Vipers sit a single point ahead of Merritt, and two points back of the Penticton Vees.

Scott Patterson and Jeff Wight have been dynamo's in the past games for the Cents, putting up points in four of their past five games. Wight has five goals in the stretch, while Patterson has recorded two goals and four assists.

Sebastien Pare is a pair of games from his 150th regular season game, and Luke Pierce is looking to break the 120-win mark - this weekend is teeing up to be very exciting and fun filled as well!

Gametime on Friday is 7 PM with the broadcast on Q101 beginning at 6:30.

Saturday night has the Centennials welcoming not just the 19-4-1-1 Powell River Kings to town, but also the BCHL Five Hole for Food Challenge. The goal is for Cents fans to bring their non-perishable food items to the rink and show the BCHL that the Nicola Valley can raise the highest total weight of donations in all of the league!

Gametime on Saturday is 7:30, and it is also Teddy Bear Toss Night! Fans are encouraged to bring their teddy bears to toss on to the ice immediately following the Centennials first goal of the evening. 

Listen to the game live on Q101 with the pregame show beginning at 7:00. Only once since the BCHL Showcase have the Centennials not scored a win after a loss, and this weekend's games are sure to give fans every reason to wear their jerseys to the rink and make lots of noise for the Cents. 

On Sunday, the Centennials will be participating in Hands of Hope, a food drive put together with help from Royal LePage in Merritt, watch out for the lit-up truck in your neighborhood, and be ready to make a food donation to the Nicola Valley and District Food Bank.

 Tickets for Saturday's game can be purchased at Cooper's Foods and Canadian Tire.

Movember is ending very very soon and I ask for your donations one last time! Please head to and search my name (Dustin Scafe) or Q101 or Merritt Centennials, and make a donation to support men's cancer research and awareness!

Reece Willcox, brother of current-Cent Rhett Willcox, scored a goal earlier this week for Cornell Big Red in a 4-2 win, as goaltender Mitch Gillam(former Chilliwack Chief) scored a goal in his NCAA debut. Willcox currently has 2+2 in 11 games for the Big Red so far this season. He will be at the final Centennials game before Christmas, which by the way is December 20th vs Salmon Arm! 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Centennials Take Weekend Series Opener Over Eagles With 5-4 Win:

Darius Davidson scored his first BCHL goal for the Surrey Eagles just over three minutes in to the hockey game, but the Merritt Centennials erased four separate leads after that in a 5-4 Centennial victory to open up a home-and-home series with the Eagles on Friday night.

Diego Cuglietta pocketed a pair of goals, including a shorthanded marker in the open in period, as Jeff Wight also scored two with Scott Patterson singling as Merritt improved to 16-9-1-1. Shane Poulsen also contributed in the offensive game with a pair of helpers, which included a near-goal on the tying goal, as his point shot his Wight's skate.

Joining Davidson on the box score for the 10-16-1-0 Eagles was Brett Mulcahy, Jonah Renouf and Luke Sandler. Bo Didur made 25 saves on 30 shots while facing a pair of former Vancouver NW Giant teammates in Malik Kaila and Gavin Gould.

Devin Kero debuted his new white, red and black pads(thanks to Bauer) and got to get them broken in with 22 of 26 saves in the game, including 19 of 20 after the first period.

Darius Davidson walked in on the left win 3:02 in the opening period and sent a hard wrist shot low glove side on Devin Kero, who got the start with Russell Sanderson out due to injury. Davidson's 1st BCHL goal came in his 26th game of the season, congratulations to him! Diego Cuglietta was then sent on a two-on-one by Dane Birks, and Cuglietta made no mistake of beating Bo Didur to tie the game with a shorthanded goal, his 2nd shorty of the season. Less then :30 seconds later, the Eagles would re-capture the lead as Jonah Renouf scored a very NHL14 like goal, as he walked out of the corner and out waited Kero for his 9th of the season. The offence wasn't done there, nor was it close to being done... Jeff Wight tied the game at 16:05 as Scotty Patterson fed him a puck deep in the offensive zone, and as Wight wrapped around the net Didur failed to get up tight to the post as the Cents tied the game at 2. Brett Mulcahy, the Surrey captain and a Kelowna-product with a strong Vernon/Armstrong tie, would rejuvenate the Eagles lead with 2:15 left in the period as he wired home a snap shot past Kero. That is where the game sat after just 20 minutes, 3-2 Eagles. Shots in the frame were 9-6 Merritt.

Patterson was allowed to streak in on a 2-on-1 five minutes in to the middle frame on a strong puck-up-ice play from Bennett Huber, which gave Patterson an option to shoot or pass to Daniel Nachbaur. Patterson shot and picked up his team leading 16th goal of the season, as Nachbaur returned to the lineup for the first time since getting surgery over a month ago. At around the 9 minute mark, Didur made his best save as Cuglietta went in with a slap shot, but was robbed by the glove of the Surrey net minder. Payton Schaefer fired a chance off the crossbar, before pressure went back the other way and Luke Sandler put the Eagles back in front 4-3. Sandler pulled a similar move as Wight's, and it also worked as Kero couldn't get his pad on the ice quick enough for the final time in the hockey game. Surrey's lead lasted just 1:46 before Jeff Wight tied it up once again, taking a Poulsen point shot off the side of his foot. Sebastien Pare also picked up an assist, in a game which he seemed to be getting under the skin of his opponents. Cuglietta gave Merritt their first lead of the hockey game with just 1:31 left in the second period, as James Neil fired a puck on net to have it bounce back out to Poulsen, whose shot was deflected right to the stick of Diego for the eventual game-winner. Merritt went to the room in front 5-4 on the scoreboard and 18-13 overall on the shot clock.

The third period didn't bring as much excitement as the opening forty minutes, although it was clear the Centennials wanted to protect their lead, as they won several puck and board battles. A pair of Centennials left the game and did not return in the third period, with James Neil appearing to limp off the ice after blocking a shot, and Scott Patterson being the victim of a questionable hit from Luke Sandler. The Sandler 5-minute Major was issued with just 2:30 left in the game, and the Centennials were unable to put the puck in the net during their 5th man advantage of the night although Cuglietta came close to adding an empty netter. You have to hope for the best for James and Scotty, as the Centennials have seen an increased production rate from both in recent weeks. Merritt was outshot 13-12 in the period, as both goaltenders made key saves including two big stops by Kero in the final period to preserve the 5-4 win.

With the win, the Cents stay atop the division as Vernon also picked up a victory and Penticton lost to Coquitlam. Merritt's record is now 16-9-1-1 with 34 points. Zach Hartley played a very unsung game along with Sam Johnson and Bennett Huber, mind you Huber did pick up a point. Those three were moving the entire game, that's what coaches like to see. Malik Kaila was also versatile on the blue line, and Shane Poulsen played yet another standout game. 

Impressing for the Eagles were the Renouf twins, who don't seem to back off of anything despite their size. Two very skilled players who will take their twin powers to Quinnipiac to replace the Jones twins! Danton Heinen also played a strong game, along with his line mates Nic Pierog and Brett Mulcahy. Domenic Masellis is just 16 years old but pushed over 210 pounds on the scale, and his presence was felt all game. I can't wait to see this kid play at 20. 

A rematch. Tonight. South Surrey Arena. The game ended with sparks last night so we're sure to be in for a barn burner beginning at 7 PM down on the coast. If you can't make it to the rink, you can always tune in on Q101 - Merritt's Music Mix, beginning at 6:30 with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show!

It will be a busy night in the BCHL as Merritt, Vernon and Penticton all have chances to take sole possession of first in the Interior Division, so make sure you scoreboard watch!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

James Neil Scores Three As Centennials Sail Past Clippers:

The Nanaimo Clippers wrapped up a three game Interior swing on Sunday afternoon with a visit to the Merritt Centennials and the confines of the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, following Friday's Clipper loss in Trail and a win in Penticton on Saturday.

The Centennials had won four straight prior to a 4-3 OT loss to Vernon on Friday, and they turned things around quickly as James Neil scored early, late, and even in-between to give the Centennials a 3-1 win over Mike Vandekamp's Clippers.

Neil's hat-trick gives him nine goals on the season, while the Centennials improved to 15-9-1-1 on the season, keeping on pace with Vernon atop the Interior Division.

Devin Kero made 23 saves in the victory as the Centennials outshot Nanaimo 54-24 in the contest, which included 21 shots in the opening period.

Jayson Argue was phenomenal in goal for the Clippers, making 51 saves, as Nanaimo fell to 13-11-0-1. Corey Renwick has been credited with the lone goal, his 2nd of the season.

Three penalties in the opening 5:00 of the game didn't allow either team to develop a good start to the 5-on-5 transitional game, but a Clipper penalty at the 3:30 mark allowed the Centennials to hem down pressure on the Clippers and that energy seemed to carry through the whole game. At the 3:56 mark, James Neil beat goaltender Jayson Argue at the side of the goal as Shane Poulsen worked the puck on net where Bennett Huber dug away to free it up for Neil for his 6th of the season. Both teams began to show some tempers as the period wound down, and that business was definitely not dealt with heading in to the intermission. Merritt played, in my eyes, what could have been their best period of hockey of the season, and it paid off with 21 shots compared to Nanaimo's 8.

Merritt continued to show the same work ethic and forecheck in the middle frame, although goals were nowhere to be found for either club. Another thing that carried over from the first was the physicality and the obvious presence of some tension. This was a difficult game for the officials to manage and I think they did a good job of keeping both teams at equal distance as not one glove was shed, and despite some question calls and no-calls, there is a reason only played had to serve anything more than a 2-minute minor. The best of the action in the second period would come late in the period, as it felt like from the 15:00 to 5:00 marks there was nothing but whistles, with drama brewing after most of those whistles. Argue made his best save of the game late in the second when he robbed Tyler Martin on a bullet from the blue line, reaching his glove out and spreading the legs to make for highlight-reel quality. Devin Kero then called his glove and raised him a blocker moments later, making a sharp glove stop on a Clipper rush. Merritt controlled the majority of the pace, albeit slower than the first, outshooting Nanaimo 18-7.

I said late in the second period that a late-period goal would boost the scoring team to a win, and although the late goal didn't come, an early one did. James Neil was set up with a gift from Gavin Gould just :56 seconds in, bow-tie and all. Roofing it by the Clipper netminder, Neil put the Cents up 2-0 as Diego Cuglietta drew the second assist after missing the Friday game with illness, the same illness that forced Rhett Willcox and Russell Sanderson out of the lineup on Sunday. Late in the period, Nanaimo began their push as the stripes' put away the whistles for the final 10 minutes. Corey Renwick was given a puck in the slot as he beat Kero for his 2nd goal of the season, as Eric Margo and Ryan Forbes garnered helpers. That line developed the opportunity with a strong forecheck, and Luke Pierce said after the game that the goal was a perfect play and it wasn't caused by any Centennial mistakes. Goaltender Argue raced to the bench in the final minute as Nanaimo looked towards the goal, but pucks kept bouncing along the boards and the Cents were able to skate away with it, three to centre. James Neil moved up the right wing, with clogged options in the middle and an open shot for the empty net; he chose to creatively pass to the far side, but the pass bounced off sticks and legs right back to Neil, who finished off the karmatic hat-trick to seal the deal. The final six seconds ran down and the Centennials improved to 15-9-1-1, which keeps them tied with Vernon atop the division(32 points). 

There weren't many areas of the Merritt game you can look back at and say needed tweaking. They played a near-perfect home game, and as Pierce said on the post game show, there hasn't been the kind of solo-domination in a Cents jersey quite like James Neil showed fans. Neil was supported by a perfect supporting cast, as the Centennials played smart in all areas of the ice. Showing strong games were Bennett Huber and Zach Hartley, despite being placed in to situations and lines otherwise unfamiliar. Cuglietta was great once again, playing key in the face-off circle, while the line of Patterson-Wight-Pare had plenty of chances but just couldn't get one to go. After a strong game on Friday, Sam Johnson also showed hustle and hands, nearly converting on two or three chances. Can I keep going? Payton Schaefer and Tyler Martin were heart-and-soul guys all game long, and showed why they have C's on their jerseys. Devin Kero was... once again great. He is so strong positionally and his reflexes were spot-on despite it being a middle of the day game.

Impessing for the Clippers, as I said, was their goaltender Jayson Argue. He was fantastic and the only reason Nanaimo didn't lose this game by a much different score. There seemed to be some frustration building, and being expressed, from the Clipper players, but you have to commend AP Spencer Loverock for keeping his nose to the grindstone, and keeping focussed on the game in front of him. Bo Brauer and Spencer Hewson both were business-first players from puck drop and played hard in the neutral zone and Hewson was the best penalty killer on the ice tonight. Austin Dick also had the puck ALOT, and never seemed to lose it unless he was passing off to a team mate.

Your Centennials have a home-and-home series with the struggling Surrey Eagles this coming weekend, beginning in the Nicola Valley on Friday night! Puck drop is 7:30, and it's the final home game before the BCHL Five Hole for Food Challenge, which takes place November 30th!

The 2nd game of the weekend goes on Saturday in Surrey, puck drop is 7:00. As always, your Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame show begins 30 minutes prior to game time!

Notes: It was great to have finally met long-time BCHL play by play voice Dan Marshall. Dan worked in Penticton prior to Nanaimo so I have been aware of his great ability for a long time! Mike Vandekamp and Trainer Rhett White were two faces I haven't seen in a couple years, so it was also nice to catch up with them! Mike had an opportunity to catch up with some in-laws before player meetings started, must be nice to come back and feel a sense of comfort! 

Daniel Nachbaur, who has played just eight games this season, is close to returning to the lineup. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Vipers Rebound In Third To Edge Cents 4-3 In OT:

With the Vernon Vipers being held to just a single point in their first two home games of a seven game season series with the Merritt Centennials, the first go-around at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena was teed up to be a battle of two hungry teams grinding out atop the division standings.

Jeff Wight put up a pair in his return to the Centennials lineup on Friday night, but his leadership in the middle frame was countered by a Brendan Persley tying goal in the third period and a Riley Guenther overtime winner as the Vipers slipped past the Cents 4-3 1:28 in to OT.

The game opened with three even strength goals, before the powerplay took over as Merritt finished 2-for-3 and Vernon went 1-for-6 on the man advantage. Had Vernon picked up one extra PPG, they would have pulled out of the league's worst powerplay position, while the Cents hang in the top-3 with their conversion rate of 22.8%.

Both goaltenders looked strong in the pipes, with Devin Kero making 25 saves in the loss and Austin Smith stopped 29 of 32 for his first win since September 27th. 

Two skilled teams hit the ice on Friday and it became evident early on as the teams' skilled players began to find their stride, with end-to-end action having fans in to the game early. Ryan Renz was the first player to step up big offensively, as the Vipers captain went end to end and created a chance for Dexter Dancs before Liam Coughlin found the puck at the side of the net and beat Kero to get Vernon up 1-0 7:01 in to the first. The lead lived short though, as Merritt would control the pace in the moments following the goal, resulting in a tally of their own. At 7:55, Scott Patterson tipped a point shot from Shane Poulsen to match Pattersons' point totals from 12/13 in exactly half the games. Sebastien Pare chipped in with his first of three assists on the night. Matty Saharchuk got the Vipers back in the drivers seat at 11:31, as he got a pass from Dancs from behind the net and sent a wrist shot past Kero to put Vernon up 2-1. Shots in the opening period were 12-9 in favour of the Vipers.

Merritt began to play with that 'home ice' edge in the second period, beginning with an early-period shorthanded breakaway for Jeff Wight. Goaltender Smith ended up closing the legs in time as he kept Vernon in front, but a Saharchuk penalty under five minutes later put the Cents up a man, and they made no mistake then. Jeff Wight got a pass from Sebastien Pare as the Vipers tried to clear the zone, and Tyler Martin worked defensively to help Wight return to the lineup in style for his 7th of the season. The 8th of the year was next for Wight, as roughly eight minutes later he was again set up by Pare, as well as Patterson, to put the Cents in front 3-2. With shots counting up as 12-5 Merritt, it was clear which team carried momentum in to the intermission.

Early in the third period, Wight again created opportunities as he nearly converted before Wayland Williams chipped in on the forecheck, but Smith was solid in the Viper goal, with added help from shots sent wide. Brendan Persley tied the game for Vernon at the 10:46 mark as he earned a breakaway while his team was up a man, and he tied the game at 3-3 with helpers to Michael McNicholas and Josh Bryan. The powerplay was given to Vernon following a scrum in which coincidental were issued plus an extra two to the Cents. The game was headed to an extra frame split at 3, with Merritt edging Vernon 31-28 on the shot clock through regulation.

Both teams picked up a shot in the overtime, but it was Vernon that made that shot count as Dexter Dancs did all the work to set up Riley Guenther, who fired a puck from the low left point past Kero on the blocker side to give Vernon their 12th win of the season, lifting them to a 12-6-2-4 record while the Centennials fell to 14-9-1-1.

Strong efforts were turned in by Sam Johnson and Jake Clifford, who showed several different sides to their game at both ends of the rink. Johnson drew in to some key face-offs and was very strong in board battles, while Clifford wasn't afraid to carry his team by getting the puck up ice in a hurry.

It's a quick turnaround for the Cents, as the Nanaimo Clippers conclude their Interior swing with a 2 pm puck drop on Sunday at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.

Saturday has the Clippers in Penticton, so the first of two meetings this season between the clubs' could have the Cents facing a fatigued Clipper club.

While puck drop is set for 2:00, the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show warms fans up for puck drop at 1:30 on Q101 - Merritt's Music Mix!

Tune in online at

Q101 and the Merritt Centennials raised $213.00 for Movember at last night's game, during a pre game tailgate party. There will be a donation box at the Cents Store on Sunday, so please make a donation small or large! 

One more note: 
He's a no-show. Newly acquired defence man Curtis Toneff will not be reporting to the Centennials. No word whether he will quit the game or play Junior B, but the decision definitely makes you scratch your head as the Centennials have been established as a Premier Junior A organization in the BCHL. Coach Luke Pierce expressed his thoughts during Friday's pre game show, and said he expected Curtis to show up excited and ready to compete, but he was surprised by what he said felt like a knock to the organization. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cents Hone Blueline, Add Toneff From Smoke Eaters:

The Merritt Centennials swapped Dylan Bowen to the Trail Smoke Eaters for Curtis Toneff Wednesday, in a d-man for d-man deal.

Well as I can imagine, it wasn't a deal that was easy for the coaching staff to make, but it's a business and the business is to improve your team. I feel as though with Luke and Joe adding Curtis Toneff they improve their back end that is already very skilled.

Curtis brings plenty of experience to the lineup, and will be suited up come Friday night when the Vipers are in town.

I want to personally wish Dylan the best of luck in Trail, he is a great kid with a very bright future. Plus, he can shoot the puck in to the back of the net!

Curtis Toneff
6'1 170 lbs
Nanaimo, BC

Here's the release:

The Merritt Centennials are pleased to announce the acquisition of defenceman Curtis Toneff (93) from the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL in exchange for defenceman Dylan Bowen (95).

Toneff, 20, brings a veteran presence to an already-solid defensive core, having played over 100 games at the Junior A level. The Nanaimo, BC product spent time in the SJHL, MJHL, and with Alberni Valley, Westside and Trail of the BCHL. Most recently, Toneff has been a force on the Smoke Eaters blueline, recording 13 points in 24 games. 

"We felt that we needed to add a different element to our defense core and believe that Curtis is the right type of player for our group." said Cents GM & Head Coach Luke Pierce. "He adds more experience and a certain level of physicality and grit. He has had a productive season so far offensively and can contribute when needed in that capacity."

Pierce gave strong kudos to Bowen for his time in the Nicola Valley, "Dylan was a great person here in Merritt and we thank him for his contributions to our club. We think he has a bright future in the game and will hopefully have a more prominent role in Trail with the direction they are taking."

"We look forward to welcoming Curtis to Merritt this weekend and are excited to see him in a Centennial jersey." Pierce concluded.

For further information, please contact Cents Head Coach and GM Luke Pierce at 250-378-3607 or email

The Cents next game is Friday, November 15th against the Vernon Vipers at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. Game time is 7:30 pm. Fans can listen to the game on Q101 FM in Merritt or watch online at

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Centennials Earn National Recognition In CJHL Rankings:

After collecting wins in four consecutive games, the Merritt Centennials have given the BCHL another team to boast about for the time being, as the Nicola Valley's team has been listed as an honourable mention on the CJHL Top 20 Weekly Rankings.

The string of recent success began with a 7-2 win over Chilliwack, followed by a 3-2 victory to end off last weekend's action. This past weekend had the nets come up against the Mainland Divison-best Langley Rivermen. Merritt earned a big 2-1 victory on home ice on Friday night, followed by a double overtime thriller 3-2 win on Saturday in Langley.

Scott Patterson has 5 goals and an assist in his previous four games, and linemate Sebastien Pare has 1 goal and 5 assists, while Gavin Gould has 2+3 in the same four game stretch. Diego Cuglietta has 1+3 to round out the players striking above the PPG mark as of late.'

In goal, Russell Sanderson stopped 44 of 48 in back-to-back wins over Chilliwack, before Devin Kero filled in for an injured Sanderson against Langley and stopped 62 of 65 shots from Rivermen sticks.

Here's the official release:

CALGARY, Alberta - The AJHL's Fort McMurray Oil Barons spend another week as the CJHL's top ranked team, but for the first time in over a year the Brooks Bandits, in the midst of a three game losing streak, have fallen out of the Top 20. The Spruce Grove Saints on the other hand, with fifteen wins in a row, have moved up into the Top 5 at #4 this week. In the ultra competitive North Division of the AJHL, the Whitecourt Wolverines remain close to the top of standings and have earned an Honorary Mention. The Powell River Kings remain at the top of the Island Division and the overall standings, but six teams are within four points of the Kings and the top spot in the BCHL.
The Steinbach Pistons hold onto the #2 position overall for another week in the Top 20, but the Portage Terriers and the Selkirk Steelers remain within striking distance in the MJHL. Over in the SJHL, the Melville Millionaires are still rolling, and the Yorkton Terriers and Estevan Bruins are doing everything possible to stay near the top of the standings.
The Fort Frances Lakers continue to dismantle and dominate the SIJHL, and move up one ranking to sit at #3 this week. Thunder Bay falls two to #15. In Northern Ontario, the Soo Thunderbirds had a small hiccup, but are firmly in control of the NOJHL standings. Kirkland Lake moves up one ranking and occupies #13 this week.
The Buffalo Jr. Sabres and Toronto Lakeshore Patriots each had another strong week and move up two and six spots respectively in the rankings. Wellington and Kingston continue to battle hard in the East Division of the OJHL. Finally, the North York Rangers are showing signs of becoming the top team most pundits thought they would be this season. In the CCHL, the Carleton Place Canadiens are starting to pull away, but the Pembroke Lumber Kings, the Ottawa Jr. Senators and the Smiths Falls Bears are bunched closely together in the fight for second place overall in the CCHL.
Les Titans de Princeville have jumped back into the top spot in the LHJAAAQ after a strong week, and Les Montagnards de Sainte-Agathe have now reeled off six victories in a row to hold onto their Honorary Mention. With the Yarmouth Mariners losing their rink due to the World Junior A Challenge, the Weeks Crushers took advantage of their own games and have jumped up into #11 in the Top 20, while the Truro Bearcats have also earned an Honorary Mention.
Top 20 Rankings
1. Fort McMurray Oil Barons (AJHL) (1)
2. Steinbach Pistons (MJHL) (2)
3. Fort Frances Lakers (SIJHL) (4)
4. Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) (6)
5. Powell River Kings (BCHL) (5)
6. Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL) (3)
7. Buffalo Jr. Sabres (OJHL) (9)
8. Carleton Place Canadiens (CCHL) (10)
9. Melville Millionaires (SJHL) (17)
10. Toronto Lakeshore Patriots (OJHL) (16)
11. Weeks Crushers (MHL) (19)
12. Portage Terriers (MJHL) (HM)
13. Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (NOJHL) (14)
14. Wellington Dukes (OJHL) (12)
15. Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL) (13)
16. Selkirk Steelers (MJHL) (15)
17. Penticton Vees (BCHL) (18)
18. Yorkton Terriers (SJHL) (HM)
19. Yarmouth Jr. 'A' Mariners (MHL) (11)
20. Les Titans de Princeville (LHJAAAQ) (NR)
Honourable Mention: Merritt Centennials (BCHL), Whitecourt Wolverines (AJHL), Estevan Bruins (SJHL), Les Montagnards de Sainte-Agathe (LHJAAAQ), Truro Bearcats (MHL).
About the Top 20 Rankings
The CJHL Top 20 weekly rankings are based upon a variety of factors, including the league in which the team plays, winning percentage, win-loss record, total points accumulated, goals-for versus goals-against ratio, etc.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Centennials Earn Weekend Sweep of Rivermen Down In Langley:

When two teams face each other on back to back evenings, it is not and has never been a secret that in the second game emotions tend to be a little closer to that edge. The Langley Rivermen and Merritt Centennials played with an edge for much of last night's game, as the Centennials responded from a third period deficit to win 3-2 in double overtime thanks to Gavin Gould scoring the game winner, his 2nd OT winner of the season.

With 16 shots in the middle frame, Merritt was able to just get by Langley on the shot clock, edging them 41-37, as Devin Kero made 35 saves, including 15+ after being injured after being taken to the ice by a Langley player. Brock Crossthwaite made 38 saves at the other end, after watching from the bench on Friday night.

With the win, the Centennials jump in to a share of top spot in the British Columbia Hockey League, with a record of 14-9-1-0. Despite picking up just 1 of 4 points, the Rivermen are tied with Merritt as well as the Powell River Kings for 1st in the standings.

Merritt hosts Vernon on Friday night, as students of Nicola Valley Institute of Technology are invited to bring their friends and families!

Unlike the Friday game, there wasn't a goal in the opening 62 seconds and that allowed the game to start with much better pace although it was the Centennials who went shorthanded first off a Devin Oakes tripping minor. Upon expiration of the penalty, Oakes was sprung in along but was stopped by Crossthwaite, but momentum carried over just under two minutes later, as Gavin Gould flew up the left wing on a pass from Diego Cuglietta. Gould found a seem to thread the puck to James Neil, who somehow got by everyone and got the puck over the goaltender in tight, marking Neil's 6th goal of the season which puts him one back of last season's totals. Merritt was outshot 10-7 in the period, as either team limited significant chances for the most part. 

Hoping to build on the lead, the Centennials weren't able to open the game up too much in the middle frame but they found a much better shot selection, with shots coming from a variety of angles and locations. Merritt put up 3 or 4 good scoring chances in the period that only developed because of responsible, creative plays. Langley was, for the most part, quieter in the period, although they did a good job defensively in keeping the Centennials shots to outside angles. Some physical play did pick up, as Nathan Craft earned himself a hit-to-the-head misconduct, while Rhett Willcox delivered a punishing check to Austin Azurdia near centre ice. The game remained 1-0 Centennials after 40, as shots at the point stood at 23-18 Merritt.

It has seemed to be a slight trend as of late for goals to come in particular periods, and tonight it was the third period. Mitch McLain began the three-goal period as he tied the game up by adding some extra heat to a Chris Forney shot, which beat Kero to get the game tied at 2:52 on the power play. Just under 6 minutes later, the Rivermen took the lead as Marcus Vela scored his 2nd goal in as many nights, on a setup from Azurdia. After the tying goal, it seemed to take some of the life from the Centennials and then the 2-1 goal took even more from the team, but they would bounce back. The biggest point of turnaround came when goaltender Kero was knocked to the ice by a Rivermen player, and somehow the Centennials ended up shorthanded. Perhaps it was Kero fighting through the injury that inspired them, perhaps it was wanting vengeance after the one-way call; but either way the Centennials tied it up late in the game as Diego Cuglietta and Tyler Martin read a play perfectly to get Martin along the right wing boards as Cuglietta flew to the slot where he fired the puck past Crossthwaite. The tables turned at that point and it seemed the momentum Merritt initially had lost, had been taken right back. Final shots in regulation were 37-34 Centennials, as we headed to OT with Shane Poulsen and Liam McDermott in the penalty box to start the overtime.

The first overtime had both teams playing fairly cautious, but what shocked me was that Langley went with a pair of defenders while Merritt went with a pair of forwards. It didn't work out right away, but come the 3-on-3 overtime, the ice would open up. Diego Cuglietta and Gavin Gould hurried the puck in to the zone, and while the puck was thrown on goal by Gould, Austin Azurdia threw the puck right back out to the slot for #16, who buried his 8th of the season to earn the extra point for his hockey club.

Cuglietta and Gould were two players the Centennials may not have won without on Saturday, as they both stepped up at key times in different ways. Gould really increased his physical presence and it paid off huge with the winner. Luke Santerno, Austin Campeau and Kristian Stead were with the Centennials on the trip, with Stead nearly getting a chance to get between the pipes had Kero not shaken off the pain. Santerno was once again strong and fast, while Campeau played like a veteran blue liner after getting the first couple shifts under his belt.

With a split of first spot in the league, the Centennials will be looking for their 5th consecutive win on Friday night when Graham Turnbull and the Vernon Vipers travel to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.

Gametime is 7:30, and it's NVIT Night meaning it should be a packed house! Tune in at 7:00 on Q101 that evening as we get the pre game show going.

Pair of Centennials Wake Up Sunday Packed Up, Medals Around Neck:

Here's a great story to wake up to on your Sunday! I'll have the recap from the Centennials 3-2 2OT win before noon, but for now, congratulations to Dane Birks and Jeff Wight on being crowned Bronze Medal champs at the World Junior A Challenge!

This is posted on the Hockey Canada website:

Switzerland 3 – Canada West 5 


YARMOUTH, N.S. – Jeff Wight (Coquitlam, B.C./Merritt, BCHL) scored the game-winner with just 2:19 to go, leading Canada West to a 5-3 victory over Switzerland on Friday, and the bronze medal at the 2013 World Junior A Challenge.

The bronze is the first for Canada West at the tournament. It has now won medals in seven of eight appearances, including three gold medals (2006, 2007, 2011) and three silver (2008, 2009, 2012).

Nicholas Jones (Edmonton, Alta./Sherwood Park, AJHL), Steen Cooper (Duncan, B.C./Cowichan Valley, BCHL), Pail Stoykewych (Winnipeg, Man./Penticton, BCHL) and Dylan Hollman (Red Deer, Alta./Spruce Grove, AJHL) had the other Canadian goals.

Wight and Hollman finished with multiple-point performances; both added an assist to their goal.

David Wildhaber, Thomas Studer and Riccardo Sartori scored for Switzerland, which trailed 3-0 just past the midway point of the second period before mounting a comeback.

It’s the first time in three trips to the World Junior A Challenge that Switzerland has not left with a medal; the Swiss were bronze medallists in 2010 and last year.

The scoring started early, with Jones batting in the game’s first goal just 59 seconds after the puck dropped. It would be the only goal of the first period, during which the Canadians were outshot 8-4.

Cooper converted on a power play seven minutes into the second period and Stoykewych pushed the lead to three at 12:05, seemingly putting Canada West in control, but the Swiss comeback started less than two minutes later.

Wildhaber got Switzerland on the board at 13:57, and Studer scored with the man advantage less than three minutes later to pull the Swiss to within a single goal headed to the second intermission.

The comeback was complete at 13:15 of the third period, when Sartori tied the game.

Undaunted, the Canadians continued to apply pressure, and were rewarded with the go-ahead goal when Wight dragged the puck into the slot and unleashed a rocket of a wrist shot over the glove of Swiss netminder Nicola Aeberhard.

Hollman scored into the empty net with 12.9 seconds left to provide the final margin of victory.

Aeberhard finished with 34 saves, while Canada West goaltender Jesse Jenks (Crofton, B.C./Prince George, BCHL) turned away 21 of 24 shots to pick up his third win of the tournament. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Centennials Begin Weekend Double Header With Home Ice Win:

To step up and lead a team to victory in the BCHL is a task that takes tremendous character and desire to succeed, and that is exactly what Scotty Patterson exemplified on Friday night as his two goals helped the Merritt Centennials slip by the Langley Rivermen 2-1.

The Centennials got another equally credited effort from the goaltender Devin Kero, who made 33 saves in the victory, many of them were a result of a strongly positioned Kero.

Both of the Centennials goals were assisted by Sebastien Pare and Jake Clifford, who both chipped in with very strong games among many other Cents. Marcus Vela scored the lone Langley goal early in the game.

With the victory, the Centennials jump right in to top spot in the Interior Division with a record of 13-9-1-0. The Mainland Division leading Rivermen fell to 13-6-1-1 on the season, with a single point lead over Prince George.

Marcus Vela opened the scoring just 1:02 in to the game when he moved in to the Cents zone on the left wing and caught Devin Kero off guard, slipping the puck between his legs. The clubs exchanged opportunities over the next 10 minutes or so, and at the 13:41 mark the Centennials struck back as Jake Clifford moved the puck up ice and attempted to fire it up to Patterson but the biscuit would slide to Pare first as he set up Patterson for a big time shot in the low left circle that beat Steve Myland to tie the game. Both teams had a single penalty in the period, but Dylan Bowen's minor extended in to the second period as the Rivermen outshot Merritt 11-5 in the period. That number did get changed to 11-5 Merritt on the BCHL box score, but I am not sure when/why that got reversed.

The early stages of the middle period had the Rivermen set up their powerplay early but a strong shorthanded effort from the 'caged' Centennials in Diego Cuglietta and Rhett Willcox killed it off and got their team momentum. Clifford moved up the right side boards just over 2:00 in to the period, chucked it ahead to Pare who once again found Patterson, who as the goal call stated, "He roofed it!", 2-1 Cents. After the goal, the two teams had to turn to developing everything and anything, but opportunities became fairly scarce with several neutral zone whistles and a fair share of penalties as well. Adam Tracey took a hard knee-on-knee collision early in the period, and did not return to the game as Cuglietta filled in for the most part with Zach Hartley and Willcox. Langley had a 13-11 shot advantage in the period, but at that point trailed the game 2-1.

Another player who played a strong game in a Cents jersey was AP Luke Santerno. It was his BCHL debut and he looked very comfortable, especially in the latter stages of the game when Coach Joe Martin gave him opportunities to strut his stuff. The game had an increased physical presence as it wore on, and you have to commend Ref Brandon Liefke for keeping everyones emotions in check, as both teams had just four man advantages. Saturday night has the potential to see a carry-over, so make sure to tune in to another exciting game! At one point late in the period, Mitch McLain turned the puck up ice and moved towards Kero and Cents goal before putting the puck in the net as he crashed in to the goaltender. The officiating crew consulted the goal, but waved it off. From my view, the puck was in the net before the net was off, although it may have been a goalie interference penalty, which would've negated the goal anyways. Merritt ended up hanging on for a squeaker, as the Rivermen pressed but couldn't beat Kero to tie the game up.

Strong games were turned in by many Cents, as I mentioned, but a side note needs to be made on the game played by Gavin Gould, Sam Johnson, Devin Oakes, and Malik Kaila on the back end. All four players played very strong in all areas of the ice and their legs were always moving. Not to mention more than one of those guys had to stand up for a team mate at some point of the game.

Merritt is on the road on Saturday in Langley for Part 2 of the home-and-home series, beginning at 7:15 from Langley Events Centre. Tune in to Q101 as the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show begins at 6:45!

After a trip to Langley, it's another near-week off, before the Vernon Vipers are in Merritt Friday of next week for their first visit of the season! Come down to the rink early and see Graham Turnbull, former voice of the Cents!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Centennials Preparing To Team Up And Give Back To Community:

The Merritt Centennials are gearing up for a weekend home-and-home with the Langley Rivermen, which begins Friday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. Tune in to the broadcast on Q101 beginning at 7:00 PM, before Saturday night's broadcast begins at 6:45 from the Langley Events Centre!
Coming up at the end of the month is the Five Hole for Food Challenge, on November 30th when the Powell River Kings are in town. Fans are asked to bring down donations, whether cash or non-perishable food items; to support our local food bank!
Here is the Merrit article on a joint venture with the BCHL Challenge, Hands of Hope..
Royal LePage Merritt and the Merritt Centennials are coming together for what they’re hoping will be “the biggest food drive Merritt has ever seen.”
The plan is to send out a fleet of pickup trucks strung with Christmas lights and playing festive music on the Dec. 1 collection day. Each truck will have a team of four or five people walking alongside it to collect food from the houses along the street, Royal LePage owner and food drive organizer Claudette Edenoste said. Each group will also have a Centennials player on board.
Edenoste said organizers already have over 100 volunteers (including Centennials players) and 16 trucks for the event, but they’re seeking more help.
Organizers have split the city into nine zones, but say they’re able to accommodate more volunteers to make the workload a little easier on everyone. Edenoste said the team estimated it would take about four or five hours to cover the city, but that timeframe could be shorter if they recruit more volunteers.
“Either you can walk or donate your truck with lights. The more people we have, the better it will be,” she said.
Hands of Hope comes at the end of the Merritt Country Christmas weekend, which sees dozens of locals put lights on their company and even private vehicles for the Santa Claus parade on Friday night.
“After the parade, there’ll be a lot of trucks that’ll have Christmas lights on the vehicles, and we’re asking anybody from the parade if they’d like to join us for that Sunday. They could keep the lights on their trucks and join us for Hands of Hope,” Edenoste said. “People will see these lit trucks coming down the road and wonder what the heck’s going on. It’s going to be very different from your average food drive because we’re going to be in the spirit of Christmas with the lights and the music.”
Hands of Hope is modelled after a similar food drive in Quesnel, which Edenoste called “very successful.” Organizers held a contest to name the food drive, which they’re hoping will become annual, and Edenoste said the name Hands of Hope was chosen because it best summarized the spirit of the event.
“Hands of Hope is all these hands coming together for one great cause,” she said. “It says it all.”
Volunteers will meet at the Civic Centre at 2 p.m. on Dec. 1 and will start canvassing the city around 3 p.m.
Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Claudette or Lynda Etchart at Royal LePage at 378-6181.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Centennials Win In Merritt To Sweep Home-and-Home With Chiefs:

With an opportunity to earn a second straight win over the Chilliwack Chiefs, the Merritt Centennials knew it probably wouldn't end up another high scoring game, but once again consecutive goals helped lift the Cents to victory; this time by a 3-2 score.

Rather than rely on the likes of Scott Patterson and Sebastien Pare once again, it was the Centennials depth players who stepped up to bat in this game. Rhett Willcox and Adam Tracey provided goals for the 'fourth' line, while James Neil scored a beauty of a shorthanded goal to tie the game at one. Russell Sanderson earned a well-deserved nod as First Star, saving 21 Chief shots.

The Chiefs didn't need to solely rely on their goaltender like they did at times on Friday, as they seemed to do a good job of clogging up the neutral zone. Andrew Silard scored once and added an assist, while Matheiu Tibbet did the same. Josh Halpenny, who played in half of the 7-2 Chiefs' loss, looked much more in the zone, stopping 29 of 32 shots.

The 12-9-1-0 Centennials are off for the week as they prepare for the Langley Rivermen on Friday at home, before hitting the road for Langley on Saturday. The 4-12-1-2 Chiefs host Alberni Valley on Sunday, while they begin a home-and-home on Friday in Surrey.

Action began just moment after the puck dropped, as Andrew Silard found a puck just :27 seconds in after a shot from Matheiu Tibbet, which then went in the air and over Russell Sanderson's head and rolled behind the goaltender to open the scoring. The lead lasted just over five minutes before the Cents got on the board, when James Neil stripped the puck from the man-up Chiefs, streaking in and beating goaltender Josh Halpenny to tie it up at 6:21. From there, the Cents would build on a big save from their goaltender and the momentum allowed Rhett Willcox to walk in alone and roof the puck for his 2nd of the season. Gavin Gould and Shane Poulsen picked up the helpers in the goal at 9:48. Things would slow down, seemingly, for the next 7 or 8 minutes, before the Cents got right back to it. Zach Hartley picked up speed in to the zone, then fed it to Adam Tracey who lasered a shot past Halpenny, 3-1 Centennials. The period expired with that standing as the score a the break, although Chilliwack led 11-10 on the shot clock. 

Early in the second period, Wayland Williams and Bennett Huber were both given chances for good chances and the Chilliwack net minder did a good job of blocking the goal, before the Centennials had a chance of their own from Sebastien Pare on a hard shift to stop the Chiefs from breaking out. Chilliwack made it a one goal game at 9:52 on the man advantage, after the Cents bench nearly watched James Neil pick up another shorty. Instead, it was Matheiu Tibbet who scored as he walked over the line and fired a shot on goal which beat Sanderson to make it 3-2. Sanderson was perhaps the Centennials best player in the period, making a few key saves because of his ability to maintain strong positioning. Late in the period, Willcox beat the goaltender but Eric Roberts somehow swept the puck from the goal line, before the two engaged in a scrap in front of the Cents bench. Merritt left the period with a 3-2 lead, but took a 21-19 shot advantage. 

It seemed in the third period that both teams wanted the game so bad they couldn't figure out where the puck went once they got to the neutral zone. The period had plenty of scramble bounces, although you have to credit both teams' big guns for stepping up late in the game to lead the younger players. The only real excitement was created as the Cents got another puck to squeak past the net minder, this time Adam Tracey was there to put it in but the referee was out of position and couldn't get a sight of the puck several feet behind the Cents goal. Chilliwack pulled their goalie late but the Centennials once again kept forcing the puck to the neutral zone where they were able to kill off the final moments of the game and hang on for a 3-2 win, their second in a row over the Chiefs.

Merritt finished the game at 0-for-5 on the power play, after having a very successful night on a bigger ice surface last night in Chilliwack. The Cents killed off 3-of-4, which was a batter ratio than the Friday game. 

Another home-and-home weekend. Beginning Friday in Merritt at 7:30, the Langley Rivermen and Centennials face off on back-to-back evenings. The teams then travel back to the Events Centre in Langley for the Saturday night game, which will get rolling at 7:15.

Luke Pierce is off to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to join Dane Birks and Jeff Wight with the CJHL TopProspects Game and World Junior A Challenge rosters. Birks and Wight both scored on Saturday in the Canada West-USA Exhibition game, despite TCW losing 4-3.

The tournament opens on Tuesday at Birks & Wight face Team Switzerland. Updates will be posted on the blog all week, as well I'll have an interview with Luke up before Thursday!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Centennials Pull Away From Chiefs In 2nd Period In 7-2 Win:

Back in early September, the Merritt Centennials earned a 5-2 win to seal the season opener against Coquitlam at the BCHL Bauer Showcase in Chilliwack; and that offensive onslaught returned on Friday on Prospera Centre ice, with the Centennials scoring 5 times in the second period on their way to a 7-2 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs.

In the first of back to back games with the Chiefs, Sebastian Pare and Scott Patterson each put up 4 point nights, led by Patterson's hat trick and Pare's trio of assists. Russell Sanderson was key in the win, stopping all but two of the 25 shots that came his way. Gavin Gould and James Neil also put up 2 point nights, while a handful of Cents also got on the stat sheet. 

Scoring singles was Gould, Neil and Tyler Martin; helpers went to Malik Kaila, Bennett Huber, Wayland Williams, Diego Cuglietta and Zach Hartley.

Kiefer McNaughton gave Chilliwack the first period lead, while Mathieu Tibbet also scored in the loss, while Coach Harvey Smyl was forced to use both his goaltenders. Starting was Lyndon Stanwood, who made 18 of 21 saves before making way for a 17 save effort from relief Josh Halpenny. 

Merritt's power play scored three consecutive goals in the second, amassing a 3-for-7 rating, while the Cents killed off 2-of-4.

Centennials forward Adam Tracey and Chiefs defenceman Shay Laurent dropped the mitts late in the game, as Laurent gave Tracey little time to react and the linesman intervened before the two got loose.

The Centennials improved to 11-9-1-0 with the win, while Chilliwack falls to 4-11-1-2 heading back to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena on Saturday night for a 7:30 faceoff

View the full box score here. 

Heading in to Saturday's rematch back in Merritt, the Chiefs will need to do exactly what their brass said was the issue to me; consistency. If they can play a solid 60 minutes, fans should be in for a more level grounded hockey game, but for now; the Chiefs' net minders will need to be the last line of defines.