Friday, December 27, 2013

Pair of Centennials AP's Seeking Mac's Midget Tournament Glory:

Every year, along with the World Junior Hockey Championships, the Mac's Midget AAA Tournament is held over the holiday season beginning on Boxing Day.

This year's event has a total of 30 Affiliates to BCHL clubs on BC Major Midget League team rosters, including a pair of Merritt Centennials prospects.

Tanner Campbell(Okanagan Rockets) and Austin Campeau(Vancouver NE Chiefs) have both put up big seasons, with Campbell sitting 2nd in team scoring and Campeau helping to anchor the blue line defensively.

Campbell has amassed 17 goals and 39 points through just 26 games, which is 4th overall in the BCMML. His Rockets hold a 6 point lead atop the league standings.

Campeau has 10 assists in 25 games, and is now at 60 career games in the BCMML, all with the Chiefs. Austin has appeared in one game with the Centennials this season, playing a strong game and looking as though he was in his place in the BCHL.

I stumbled upon an interview done by on Austin, and you can view that right here on the blog below.

Check out for the schedule and results at the tournament, which wraps up New Years Day with the Final played at ScotiaBank Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames.

Thanks to Brian Wiebe for putting together a full list of BCHL alumni at the tournament. Find that here.

Chatting With Team Canada Forward Curtis Lazar:

On today's post, we rewind to February of 2012 when I was joined by Curtis Lazar of the Edmonton Oil Kings in the first edition of One-of-One I ever had on the blog.

Curtis has come a long ways in nearly two years since then, getting drafted by the Ottawa Senators 17th overall and becoming a key piece of the Oil Kings organization on and off the ice. I like to think my interview skills have come a long ways as well... 

Lazar is currently in Sweden with the Canadian National Junior Team, where he and Team Canada are off to a 1-0 start at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Curtis collected an assist in the tournament opening 7-2 win over Team Germany.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Centennials Head In To Holiday On A Positive, 5-2 Win Over Salmon Arm:

It had been five days since the Merritt Centennials and Salmon Arm Silverbacks last met; and on Friday night, five was once again the magic number, as the Centennials got goals from five different players in a 5-2 win over the 'Backs on home ice.

It was the fifth time a team struck 5 on the scoreboard in the season series, and with their 2nd straight win over Salmon Arm, Merritt improves to 19-14-2-1 heading in to the holidays which is just a single point back of the Silverbacks.

Rhett Willcox(4th) rounded out the scoring in the 3rd period, while Zach Hartley(6th), Jeff Wight(15th), Gavin Gould(9th) and Diego Cuglietta(9th) also scored, with Cuglietta, Hartley and Wight also collecting assists. Scott Patterson and Adam Tracey both earned a pair of assists, while Devin Kero was fantastic in goal with 21 saves on 23 shots.

With the loss, the Silverbacks fall to 18-12-1-5 and lead the Cents and West Kelowna by a single point in the 3rd spot in the Interior Division. Landon Smith scored his BCHL leading 31st and 32nd goals of the season, while Adam Clark was relieved by Angus Redmond midway through the game, as the two combined for 34 saves.

The Centennials are now in to a nearly two week break, before returning to the ice on January 3rd when the Penticton Vees are in Merritt, a night before returning to Salmon Arm.

A pair of Centennials alumni from last season attended the game, as Tyler Steel also joined us in the broadcast booth and Reece Willcox was able to witness his brother score a big goal to bury Salmon Arm. It wouldn't take long for the Centennials to strike as Zach Hartley picked up a puck in the low slot just 2:57 in and beat Adam Clark to make it 1-0 Merritt. Hartley's 6th of the season got helpers from Adam Tracey and Tyler Martin. Michael Roberts created the best chances for Salmon Arm early in the game, but on his best was stopped by Devin Kero. At 17:35, Landon Smith had his shot blocked by Dane Birks, and it deflected back to his stick where he was able to flick it over top of the Cents goaltender to tie the game. No assists on Smith's 31st of the season. :16 seconds after that, Jeff Wight stunned(and joyed) the crowd as he got a pass from Diego Cuglietta up the left wing and fired a high snap shot in to the top corner from about 6 feet inside the blue line. Both teams had their chances on the powerplay, with Smith's goal coming late in a Cents penalty. Each of Merritt's goals came 5-on-5, and the Cents went to the break up 2-1 on the board and 16-8 in shots.

Gavin Gould had gone 11 straight games without a goal, and the rookie fan-favorite got himself back involved in the offence with a snipe from the right circle at 5:04 of the 2nd. His bullet wrist shot was his 9th of the season, and Daniel Nachbaur earned a helper with his Dad in attendance, also Shane Poulsen had an assist. Up by two, you could sense Salmon Arm was beginning to feel frustrated with chippy play and a few penalties assessed. A short bench certainly didn't help Salmon Arm, as they also began to increase ice time of the AP's(Logan Mostat and Aiden Silzer-Hooker) in the lineup. Diego Cuglietta made it 4-1 at 13:37 with a unique goal, he got a pass from Scott Patterson on a 2-on-1, then stopped mid-right circle, and waited and looked for the perfectly placed shot which he nailed for his 9th of the year. Merritt closed the period out with a penalty but led 4-1 to the dressing room, while leading 30-15 on the shot clock. 

The 3rd period wasn't quite as exciting as the 1st and 2nd, as you could tell the Centennials wanted to hold the lead and the Silverbacks wanted to give different players an opportunity to step up. Another bright spot was referee Devin Samaddar, who in my eyes kept the game respectful and avoided any unnecessary ejections with his composure and police-man ability. Rhett Willcox would score a beauty at 14:04 as he got the puck in the left circle and tried to shoot but was interfered by BCHL scoring leader Landon Smith. Willcox then did a spin move to shed away from Smith and then he put home his 4th of the season from Zach Hartley and Adam Tracey. The WHT line was very, very good for the Cents in this game. Landon Smith would eventually add another as he scored from the corner with a top shelf shot, that came from a very quick and hard release. Merritt held on in the dying minutes for a 5-2 win, which sends them in to the Christmas break with wins in 3 of their past 4. Merritt outshot SA in the game by a margin of 39-23. 

As I just mentioned, Zach Hartley, Adam Tracey and Rhett Willcox were great for Merritt. I was also impressed with Wayland Williams, who kept his game very smart throughout the game while still jumping in the rush when opportunity came up. Gavin Gould always seems to play big in big games, and that was no different on Friday night, and the same can be said for Payton Schaefer, who was a wrecking ball all evening. Several others had strong games, including 'tender Devin Kero, who had a lot of high shots to stay square to. 

After the presents are unwrapped and the New Year begins, the Centennials will return to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena for their first game of 2014. That game will take place January 3rd, when the Penticton Vees are in town to face the Centennials at 7:30.

The night following, Saturday January 4th, there is a fan bus going to Salmon Arm for just $40.00! Come cheer on the Cents on the road, call Sach for your tickets at 250-378-3604.

Merry Christmas to all the fans and players, and everyone else who supports myself and the BCHL! I hope to see everyone in the New Year, have a safe and happy holiday.

Quick Notes:
Thanks to Bennett Huber for a great intermission interview, and also to Tyler Steel for joining the broadcast in the 2nd intermission. Over the next couple weeks, I'll get all of the interviews up online so everyone can enjoy the chats I've had with the guys to date this season. See you on the flip side!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Five Cents Chip In To Complete Double OT Comeback Over 'Backs:

With the Merritt Centennials trailing by three goals after the 1st Period on Sunday afternoon, there was a feeling in the building the Cents were anything but out of the game.

Reeling back from that 4-1 deficit wasn't easy, but Diego Cuglietta rounded out the comeback giving Merritt a 5-4 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in double overtime.

Cuglietta notched his 8th goal of the season on the play, as the other four goal scorers each earned their 5th of the season. Among the goal scorers was Sam Johnson, Zach Hartley, Shane Poulsen and Payton Schaefer. Devin Kero provided relief for Russell Sanderson, who made 17 saves in the final 50 minutes of play.

Scoring for Salmon Arm was Landon Smith, who got his 30th of the season, Nick Fidanza(1st BCHL goal), Mitchell Ferguson and Blake Box. In goal, Angus Redmond went the distance with 40 saves to his credit.

Centennials forward Devin Oakes left the game early after receiving a Blow to the Head from a Salmon Arm player, and Oakes is not expected to return to the lineup until well in to the New Year. Dane Birks was also ejected from the game early on a hit-from-behind, but he will return to the Cents' lineup for their next game.

Both teams were given level ground to play on, with a combined four power plays in the game. Merritt finished 1-for-3 and Salmon Arm was 0-for-1.

With the win, the Centennials are now even with the 'Backs at 18 wins, but 3 more losses in regulation for Merritt leaves them 3 points back of Salmon Arm and and tied with West Kelowna for the final playoff spot in the division.

Here's a look at 2nd through 5th.. Could the standings be any tighter? Heading in to the Christmas break, the Centennials have put up 40 and 42 points over the past two seasons, so a win on Friday night could wedge them in with the averages.

Salmon Arm35181115421123107+160.600L1

The two clubs meet again on Friday night in Merritt, which will be the send-off for the players who head home for the holidays. 

Game time on Friday is 7:30, while the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show begins at 7!

Rather than do a goal-by-goal breakdown of the game, I managed to muster up a more detailed breakdown of the game....

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Centennials Look To Rebound On Sunday After Loss In West Kelowna:

Goalie interference?
The Merritt Centennials and West Kelowna Warriors renewed their Divisional rivalry on Friday night in West Kelowna, with the Cents giving up a pair of goals in the 2nd period in a 2-0 loss.

With the loss, Merritt now sits tied with West Kelowna for the final playoff spot in the Interior with 37 points, which comes with a record of 17-14-2-1. The Warriors hold a similar mark, at 17-11-1-2. 

Devin Kero made 25 of 27 saves, including 12 in the 2nd period, many of which came on an extended Kelowna powerplay.

For the Warriors, Andy Desautels picked up his first BCHL shutout with 30 saves, while Jordan Masters and Matt Anholt provided singles. Seb Lloyd earned an assist to get his 6th point of the season against Merritt.

West Kelowna finished 1-for-5 on the man advantage, while the Cents only received a single opportunity in the 3rd period.

The Centennials controlled the majority of the play in the opening period, forcing West Kelowna to resort to icing the puck on several occasions. Diego Cuglietta created the first good scoring chance but he was unable to get the puck to go through the legs of Andy Desautels as he spun for the shot. Rhett Willcox then made a smart play to pass the pack to the centre point where Zach Hartley came on with fresh legs and looked to blast a shot, but it was deflected off a Warrior to the corner. Final shots in the period rang up as 12-6 Merritt, but the game was scoreless and the Warrior faithful would have to hold tight to those teddy bears for a bit longer.

Early in the period off a quick breakout from the Warriors, Jordan Masters was able to go in on a 2-on-1 with Seb Lloyd against Dane Birks. Masters made a crafty pass to Lloyd, but Birks and Devin Kero were both left helpless as the return went to Masters and he beat Kero who was sliding across the other direction. The delay would run 3 or 4 minutes as players and volunteers collected teddy bears, and immediately following the ensuring face-off Sebastien Pare would get ejected as he hit Ben Tegtmayer with an apparent hit to the head, that left Tegtmayer lying on the ice until Pare was ejected. Adam Osczevski aided him teammate by jumping in to a fight a raring and ready Pare, who controlled the fight. Luke Pierce questioned the call and the actions of the player injured on the ice, earning his ejection and an extra two minute bench minor. West Kelowna went on to the powerplay, and had lots of time and space to set up although the Cents seem to be keen to their game plan and didn't allow WK to have any glorious chances. That's not completely true as Kero did make a pair of cross-crease saves he had no business making, including one stop on Jordan Masters who got a pass along the goal line from Seb Lloyd. During the ensuing sequence, Matt Anholt would beat Kero in front with some strong traffic in front of the Cents' goal, as Carl Hesler and Liam Blackburn did most of the work to get assists. Merritt was outshot 14-4 in the period, with mostly sloppy and chippy play happening outside of the powerplay minutes. You have to commend the Cents for keeping their cool when he game could have easily been evident of frustration. Down 2-0 in to the break, the game was anything but over. Gavin Gould did beat Desautels, who was out of position before Devin Oakes pushed him and almost helped the goaltender get in to a better save position, but the goal was waved off the Oakes got a penalty for Goaltender Interference.

Early in the 3rd, Gavin Gould showed why he picked up 3rd Star honours with a strong forecheck which also had Dane Birks hop in to the rush. Gould then got back to cover on D as the Warriors flew up ice and the Centennials youngster was able to force his man wide and off the puck, before cutting back to the forecheck and leading a strong Cents rush the other direction. Jeff Wight and Payton Schaefer both rose their level of energy in the period, giving the Cents some chances but neither team was really able to settle things down and the Centennials, despite controlling the majority of the play, couldn't buy a goal on Desautels. With a shot margin of 14-7 Merritt in the 3rd, Desautels finished the game with 30 saves as the Warriors cruised to a 2-0 win.

The Cents have some time to tweak some things leading up to the January 31st matchup in Merritt, as the Warriors finally make their first visit to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. Once again, the Centennials got a strong performance from their rookies against the Warriors, as Adam Tracey, Rhett Willcox, Zach Hartley and Gavin Gould led the way up front. Devin Oakes was also a significant piece of the game once again, as he seems to find his stride in this league more and more every game. On the point, Jake Clifford and Malik Kaila showed strong performances, with both seeing increased ice time for their efforts. 

It's a quick turnaround for the Centennials, with a day off to rest before hosting the Salmon Arm SilverBacks on Sunday afternoon at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.

Last time the teams met in Merritt, goals came often in a 5-5 draw. The most recent game, October 27th in Salmon Arm, resulted in a 5-2 Salmon Arm win.

Puck drop is 2 PM, and it's Minor Hockey Night with all fans encouraged to wear their minor hockey jerseys for a chance to be entered in to raffle draws.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cents Forward Jeff Wight Recognized On The Hockey News Blog:

Here's a neat read from The Hockey News blogs, as writer Ryan Kennedy focuses on players that could make an impact in the NHL in the future. He brings up the name of Merritt Centennials forward Jeff Wight, who recently celebrated his 18th birthday.
Currently this season, Jeff has 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points in 27 games, which puts him 4th in team scoring.
The Centennials are in action tonight(Friday) in West Kelowna, game time is 7 PM, with the Q101 pre game show beginning at 6:30. Listen online at!;

For a second there, it looked like Team Canada was cursed. First, defender Chris Bigras was hit hard in a game against Guelph, then Jonathan Drouin was concussed when U.S. hopeful Adam Erne of the Quebec Remparts slammed him into the boards from behind. But Bigras recovered from his bump and Drouin sounds like he’s in decent shape, even if he needs a bit more recovery time. Bullet dodged? Canadian brass probably just hopes things don’t come in threes this time. Here’s a look at some of the other players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Michael Dal Colle, LW – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
The Ontario League has been a bastion for high draft picks in recent years and the Greater Toronto Area has done more than its fair share of producing talent, from John Tavares and Steven Stamkos to Sean Monahan. Dal Colle is part of this year’s wave and coming from the northern Toronto suburb of Woodbridge, he’s obviously keen on the idea of the NHL expanding to nearby Markham.
“That would be pretty awesome, they’d get a great fan base,” he said. “When you look at Connor McDavid and Sam Bennett coming out of that area, there’s some pretty good players being developed up there.”
Currently third in OHL scoring with 22 goals and 54 points in 32 games, Dal Colle is a big winger with great hands and a strong creative streak. Improving on his rookie year physique was a big goal for him over the summer.
“I was determined in the off-season to get stronger,” he said. “Being a winger, I need to win the board battles and I’ve done a good job of doing that this year.”
And though he was producing right from the get-go, Dal Colle has been very happy that Philadelphia returned Scott Laughton to junior, as the pair has made sweet music on the ice together. That, in turn, has lifted up the Generals to first place in the Eastern Conference.
“We’ve got a good amount of creative players that I can play with,” Dal Colle said. “Obviously getting ‘Lotty’ back was a huge addition for us, not only on the ice, but off it as well. I found some chemistry with him early and hopefully we can keep going.”
With an extra spot available for the Memorial Cup in the OHL this year, Dal Colle and crew can go really far.Draft eligible in 2014.
Vladislav Gavrikov, D – Loko Yaroslavl (Rus.)
A defensive defenseman who plays with an edge, Gavrikov is one of only two 2014 draft prospects to make Russia’s final world junior camp (Moncton’s Ivan Barbashev being the other). Gavrikov brings nice size to the table at 6-foot-2, 194 pounds and has represented Russia internationally on numerous occasions. Draft eligible in 2014.
Gustav Olofsson, D – Colorado College Tigers (NCHC)
A rare NCAA player up for the Swedish world junior team, Olofsson would bring a great dimension to the Tre Kronor should he make the final cut. Poised with the puck and smooth as a skater, the Tigers freshman has four points in his first 11 college games while also earning power play time. Drafted 46th overall by Minnesota in 2013.
Maxim Lazarev, RW – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
His major junior career was pre-empted by a lower body injury, but Lazarev has been soaring since getting into the Cape Breton lineup. The skilled teen has great vision and is clutch in the shootout; he’s already 2-for-2. Lazarev has put up nine points in his first 12 games with the Eagles. Draft eligible in 2014.
Shane Gersich, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
A phenom with Holy Family of the Minnesota high school ranks last year, Gersich is now plying his trade in Ann Arbor and has fit in seamlessly. His shot and his speed are two big assets and he helped the NTDP knock off the University of Michigan last Thursday: Gersich had points on the team’s last two regulation goals in a comeback that ended with an OT victory. Draft eligible in 2014.
Luc Snuggerud, D – Eden Prairie Eagles (Minn. HS)
The nephew of former NHLer Dave Snuggerud also played forward growing up, so it’s no surprise he has some playmaking talent. The University of Nebraska-Omaha commit has five assists and six points in his first three games for Eden Prairie, while also spending time with USHL Muskegon before the high school season began. Draft eligible in 2014.
Julius Honka, D – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
With Olli Maatta in Pittsburgh for good and Rasmus Ristolainen injured and no sure thing for the world juniors, Honka is looking a lot more important to the Finns than in the summer. Fortunately, his freshman season in Swift Current has been a dream, with 11 goals and 34 points in 32 games. That ranks him second in the ‘Dub’ among blueliners and rookies. Draft eligible in 2014.
Devin Williams, G – Erie Otters (OHL)
As a rookie, Williams faced a ton of shots on a rebuilding Otters team, but now he and starter Oscar Dansk are reaping the rewards. Williams is a late 1995 birthday, giving him a little more time to develop in front of NHL scouts, but they’ll love his results this year: The young American boasts three shutouts, a 2.44 goals-against average and just one loss in 13 games so far. Draft eligible in 2014.
Jeff Wight, C – Merritt Centennials (BCHL)
A playmaking pivot who sees the ice well and excels at distribution, Wight is essentially a point-per-game player in the B.C. League this season. The UConn commit had the bronze-medal winning goal for Canada West at the World Jr. A Challenge and brings a nice 6-foot-2 frame to the table. Draft eligible in 2014.
Jason Fuchs, LW – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
Fuchs isn’t big, but he is quick and smart. The Swiss national is vying for a spot at the world juniors and his first year in the ‘Q’ has offered promising glimpse. The 5-foot-9 winger has five goals and 25 points through 31 games for the Huskies. Draft eligible in 2014.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pair Of Goals In Third Period Lifts Cents To Road Win In Trail:

After falling to the Penticton Vees on home ice 24 hours prior, the Merritt Centennials continued to show persistence on the road in Trail on Saturday night, pulling away with a 4-3 win at the Cominco Arena.

In his return to the lineup, Adam Tracey put up a goal and an assist, including an early-2nd period goal to give Merritt their first lead. Rhett Willcox was the first to strike for Merritt, while Jeff Wight and Shane Poulsen added singles. 

Devin Kero made 29 of 32 saves for his 10th BCHL win, which helps the Centennials improve to 17-13-2-1 on the season. 

Braden Pears opened the scoring early in the game, while Travis Stephens and Adam Wheeldon chipped in with goals as Sheldon Brett had a pair of helpers, his first points in the BCHL. 

In goal for the 7-22-2-1 Smoke Eaters was Adam Todd, who made 19 saves in the opening period and 44 of 48 overall.

Merritt is now off for the week before visiting the West Kelowna Warriors on Friday. 

Both teams came out with a back-and-forth pace in the opening period, with the Centennials beginning to find their stride more toward the middle mark of the period. Trail hit the back of the net first as the puck slid to Braden Pears in the high slot, as he was able to beat a challenging Devin Kero. The games first goal came just over 3:30 in to the game, but the Centennials were pretty quick to respond as a clearing attempt set up Rhett Willcox on a breakaway three minutes later. Willcox looked to go low glove but Adam Todd made the first stop before losing the rebound as Willcox took a second swipe at it for his 3rd goal of the season. That goal ended up being unassisted, and the Centennials went on to hold the majority of pressure in the period, outshooting Trail 20-8 despite the two teams heading to the break in a 1-1 draw. 

Nick Deschennes' team came out with a much stronger start to the 2nd, with more crisp passes being made in the Smoke Eater zone which made it a little tougher for the Centennials to plug the neutral zone. Trail wasn't able to get a whole lot of great angle shots at 5-on-5, and great defensive positioning had many shooting lanes cut off on the two Trail powerplays. Adam Tracey gave the Cents their first lead of the night after Rhett Willcox turned spark to flame with a pair of big checks in neutral zone. Willcox set up Tracey for a two-on-one, and Tracey looked for the shot and he made it count as the powerful wrister beat Todd for #10's 4th goal of the season. Shane Poulsen also gathered an assist on the goal. :48 seconds later, the other #10 would strike as Travis Stephens scored his team leading 9th of the season on a solo effort similar to Penticton's game winning goal on Friday night; as he walked around the left wing circle and fired a snap shot past the goaltender. Just under a minute later, Trail was back at it again as Adam Wheeldon deflected a shot past Kero after the shot was released from Jake Lucchini, which also deflected off Dane Birks' before reaching Wheeldon. Merritt would go on to outshoot Trail 14-12 in the period, but a pair of goals in the period had Trail up 3-2 after 40 minutes. 

Merritt returned to what made them successful to start the 3rd period, and then some. One rare thing we've seen this season is a quick shot right off the face off, and Jeff Wight showed fans' why the quick shot is so exciting as he sniped one in to the top shelf just moments after Diego Cuglietta won the draw right to Wight's stick. Wight's 14th of the year came at 5:56. The Centennials would get a middle period powerplay, and Shane Poulsen was once again able to get a shot towards the goal from the blue line, but the lack of wrist shot and presence of the slap shot was enough for the shot to trick Todd, giving Merritt the eventual game winner on Shane's 4th of the season. Cuglietta would get his 2nd assist on the goal while Sebastien ParĂ© also drew in with an assist, his team leading 22nd. Jake Clifford and a Trail player became tangled up in the final minute and much to the disapproval of fans in Trail, coincidentals were issued and the Smokies lost their chance to be up 6-on-4 with the empty net. The Cents did a good job of clearing their own zone in the final moments, with one late icing giving the Smoke Eaters a final opportunity. The final buzzer would sound and the Centennials were able to get their first win in six contests, dating back to a 5-4 win over the Surrey Eagles on November 22nd. Final score 4-3, final shots 48-32; both favoring Merritt. 

I thought the team came back with a much more consistent effort in this game, although there was some 4-5 minute hiccups(from both sides). Wayland Williams played one of his best games in a Centennials jersey, while Bennett Huber once again earns a mention for his hard work with his team shorthanded. Bennett reminds me of a (much) more-talented Dustin Scafe, as I loved to kill penalties and hold the wall in the defensive zone, something Bennett did a great job of doing in Trail. Shane Poulsen picked up the well deserved goal, after he logged big minutes and played a big role. You can't say enough of the Tracey-Hartley-Willcox line, they provided offence(x2) and everything else the coach asked of them, including energy and physicality.

With the win, the Centennials stay level with Salmon Arm for 3rd in the Interior Division with 37 points, 6 back of Vernon and 7 points back of Penticton. 

The Centennials haven't faced the West Kelowna Warriors since September, and the clubs' will do battle once again at Royal LePage Place in Westbank on Friday night. 

Game time is 7:00, while the Q101 broadcast begins at 6:30.

After Friday, there are just a pair of games left until the Christmas Break, and both of those contests will see the Salmon Arm Silverbacks hit the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena ice.  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Centennials Fall Short In Back Half Of Home-and-Home With Vees:

After a 4-1 loss on Wednesday in Penticton, Merritt Centennials Head Coach Luke Pierce didn't have much to say in the dressing room after that game; and it seemed as though his team got the message on Friday night.

The result, however, didn't match the effort as the Centennials fell 5-4 to the Vees in the back half of the home-and-home set. The Vees blew a 4-2 lead but scored the victory with a goal in the final 40 seconds.

Scotty Patterson put home a pair for the 16-13-2-1 Centennials, while Sebastien Pare had 3 assists to lead the way offensively along with Sam Johnson, who had his best game of the season racking up a goal and a pair of assists. Russell Sanderson was strong in goal, finishing the night with 24 saves.

Steen Cooper scored his first goal as a Vee, after Brett Beauvais and Anthony Conti scored opening period goals. Brad McClure also added a pair of goals in the win, helping the Vees improve to 18-7-1-3. In net, Hunter Miska stopped 38 of 42 Merritt shots.

The Centennials are off to Trail today, for their final trip to Trail until February 1st. Details below!

The Centennials seemed to come out of the gate with an added level of energy, and that level never seemed to drop throughout the game, although there were some tough hurdles to come their way. The Vees took a 2-0 lead after the first despite being outshot by the Centennials, and the games opening goal came at 12:23 with the Vees on the man advantage. Brett Beauvais moved down to the top of the circle right in the slot, where he took a pass from Ben Dalpe to beat Russell Sanderson with a wrist shot. The Vees were on a 5-on-3 upon the goal, and Merritt was able to kill off the second minor. Anthony Conti put the Vees up by a pair when he plucked a clearing attempt out the air right in front of the Cents' goal, beating Sanderson with a shot through the legs. Sanderson later had his moment of glory, as with just under five minutes to go he made three big stops in a matter of seconds, before swallowing up a wrist shot from the blue line. Sanderson faced 11 shots in the opening period as Merritt fired off 13, despite trailing by a pair.

To match their effort in the opening period, the Centennials came out ready to play once again in the second. Jeff Wight and Devin Oakes worked hard along the end boards as Wight joined Diego Cuglietta on the transition to the left corner, and Cuglietta was able to find the puck on the hash marks where he turned and fired quickly. Cuglietta's 7th of the season puts him within a goal of doubling his rookie goal total. Merritt continued to buzz offensively in the period, but Hunter Miska made all but one save, as Penticton was outshot 15-8 in the period. Late in the period linesman Ryan LeSage became tangled up in traffic in front of the Cents bench and injured his leg, forcing the game to go forward with one referee and one linesman, although the linesman assumed referee duties. 

The game resumed in the third with only a pair of officials, but after 3-4 penalties that had fans up in arms, a backup linesman was called in from the crowd to balance the officiating. I don't know his full name, but I have to commend DOUG for stepping in when it was clear the game needed it most. Dane Birks was issued a interference call for a check on Steen Cooper(who had the puck), and Cooper went on to put the Vees up 3-1 just :10 seconds in to the powerplay. 1:20 after that, the Centennials would strike back as Scotty Patterson was set up from Sam Johnson and Sebastien Pare, the start of a big period for them. Brad McClure went on to restore the two goal lead for Penticton, before Johnson scored his 4th of the season to make it 4-3. Pare picked up his 2nd assist as Wayland Williams also had an assist. Patterson would shoot from the hash marks on the left boards to tie the game at 13:55, with McClure off on a Delay of Game penalty. With just :40 seconds left, it was McClure who proved the difference maker as he moved around the left wing circle and snapped a hard low shot past Sanderson to make it 5-4. That score would hold up as the final as the Centennials outshot Penticton 42-29.

The line of Patterson-Johnson-Pare was phenomenal, as well as the unit of Wight-Cuglietta-Oakes. There is good things to say about the other two offensive units which made it easy to like the game the game the Cents played. Devin Oakes played a great game on Wednesday and built on that performance with another strong performance, while Sam Johnson played hands-down his best game of the season. Sam was out 1st intermission guest and I'll have that interview here on this post when we get to Trail, as I'm typing on the bus! 

With only 1 point earned through their past 5 games, the Centennials are hungry to get back in to the race atop the Division standings and the battle back starts tonight in Trail. The struggling Smoke Eaters have scored just once in a pair of games in Trail against the Cents, in 5-0 and 6-1 Centennial wins. 

Gametime tonight is 7:30, but assuming you won't be making the journey I invite you to join in on the broadcast with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show starting at 7:00 on Q101.

Head to to listen online, or to watch thru FAST Hockey.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

4-1 Loss In Penticton Fires Up Centennials Heading Home For Rematch:

Congrats to Payton Schaefer and Sebastien Pare on
breaking the 150 game plateau in the BCHL!
Y'know those games that have a completely different complexion every time a new period starts? Yeah, that's the game that the Merritt Centennials and Penticton Vees played out last night at South Okanagan Events Centre, with the Vees responding from an early goal by scoring four in the 2nd period, en route to a 4-1 win over Merritt.

Jeff Wight scored the lone goal for the Cents, as they drop to 16-12-2-1, with 35 points in the standings, leaving them tied with Salmon Arm and 4 back of Vernon and 5 of Penticton. Wight's goal was his 13th of the season and it came on his 18th birthday, so that was a treat for Jeff. 

Russell Sanderson was chased from the net after forty minutes with 16 stops on 20 shots, but several big time saves in the opening period gave Sanderson a welcoming return to the lineup. Nathan Alalouf of the Osoyoos Coyotes suited up and saw action in the third, making all 5 saves.

For Penticton, they improve to 18-7-1-3 on the season, and take a five point cushion over Merritt heading in to Friday's rematch back in the Nicola Valley. Goals on the night came from Brett Beauvais, Cody DePourq, Jack Ramsey and Paul Stoykewych, while Olivier Mantha stopped 20 of 21 shots.

Merritt hosts Penticton on Friday night, get your details at the bottom of the post.

The game started off with a neat rendition of O' Canada, done by a man on the bass guitar. Very nice start to what would be Teddy Bear Toss Night in Penticton. Jeff Wight added to the party just :15 seconds in to the hockey game when Diego Cuglietta sent the puck around the offensive zone boards to Jeff Wight behind the net, and the birthday boy knew exactly what to do as he wrapped it around and past Mantha to open the scoring. No assists were given on the goal, and without a FASTHockey video archive they may not be corrected, but I will say that Cuglietta touched the puck prior to Wight, although a Vee may have interfered with the sequence. That would do it for the offence in the opening period though, although the teams' would exchange their share of chances. The best chance of the period perhaps came with just over four minutes left, as Travis Blanleil got a cross crease pass but was outright denied by Russell Sanderson, who I thought actually played a very good game. There wasn't a single penalty in the period, and Merritt was outshot 10-9 by the Vees taking a 1-0 lead in to the dressing room(which might I add, huge visitor dressing rooms at SOEC). 

Paul Stoykewych would lead his team in to the middle period, getting his 4th of the season following continuous Penticton pressure. The Vees look as though Coach Harbinson knew exactly what to say in the intermission, and Stoykewych sent the teddy bears on to the ice with a hard wrist shot from the mid-right circle that beat Sanderson blocker side. Alex Coulombe and Brad McClure get the assists. Time of that goal was 3:21, and then at 7:01 the Vees would take the lead as Jack Ramsey tipped a shot between the legs of Sanderson, after Patrick Sexton picked up a Daniel Nachbaur clearing attempt. Riley Alferd also got a helper, but not sure where. 40 seconds later, it became 3-1 Vees as Travis Blanleil wound up a howitzer and had some help in front as Cody DePourq tipped home his 13th of the year. Matt Serratore had the other assist on the goal. DePourq's night would end with just over five minutes to go, as Rhett Willcox took a shot inside the blue line and had DePourq finish his check unfortunately on the blind side of Willcox, ending both players' games early. Brett Beauvais would complete the outburst for the Vees with just 9 seconds left in the second. The shot looked to be deflected by Ben Dalpe, or at least a Centennial player, making it very hard for Sanderson to stop. The assists would end up going to Ramsey and Dalpe, but the video could prove different. Penticton played a great period, getting traffic in front and it paid off with 3 of the 4 goals coming off a deflection, and the other with screens in place. Merritt was outshot 10-3 in the period, and trailed 4-1 in to the third.

You could sense that the Cents would come out with some fire under their butts', and they did just that and that fire didn't seem to fade away. Nathan Alalouf drew in to the pipes, and looked very competitive in the net for the first time with the Centennials. Brendan Lamont, of all players, would be the first one to create some ruckus as he took his man in to the boards from behind, getting ejected from the game. Under two minutes after Lamont's ejection, there was another. This time, Chris Rygus stood up Dane Birks at the blue line, and Birks' helmet went flying and Sebastien Pare jumped in to stand up for his teammate. Rygus was ejected for a hit to the head, but the only evidence of that was Birks' popping helmet, otherwise it looked to be a clean hit with perhaps some awkward contact. Later in the period, Max Coatta, along with Devin Oakes and Brad McClure, all had their games ended with misconducts, as Malik Kaila was ejected for a hit from behind that I only heard, before seeing Malik laying on the ice. To summarize the period up... blah. It was a period of poorly timed/placed hits by some skilled players, and Friday's game will be a lot better if they can move on from the final frame of this one, and get back to the hockey we know these clubs' play! Shots ended at 9-5 Merritt in the third, and Alalouf only had to made one big stop late in the game, as he held on to a great scoring chance from the Vees, while Wayland Williams played the (albeit unnecessary) backup goalie. Penticton took a 4-1 victory and leads the season series with 2 wins and an OT loss, although Friday's game is the first in Merritt. 

Devin Oakes played a great game and could have been a mention in the 3 Stars had the Cents produced some more offence, definitely something for Oakes to build off of. Zach Hartley also looked ready to go, anticipating the play ahead of him at all times, but it sure would be nice to see Hartley-Willcox-Tracey get back together. Tyler Martin was a smart defensive player in this one, making the good play in his own zone at all times and a few times it even transitioned in to deep-offensive zone shots for Tyler. Sebastien Pare and Bennett Huber once again showed great heart and hustle, with Pare standing up for his teammates and Huber doing whatever he could to fire up his boys. Russell Sanderson, despite being pulled, needs to have a bounce back game on Friday/Saturday, and keep feeling light and ready. The first goal was a far-side snipe, and the three after were all deflections that become difficult to stop.

Penticton's Cody DePourq impressed me the most, with a good sense of speed and puck possession. The Vees split up their possession very well and several others were able to become stand outs, but perhaps none more than the newcomer Steen Cooper. Looked a little off in the first with his brand new teammates, but really adjusted in to his role as the game progressed. Travis Blanleil was another player who had a strong game(with a strong shot), and his ejection I don't think in any way dictates him as a player. Olivier Mantha seemed to struggle tracking down rebounds throughout the game, but the bright side of that was there were hardly any rebounds to track down, as often the puck became lodged under his arm or pad. 

Cue up the rematch on Friday night. It should be a dandy of a hockey game, especially if the third period of the Wednesday game if forgotten about and moved on from. Second period included if you're a Centennial fan. 

Game time at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena is 7:30, with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show starting at 7 PM.

Merritt then visits Trail and the Cominco Arena on Saturday night, another 7:30 game. 


Monday, December 2, 2013

Hands of Hope Spreading More Holiday Cheer Than Anticipated:

Royal LePage and Merritt Centennials Hands of Hope Food Drive held Sunday
It was an important weekend for the Merritt Centennials off the ice, with the BCHL Five Hole for Food Challenge taking place on Saturday night with the Powell River Kings in town, before the Hands of Hope Food Drive with Royal LePage took place on Sunday afternoon.

Hundreds of teddy bears poured to the ice as a part of the extended activities on Saturday night, as the Cents earned a 1-1 split with the Kings, who currently sit atop the BCHL standings.

Following the game on Saturday, the Royal LePage trailer full of food donations was taken back to the Nicola Valley & District Food Bank and unloaded so that the trailer could be loaded right back up on Sunday when the Army Cadets, Centennials players and Booster Club members, and staff from Q101 and Royal LePage hit the streets.

With 25 convoys making their way throughout the City of Merritt beginning at roughly 2:15 PM, all the Centennials players were suited up in their away red jerseys ready to give back to the community that continuously supports what they do.

Myself, I was teamed up with a pair of volunteers from the Army Cadets, as well as Sach, Rusty and Jerry from the Centennials off-ice group, and goaltender Russell Sanderson along with forward Sam Johnson.

General Manager at the Nicola Valley & District Food Bank Marlene Fenton says that this Food Drive was not expected to have brought forth this amazing support, "Previous food drives have almost hit 3000 pounds, so this is a very incredible thing that happened this weekend."

Fenton also added that the quickness of the Food Drive might just go back to the youth who showed energy and community involvement.

"I really, really enjoyed having the young people involved in this, I think it is really important that they can be a part of this community, and boy can they work!"

Upon groups beginning to return to the Food Bank around 4:00-4:30, various volunteers began sorting, counting and weighing everything that came in the doors. The boxes, sorted in to beans, soups, and pasta to name a few; contained anywhere between 10 and 110 pounds of contents.

It took until approximately 5:30, but the final count was weighed in at 4,470 pounds, which is the most collected of any of the BCHL communities to date this season, with 8 teams still yet to hold their event. The BCHL as a whole has raised 10,604 pounds at this time, with Nanaimo sitting 2nd with 2,352 pounds in donations.

On behalf of the Merritt Centennials and Royal LePage, I want to thank every single individual who helped out with the event, what a blast! The best part is, everything we did goes to help other people in the community have a great Christmas.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Centennials and Kings Settle For A Split As Goalies Shine:

The general synopsis from the crowd of 850 in Merritt on Saturday night agreed that a 1-1 draw between their Centennials and the visiting Powell River Kings was the best hockey they've been treated to this season. And I agree.

A single point doesn't help the Centennials out much in the standings, as they moved to 16-11-2-1 on the season, which is a pair back of Vernon and three behind Penticton for top spot.

Jeff Wight scored his 12th goal of the season, and Devin Kero had a solid night in goal making 40 saves, which was good for both players to be named in the 3 Star Selection. (Wight 3rd, Kero 2nd)

Jarryd Leung opened the scoring for 20-2-4-1 Powell River, and goaltender Jeff Smith was the nights' 1st Star with a whopping 53 saves, many of which weren't just outside angle shots.

Merritt has three games in the immediate week, with a trip to Penticton kicking things off on Wednesday, more details can be found below.

I thought that the opening period was the best period of hockey I have seen in a long time, and after chatting with fans on the concourse during the intermission, everyone seemed to agree. The first came with just a single penalty, as the Cents shot count jumped to finish the frame at 17-10. Merritt created two or three strong scoring chances including one which Wayland Williams joined the forecheck with Gavin Gould and nearly helped convert. Fans were anxiously awaiting their chance to toss their teddies on to the ice, but they'd have to keep waiting a bit longer as the teams were scoreless after twenty minutes. 

After a very strong first period, the Centennials looked as though their momentum continued in to the middle frame, although Powell River came out with added energy and looked much better than in the early going of the first. Vernon-product and friend of the show Jordan Burns was one of the best Powell River players in the period, along with Ryan Scarfo and Jarryd Leung. It was Leung who would open the scoring with his 12th of the season at 15:16, as he converted on a mis-read from the Centennial defenders deep in the Merritt zone. Luke McCaw and Jeremy Leclerc picked up assists on the goal. It wasn't quite the period the first was, but fans continued to get their monies worth after 40, with Merritt trailing 1-0 despite leading 27-23 on the shot clock. 

Diego Cuglietta and Jeff Wight were buzzing all night, with the pair working together to get the Centennials on the board just prior to the 5:00 mark, and as I said on the broadcast, "toss the teddy's, it's 1-1"! Pretty exciting moment to see the communities support of those in need, and of course the Centennials fans were looking at a chance for the win. That's when you queue the Jeff Smith Show. 17 saves in the 3rd period and many of which came out of continued pressure by the Cents, but Smith was so strong with his positioning the Centennials couldn't force it by him. That's not to take credit from Devin Kero, as he made three or four more highlight saves in the third. These two teams couldn't solve anything in regulation and were headed to 4-on-4 tied at 1. Merritt outshot Powell River 45-32 in regulation.

Luke Grayson took a late-penalty for the Kings, and early in the overtime upon his arrival back on the ice, he was fed a breakaway feed and nearly scored his first Junior A goal, but Devin Kero shut the door. Five minutes of 4-vs-4, and five more minutes of 3-vs-3 wasn't enough for either team to solve their respective goaltenders, as Dane Birks set up Jeff Wight and Diego Cuglietta for the Centennials best chance. After a slow break out, Powell River moved in with an equal opportunity as Kurt Keats set up Jarid Lukosevicius down low. Luko, as they call him, was robbed by Kero as he hung on tight to the goal line as the Kings forward streaked through the crease. With each team getting 9 shots in the overtimes, Merritt finished the game with a 54-41 shot advantage but finished with a 1-1 tie.

Devin Oakes filled in on a line with Cuglietta and Wight for much of the game, and looked very good in that role, always being in the right place for the puck to come to him, and he battled hard all night. Gavin Gould was another battler in the game, he played a 200-foot game and played more like a 200-pounder as well. On the blue line, Wayland Williams and Malik Kaila had big bounce back games, playing very responsible yet still on the edge. 

You can't say enough about the goaltending in this one. A combined 93 saves and just two goals. Jeff Smith and Devin Kero get big props for their continued efforts. Smith was the best King by a mile, but that doesn't play down the Kings as they had several other standouts. As the game went on, I thought captain Aidan Wright and Brian Rideout played more and more important roles, along with another d-man in Jeremy Leclerc. Up front, Truman Gonzales had a ton of 'want' in the game and looked to always be ready to strike, while the expected offensive unit of Coleshaw-Scarfo-Dorantes moved the puck very well. 

Wednesday night is the next action for the Centennials, as they visit South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton to face the Vees. Merritt was the first team to get a win at SOEC, when Shane Poulsen scored in overtime. 

Penticton won their home-opener vs the Cents, and Wednesday's game tees up a return-battle on Friday in Merritt. Puck drop Wednesday is 7:00, then 7:30 on Friday.

The busy weekend concludes with the Centennials in Trail on Saturday night, with the Fri/Sat games beginning at 7:00 on Q101, while Wednesday's matchup begins at 6:30 with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show. 

Notes From The Cafe:
It was great to see the colours of the Powell River Kings, an organization I have much respect for, along with the individuals who make their wheels turn. Big thanks to Alex Rawnsley, PxP voice of the Kings, for joining me for a more-than astounding pre game show interview. Always nice to see one of my closest friends in the broadcasting world, as we go back to the summer of 2011 when I first took up full time play-by-play.