Thursday, February 27, 2014

Centennials Off To Fred Page Cup Playoffs, Post-Season Schedule Released:

Jeff Wight scored a pair of goals for the Merritt Centennials on Wednesday night for his 21st and 22nd of the season while the Cents clinched a playoff spot with a 5-1 win over the rival Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

The win gives Merritt a record of 30-22-4-1 on the season, which secures the fourth seed in the Interior Division playoffs, which begin Tuesday night on the road. Find a first round schedule below.

For Merritt, supporting Wight's offense was Jake Clifford(4th) and
Jason Bird(8th), who both scored first period goals, while Sebastien Pare rounded out the scoring in the third with his 14th of the year. Diego Cuglietta earned 4 assists while James Neil had a pair of helpers.

Devin Kero played a more-than-solid game in goal, making 37 of 38 saves as Merritt has only lost once in the previous seven games with Kero in net.

Brendan Kennedy added his 1st of the season for Salmon Arm on a second period powerplay, with the assists to Thomas Plese and Bryden Marsh. Angus Redmond got the start despite Adam Clark returning to the Salmon Arm lineup, with Redmond making 39 of 44 saves.

Jack Berezan and Sam Johnson got involved in a tilt during the second period, which dates back to mid-December when Berezan received an 8-game suspension for a hit to the head of Devin Oakes. Oakes, meanwhile, left the game with a hit from behind major and could potentially see suspension pending league review of the hit.

Merritt finished 3-for-8 on the man advantage, improving their home ice powerplay from 14th in the BCHL to 11th. Salmon Arm was 1-for-2 with the man up.

The Centennials will host one more regular season game before heading in to the Fred Page Cup Playoffs, and that game is Saturday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena when the Vernon Vipers are in town for a 7:30 start.

It will be First Nations Appreciation Night, with $5.00 admission for all of our fans in surrounding First Nations, such as Coldwater, Shackan and Nooaitch.

Listen to that game live on Q101 with Dustin Scafe at 7:00.


The First Round schedule has been released for the 2014 BCHL Fred Page Cup Playoffs, and while the Merritt Centennials are yet to know WHO, they now know WHEN.

GAME 1- Tuesday Mar.4 @ Pen/WK 
GAME 2- Wed Mar 5 @ Pen/WK 
GAME 3- Friday Mar 7 in Merritt 7:30 
GAME 4- Sat Mar 8 in Merritt 7:30 
GAME 5- Mon Mar 10 @ Pen/WK * if necessary 
GAME 6- Tues Mar 11 in Merritt 7:00 * if necessary 
GAME 7- Wednesday Mar 12 @ Pen/WK * if necessary

Sunday, February 23, 2014

'Backs Force OT Late Before Sebastien Pare Scores Early Winner For Centennials:

Considering all circumstances, the Merritt Centennials executed their game plan nearly to a tee on Saturday night at Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm, with a 4-3 overtime win coming as a result of a late-game Silverbacks goal to tie it, before Sebastien Pare deflected home the game winner to put Merritt within a point of clinching a playoff spot.

Pare, with an assist as well, received offensive support from Dane Birks, Payton Schaefer and Jake Clifford, who all added singles in the win that saw the Centennials improve to 29-22-4-1 with just 2 games remaining in the regular season. Pare's recent play seems to be back on an upswing with 4 points in his previous 4 games, and he looked confident in Salmon Arm.

Salmon Arm had first line production to start the game as Alex Gillies opened the scoring before Nick Josephs and Cole McCaskill gave the 'Backs life as the extra point has them dropping to 25-22-1-7, 5 points back of Merritt heading in to a do-or-die game in Merritt on Wednesday night.

Wednesday's game is NVIT Night and MSS Night, as the Centennials can clinch a playoff spot for the fifth consecutive season. Details below!

Cole McCaskill fed Landon Smith up the right wing who looked for Alex Gillies before a failed attempt had Evan Anderson calm things down before sending the puck in front on a quick feed that Devin Kero just couldn't get across in time to cover the sweet spot on Gillies' 27th of the year at 2:13 of the first. The Centennials nearly tied it but instead ended up shorthanded as Daniel Nachbaur, our first intermission guest on the broadcast, bumped in to 'Backs netminder Angus Redmond to put Merritt down a man, but the kill wouldn't cause much disruption in the game plan. Just after the midway point of the period on a forward line change, Sebastien Pare had the puck all alone deep in the zone while he waited for his line to complete the change and he fed a set up Payton Schaefer for a top corner snipe to make it 1-1 at 10:32. Dane Birks then got away on a breakaway as he jumped up in the offence off a Adam Tracey clear, resulting in Birks going low backhand as Redmond nearly got it but it trickled past to give Merritt a 2-1 lead. The goal was a result of both of those players reading the transition at a very high pace, and the time of the goal was 15:46. Merritt was outshot 14-9 in an action packed first period at Shaw Centre, as the Cents led 2-1 in to the break.

It was the Centennials who took early momentum in the period with a goal that in my eyes may have been the Q101 Turning Point. Jake Clifford made his usual burst up ice, weaving through player after player, but this time the puck stayed nice and flat on his stick as he cut low to the zone and moved in front of Redmond wrapping the puck past to make it 3-1 Merritt. Oh man, what a beauty. Later in the period, after a pair of saves from Devin Kero and I'm sure a tough puck visual for the ref, the 'Backs made it 3-2 as Nick Josephs poked a sliding puck past Kero to make it 3-2 at 14:08 from Thomas Plese. Salmon Arm outshot Merritt 12-10 in the period, with the Cents taking a 3-2 lead to the break despite being down Dane Birks for the final six minutes of the period after he took a 10 minute misconduct for some post-whistle words.

The third period had some chances both ways as Salmon Arm looked to be playing its' top unit more often along with the depth players, perhaps a sign of fatigue or just as I said on the broadcast, Troy Mick seeing some extra compete in those depth guys'. The Centennials took a penalty late in the game, ironically right after I pointed out that the teams' should be allowed to play the rest of the game 5-on-5 considering whats at stake. Then, Jake Clifford finished his check and was issued a kneeing penalty, as Cole McCaskill put the game winner past Kero :16 seconds in to the powerplay. Evan Anderson picked up the lone assist at 17:19. Both teams made late game bursts' but couldn't get many great scoring chances and regulation expired with Merritt being outshot 38-38 in a 3-3 tie.

It didn't take long in overtime as Jeff Wight held the puck in the left wing corner before chucking it on goal where it caught a piece of Sebastien Pare to get up and over a crouching Redmond to give the Centennials the win just :14 seconds in to overtime. Pare's 13th of the year put the Centennials up to 6-1-4 in extra time. The goal was questioned by many in attendance as well as the Silverbacks bench with the thought the puck may have been either punched or high sticked in. Neither was the 'official' case, as it counted. Devin Kero took the advantage in goal with a phenomenal effort in his first game since February 7th, making 35 of 38 saves.

Speaking of strong games, Pare's name is joined by the likes of Shane Poulsen, Jake Clifford, Adam Tracey, Payton Schaefer and Jeff Wight for players who played very responsible two way games to help their team to the win. The list could go on, to youngster Gavin Gould or veteran leader Scotty Patterson. These players and the rest will be looked to heavily to finish what this group started back in early September, and that is reaching the 2014 Fred Page Cup Playoffs.

The final two home games of the regular season will close out the 58 game schedule by Saturday night, as the Silverbacks visit Merritt on Wednesday before Vernon in in the Nicola Valley on Saturday.

Wednesday's game is NVIT/MSS Night, with free admission for all students as well as the NVIT student families. We invite all fans and community members to come cheer loudly as the Centennials can clinch a playoff spot with a win.

Tune in at 6:30, with puck drop set for 7 PM from the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Shaking It Off; Centennials Off To Salmon Arm Looking To Rebound:

With a chance to put a stranglehold on the final playoff spot in the division with a win on Friday night, the Merritt Centennials failed to come out of the gates with the same ethic that had led them to much success this season; falling 5-3 to the West Kelowna Warriors to take just a single win out of the season series.

Goals came from Tyler Martin(4th), Adam Tracey(12th) and Sam Johnson(8th), all deservingly so as only a handful of players showed that they could lead the team on a night where frustration settled in equally for the 850 fans in attendance as it did players on the bench. Jarrod Schamerhorn made 26 of 31 saves in the loss.

For West Kelowna, offence came wide spread as David Pope opened the scoring before Tyson Dallman, Seb Lloyd and Brett Mennear added tallies to keep Merritt at arms reach, before Adam Osczevski sealed the deal late in the game. Andy Desautels was strong in goal making 41 of 44 saves.

With the loss, the Centennials fall to 28-22-4-1 on the year with a four point lead on Salmon Arm heading to the Shuswap on Saturday night, before hosting the 'Backs on home ice on Wednesday.

Although the Warriors took the only goal of the opening period, Merritt created good chances as the Centennials rushed in on a 3-on-1 rush with Gavin Gould looking swift in the early going. David Pope opened the scoring with a quick shot that showed exactly what got him drafted, his 22nd of the season came at 10:31 from Carl Hesler and Braden Pears. Jeff Wight got another big chance for the Centennials after Diego Cuglietta and Jake Clifford went to work in setting him up, but Desautels stopped a good backhand from Wight's stick. After twenty minutes, WK led 1-0 and had a 15-10 shot advantage at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.

Tyson Dallman got the Warriors up a pair 6:02 in to the second as he crossed the blue line and chucked a puck low and hard toward Schamerhorn, beating the Cents netminder five-hole. Matt Anholt and Reid Simmonds got the assists.  Sebastien Pare was cutting out of the offensive zone when a pair of Warriors pulled a guillotine on him, with Tyson Dallman being ejected for an elbowing minor. Later in the period, with Pare ironically serving a penalty, Centennials d-man and captain Tyler Martin jumped up in a shorthanded rush with Sam Johnson and made it count as he flew up the left and got a pass from Johnson before beating Desautels to give Merritt life with just :45 seconds left in the period. Merritt outshot Kelowna 11-9 in the period but trailed 2-1 on the board, taking life in to the third. 

It was an odd start to the third, with a span of 2:33 seeing each team score a pair of goals. First, at 4:33 it was Seb Lloyd who tipped a weak shot from Braden Pears past Schamerhorn to make it 3-1, with Simmonds also getting a helper. :41 seconds later, Brett Mennear made it 4-1 when the Centennials failed to clear the zone. Adam Oszcevski had the lone assist. :25 seconds after that one, the Cents struck back as Devin Oakes and Zach Hartley worked together to get Adam Tracey the puck in the slot to make it 4-2 on Tracey's 12th of the season. Just over a minute after that, at 7:05, with the Centennials now on a powerplay, Dane Birks sent a shot through from the point that caught Sam Johnson's stick to make it a one goal game, 4-3 Warriors. Payton Schaefer also drew in an assist with 12:55 left in the third. Scott Patterson forced a two-on-zero rush late in the period but a shot was handled easily by the Warriors goaltender. Adam Osczevski restored the two goal lead with 3:36 to go in regulation as he walked out from behind the net and quickly fired a short side shot past Schamerhorn to make it 5-3, the eventual final. Merritt outshot West Kelowna 20-7 in the period, but lost the hockey game 5-3 while outshooting the Warriors 41-31. 

If Friday's game wasn't important, Saturday's definitely is. The Shaw Centre welcomes the Cents and Salmon Arm Silverbacks at 7:00 for the final time on the regular season. The 'Backs are four points back of Merritt, and have one less game played. As Luke Pierce says, keys to tonight's game are simple, "WIN".

6:30 pre-game show on Q101, I'll have the call online at! Should be a barn burner from the Shuswap. PS- roads to Salmon Arm look good today, hop on the road and come cheer on the boys!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Centennials Take Two Of Three On Island Swing:

Heading in to the final overnight trip of the 2013/14 BCHL regular season, the Merritt Centennials had a target of four points on their radar, and with wins over Powell River and Cowichan Valley; the goal was achieved and the team continues to take momentum in to next weekend's back-to-back to Interior Division rivals.

The weekend began with the Centennials taking a 4-1 decision over the favoured Powell River Kings, before a third period comeback forced overtime in Cowichan Valley, where the Cents earned a 4-3 win. To close the weekend, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs showed they were the hungriest of the three opponents with a 2-1 win over Merritt to leave the Centennials 5 points up on Salmon Arm with a single game in hand.

Sunday's game provided Dane Birks with his 3rd goal of the season, while Jarrod Schamerhorn was solid in net making 34 of a possible 36 saves as the Cents now sit at 28-21-4-1 with four games remaining on the schedule.

Fourteen players earned points on the road trip, with Jeff Wight leading the way with 3 assists. Jason Bird celebrated his first two goals as a Centennial during Friday night's win over the Kings.

The standings in the Interior Division is a bit of a different picture than that of two weeks ago, with Merritt now leading the Silverbacks by 5 points with a game in hand, while sitting 5 points back of Vernon with equal games-played. Penticton and West Kelowna remain tied at the top of the standings, with each team having five games remaining.

For the Centennials, there are a pair of important games on the schedule this coming weekend, with Western Night taking place this Friday against West Kelowna, before Fan Bus Night on Saturday in Salmon Arm.

Friday night's game will get going at 7:30 from the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, with $5.00 admission for all fans who show up in a Cowboy Hat. It is also doubled up as Family Night, so families of four (2 adults, 2 children) can attend the game for just $20.00.

Fan Bus Night is looking for fans to hop on board and come cheer on the Centennials in a game that will be critical in the standings, as a Friday win on Friday could have the Cents clinch a playoff spot on Saturday with a victory.

Both games can be heard on Q101, with the broadcasts beginning 30 minutes prior to puck drop. Both games are very able to be attended, so let's show up in red and support the Cents this weekend.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Centennials Find More Road Trip Sucess With 4-3 OT Win Over Capitals:

For a late season game between two out-of-division opponents, the Merritt Centennials and Cowichan Capitals brought everything to the table on Saturday night in Duncan, with Merritt taking the win 4-3 in overtime thanks to Sebastien Pare's rush up ice with Dane Birks just :33 seconds in to the extra frame.

With the win, the Centennials take a five point lead over Salmon Arm with a record of 28-20-4-1. Goals came from Pare, Wayland Williams, and a pair from Diego Cuglietta while Jarrod Schamerhorn got the 19 save victory.

Rylan Bechtel scored his first goal of the season for the 20-18-2-4 Capitals to give his team a second period lead, while Myles Powell and Taylor Allan added the other tallies as Robin Gusse was tested with 29 saves off 33 shots.

The final game of the road trip goes on Sunday afternoon for the Centennials, as they visit the Dog Pound in Alberni Valley with a 3:00 puck drop.

The Big Stick had a large contingency of Centennial fans and families in the building on Saturday, and I want to start by saying that is the road support Junior teams love and truly appreciate. The fan bus has been rescheduled for the final trip to Salmon Arm later this month. I'll give details on today's call. The Capitals opened the scoring in this one as Taylor Allan made a toe drag move to elude both Tyler Martin and Dane Birks to make it 1-0 at the 11:31 mark. Jordan Topping and Rylan Bechtel picked up the assists. Just over four minutes later, the puck found its way to the stick of Wayland Williams who was cutting across the point, where he took a quick snapper that may have connected with some post before getting in past Gusse to make it 1-1 at 15:06. Merritt outshot Cowichan 11-4 in the period, as the teams were split down the middle. 

Early in the second period, Diego Cuglietta picked up a rush with his linemates in Jeff Wight and James Neil, with Cuglietta finishing 5:42 in to the period for his 17th of the season to make it 2-1 Merritt. Both linemates picked up helpers. The Capitals used a powerplay to get back in front, as Blake Butzow, a former Penticton Vee, set up Myles Powell for his team leading 20th. Another powerplay goal was imminent, as 6:06 later Rylan Bechtel scores his first goal of the season in 53 contests. Bechtel got a quick shot off on the left side of Schamerhorn and looked as though he just had the right angle set up. On the set-up was Matt Berry-Lamontagna and Brayden Gelsinger. With Powell River taking that lead with just :57 seconds left in the period, I think many perhaps expected the Centennials to lose some momentum. Shots were 11-11 in the second, 3-2 Cowichan.

But that wasn't the case. 5:27 in to the third, it was 'Super-Diego' once more, as the Centennials tied the game at 3-3 on Cuglietta's 18th of the season from Wight and Neil. Cuglietta has 11 points in his last 8 games for Merritt, and is continually stepping up to be a contributor along with his other veteran counterparts in the lineup. That marked the only goal of the third, so the Island Savings Centre would get to see some overtime as both teams take a for-sure point and get all that much closer to clinching a playoff berth. Shots after regulation had the Centennials in front 32-22. 

It didn't take long in to OT as Dane Birks sped up the right side boards and got the puck towards the goaltender Gusse as the rebound bounced around at the side of the net for Jeff Wight before Sebastien Pare finished the sequence to give the Centennials a big 4-3 win just :33 seconds in to overtime. This win helped the Centennials move up five points on Salmon Arm with a chance to stretch that to 7 in Alberni Valley on Sunday.

Like Luke Pierce did on the post game show, it's important to point out some positives such as the teams' ability to not let frustrating officiating agitate them. This showed the teams maturity has come a long ways as a group. Some great individual efforts came in from Jeff Wight, Diego Cuglietta, Sebastien Pare and notably Wayland Williams. No details needed, all of them and more played great games with results and effort all matching up nicely. 

The Centennials are in Alberni Valley on Sunday for a date with the Bulldogs, for the second time in under two weeks. Jarrod Schamerhorn is again expected to start with a pair of wins to start the trip, while Connor LaCouvee is expected to face his former team for the final time this season, barring a Fred Page Cup final between the two teams.

Puck drops at Weyerhauser Arena at 3:00 PM, but you can listen online and on the road at and at 101.1 FM while Q101 is also available on iPhone's through TuneIn Radio App.

Pregame show starts at 2:30!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Centennials Come Out Of The Kingdom On Top, 4-1 Final:

The Merritt Centennials opened up a three game Island swing the best way possible on Friday night, upending the Powell River Kings by a 4-1 score to take a 3 point lead in fourth in the Interior. 

Jason Bird provided his first goal as a Cent in the late first, before he added a powerplay marker shortly after as Zach Hartley and Gavin Gould provided singles for the 27-20-4-1 Centennials.  

Scoring for Powell River was Aidan Wright, which opened the scoring in the game but surrendering four unanswered goals drops Powell River to 32-15-2-4 with their fifth straight loss. 

Jarrod Schamerhorn improved to 2-1 with a 35 save performance, while at the other end Jonah Imoo was relieved after the first and Jeff Smith went the distance, finishing with 17 of 18 saves. 

The Centennials are now on the boat over to the Island for a Saturday night matchup in Cowichan Valley. 

The Kings got on the board first as a faceoff in the offensive zone was won back by Drew Dorantes where Aidan Wright met it and fired a point shot that beat Schamerhorn. That was about it for the dangers of the Kings as their 10-2 shot lead finished with the Centennials going on a similar run to end the period. Jason Bird opened the scoring for Merritt as he made the most of an even strength opportunity which had him use patience and wait until the clearing following an attempted shot block, as Bird shot past goaltender Jonah Imoo with a hard shot on the far side of the post. Within two minutes later Bird added another on the power play as he rushed from his own zone up the left-wing before firing a quick snapshot on the near side of goaltender Imoo. Just over 45 seconds later the puck slid down to the bottom of the left circle off a poke-check from Jake Clifford, before Zach Hartley was able to fire off a quick snapshot to put the Centennials in front. That was the score after one, 3-1 Merritt as the Kings 'n Cents tied 13-13 in shots. 

Late in the first period, Danny Nachbaur and Jordan Burns squared up at centre ice with Nachbaur connected with a few quick left jabs and nearly an uppercut before the two were wrestled to the ice and headed to the rooms until their early-second period returns. 

To start the second, Jeff Smith replaced Imoo, who allowed 3 goals on 9 shots in the opening period. The second didn't provide much offensive excitement, more so just a good road period as the Centennials kept scoring opportunities to a minimal. Shots after forty minutes of play were 21-21, with the Centennials continuing to lead 3-1 in to the break.

Midway through the third, the Centennials took advantage of a chance to seal the fate of the Kings as Gavin Gould got a beautiful pass from Nachbaur; who received an even more beautiful drop pass between the legs from Diego Cuglietta inside the blue line prior to beating goaltender Jeff Smith on a forehand backhand deke, taking a 4-1 lead and knocking all life out of the Hap Parker Arena. 

As Luke Pierce said on the post game show, rather than credit one guy the game can easily be looked at as an example of team-first success.

The Cents make their lone visit to the 'Big Stick' in Duncan on Saturday night to face the Cowichan Valley Capitals.  

Puck drops at 7:00, with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show beginning at 6:30. 

With a win, the Centennials could take the first of two games in hand they will eventually have on the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, who currently trail Merritt by 3 points with both clubs looking at 6 games remaining. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pair Of Centennials Share Thoughts On Division 1 NCAA Scholarships:

In case you missed it, last week the Merritt Centennials had a pair of commitments announced for the 14/15 season. Joining Devin Kero, Dane Birks and Jeff Wight with scholarships is Scott Patterson and Shane Poulsen. Here's the releases from the BCHL site as well their intermission interviews with their thoughts. 

Merritt Centennials defenceman Shane Poulsen has become the second BCHL blueliner in a week to commit to the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Poulsen will play at UNO for the Mavericks starting next season. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound native of Kamloops, B.C. has seven goals and 19 assists on the season.

Also committing to UNO recently was Powell River Kings defenceman Brian Rideout.

UNO competes in the NCAA Div. I National Collegiate Hockey Conference against the likes of the University of Denver, North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State.

BCHL alums on the Mavericks current roster are former Penticton Vees forward James Polk and former Prince George Spruce Kings goalie Kirk Thompson.

Merritt Centennials forward and leading scorer Scott Patterson has secured an NCAA Div. I future by committing to Lake Superiors State University for next season.

Patterson is in his second full season with Merritt and leads the club in goals iwth 25 and points with 45.

He is the second BCHLer to commit to LSSU this season along with Vernon Vipers defenceman and captain Ryan Renz.

Lake Superior State is located in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and the Lakers compete in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association against the likes of Michigan Tech, Bowling Green, Ferris State, and Alaska.

Former Coquitlam Express and West Kelowna Warriors forward Mitch Nardi is currently the only BCHL alum on the Lakers roster.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Centennials Reclaim Home Ice With 4-2 Win Over Bulldogs:

With five of the final ten games on the Merritt Centennials 2013/14 regular season schedule seeing them go up against out-of-division opponents, those points become critical in separating teams in the stands. On Saturday night on home ice, the Centennials routed the Alberni Valley Bulldogs by a final of 4-2 to overtake Salmon Arm for 4th in the Interior Division.

Diego Cuglietta scored a pair in a span of under twenty seconds for his 15th and 16th goals of the season, while Adam Tracey tied the game and put the Cents back in front with his 10th and 11th notches of his rookie season. Jarrod Schamerhorn took home his first full victory in a Centennials uniform, making 26 of 28 saves as the Cents improved to 26-19-4-1. 

With the 'Dogs falling to 17-27-2-6, Scott Clark and Justin Georgeson put Alberni on the board while former Centennial Connor LaCouvee made several key saves, totalling 37 of 41 saves. 

Merritt now travels to West Kelowna on Tuesday, with spots still open on the fan bus for fans that wish to cheer the team on on the road.

With two teams that haven't seen each other yet this season going at it in an important game, you could tell there was an unequal sense of balance early on. Both teams had their opportunities as risks were kept fairly minimal. Scott Clark wheeled the puck in to the offensive zone off a defensive zone face-off and he was able to feed it out to the glove side slot of Schamerhorn where Harlan Orr sent home a quick shot that perhaps came against the flow of the play leading up to the goal. Jake Kaupilla, former Smoke Eater, also picked up an assist at 2:05. LaCouvee showed his true colours when he robbed a couple of Centennials, including Wayland Williams who walked in with a wrist shot and had the puck deflect just on to the back of the goaltender but no one could force it in to tie the game up. Merritt outshot Alberni Valley 17-8 in the first but couldn't beat a goaltender that seemingly came with some extra motivation, 1-0 Island Dogs.

In the second period the Centennials came out looking like they definitely wanted to knot the game up, and a great chance was created when Payton Schaefer built up a chance for Scotty Patterson who hit iron from the side boards and had Jason Bird nearly get an unexpected shot from the point as Schaefer dug away net-side for the puck that wasn't there. The offence did convert when Devin Oakes fed the puck to Wayland Williams who slid down in to the high slot and fired a shot at LaCouvee that caught him under the arm and rolled out for Adam Tracey who reached out and poked it past the Bulldog netminder to make it 1-1 at 6:16 from Oakes and Zach Hartley. Schamerhorn later made his best save 8:55 in to the period as Hunter Stewart got him sliding across his net to keep his pads tight to the ice surface. Merritt outshot Alberni 12-9 in the period with the game tied at 1, and the middle period felt more like the teams hadn't played each other yet this season, bit of tension on the ice.

Things loosened up for the Cents in the third period as they came out a lot smoother and to Alberni's credit, so did they. Early in the period, it was the Centennials who got the bounce they needed as Devin Oakes forced the puck to Adam Tracey in the high slot, who somehow had the puck fling off his stick toward Zach Hartley, where it caught a piece of either Hartley or a Bulldog defender to make it 2-1 Cents at 2:54 with the entire line having played a great game and deservingly earned a point(or two) each. Oakes then set up Jason Bird for a quick moving rush and LaCouvee again made a great save to keep his team in the game. It's funny how in hockey one bad play can cost a team the game, but that's exactly what happened as Diego Cuglietta and James Neil came in on a 2-on-1 with Neil feeding Cuglietta to beat LaCouvee at 10:44 to make it 3-1 Merritt. Neil and Jeff Wight picked up helpers. Back in to the zone they went, that line that was men amongst boys in the game, and Diego Cuglietta showed off his hand-eye by batting a puck out of mid air a foot beneath the crossbar to make it 4-1 Centennials just :18 seconds later, taking most of the life out of the Bulldogs bench. Neil and Tyler Martin had the assists. Credit the Bulldogs for not completely giving up, as Justin Georgeson stayed close to the net and got a shot to somehow ride up and over Schamerhorn with just 1:48 to go. Harlan Orr got his second assist of the night with the score then reading 4-2, and with an empty net the Centennials attempted for Cuglietta and Tracey to get the hat trick but the final buzzer sounded before any success could be found but the real success was there on the board with the Cents taking an important two points on home ice. 4-2 final, with the Cents outshooting the 'Dogs 41-28.

As I said, two of the Centennials lines tonight were very good but that doesn't come without saying the Patterson unit and the Johnson line with AP Luke Santerno didn't look great. Santerno, namely, played without a doubt a BCHL style game and I look forward to this kid being in the league next season, can hope that it's for Merritt. Cuglietta, with 9 points in his last 5 games, was up to his usual 'super-Diego' self on Saturday night.
These teams are going to meet once more next season as the Centennials visit the Dog Pound, as well as Powell River and Cowichan Valley. But first... Big game in West Kelowna, read below. 

Warriors... Cents... Fan Bus! Been looking forward to this event all year, let's fill up these last six spots on the bus to get the wheels on the road! 

The Centennials are in West Kelowna on Tuesday night for a 7:00 game, with the fan bus set to take off the Memorial Arena at 5:00 PM, so there is time to get home and clean up! Scheduled return is before midnight so you can get your beauty rest :) 

Listen to Tuesday's game live at 6:30 with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show with yours truly, head online to for a listen live link! 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Schaefer Puts Up A Pair As Centennials Fall To Warriors:

Much unlike last Friday's contest between the Merritt Centennials and West Kelowna Warriors, offence was frequent in the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, with the Warriors scoring four unanswered goals en route to a 6-2 win over the Centennials.

Merritt's goals came from the stick from Payton Schaefer, who played much of the game with a cage after a fight in the middle period, looking to help his team from dropping to 25-19-4-1. Scott Patterson left the game prior to the Schaefer fight, leaving the game with a pair of assists.

West Kelowna sticks in the fight for top spot as Penticton also beat Salmon Arm on Friday, as the Warriors trail the Vees by a pair of points at 30-13-3-3. Goals came from Liam Blackburn(2), Brett Mennear, Matt Anholt, Reid Simmonds and Tyson Dallman.

Merritt now quickly must turn around and pick up their socks on Saturday night as the Alberni Valley Bulldogs are in town, a team also fighting for their playoff berth. Details below.

Merritt opened the scoring very early as Scott Patterson went quick to the forecheck off the opening draw and ended up getting the puck on to the stick of captain Payton Schaefer, who wristed a quick shot past Warriors starting net minder Cody Porter just 40 seconds in to the game. West Kelowna struck back as Liam Blackburn slipped a rebound away from Devin Kero and beat the Cents netminder, who initially faced the shot from Ben Tegtmeyer who was set up by one of two NHL draft picks in the game in David Pope, the other being Cents backender Dane Birks who would leave the game after blocking a shot off the leg. The Warriors took the lead as Brett Mennear snapped a shot from the right side circle past Kero blocker side at 9:54. Nathan Craft and Kylar Hope had the helpers. Payton Schaefer tied the game on a play that had Patterson clear the puck to Jason Bird who jumped in on the forecheck as Scahefer's penalty expired. The two then flew in to the zone with Bird making a dangle to fool the goaltender in to thinking shot before a quick back hand dish to Schaefer on the left side who beat Porter for his 8th of the season at 17:02. Less than a minute later, West Kelowna restored the lead as Tyson Dallman was credited with a goal in front of Kero that had the puck poked past the Cents netminder. Reid Simmonds and Matt Anholt with the assists. The first period would expire with the Warriors up 3-2, despite just 9 shots aside. 

Moving forward through the game, it just never quite seemed as though the Centennials could get to the Warriors weaknesses, as West Kelowna played a fairly sound road period in the second, which included Payton Schaefer and Reid Simmonds dropping the mitts minutes after Ryan Fraser-Lee plowed over a falling Scotty Patterson inside the offensive zone. Patterson left the game and fans were very vocal about the lack of a call. Two minutes after the fight, Blackburn made the Cents pay again to make it 4-2, as he extended home a Adam Plant shot with Seb Lloyd doing most of the offensive dirty work to earn an assist as well. Matt Anholt then flew in on a breakaway less than a minute later and beat Kero with a quick low shot to make it 5-2 with 6:20 left in the second. Not a whole lot would happen before the intermission aside from Gavin Gould getting under the skin of Taki Pantziris, taking a crosscheck and a slash, one of which caused a late period Cents powerplay. Merritt trailed 5-2 in to the break, and shots were 18-18. 

The Pantziris penalty would end under 10 seconds in to the third, and under a minute in to the period Pantziris set up Reid Simmonds up the right side boards who sent a bullet of a shot past Kero to make it 6-2 Warriors. The season high 1050 fans couldn't find much to get fired up for for the rest of regulation, and the Centennials definitely improved their play and got more pucks on net, but couldn't beat a hot Warrior netminder. Merritt managed to put up 17 shots in the third, outshooting the Warriors 35-27 but falling 6-2 as the Cents look deeper heading in to Saturday's game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

Both teams' finished at 0-for-3 on the powerplay. Devin Kero made 21 of 27 saves in loss as Cody Porter made 35 of 37 stops for the Warriors. 

As Luke Pierce said on the post game show, there weren't a lot of positives for the Centennials on Friday in terms of comparing it to last Friday's outing. It was much too close to Saturday's effort in Trail, the Cents looked like an early-season team and they just have to settle in once again and get comfortable for good things to happen. It's no stretch to say this will be an extra motivated group on Saturday, as a pair of former teammates visit the NVMA.

Tee up the Bulldogs. Much like the Cents, Alberni Valley is in the middle of a battle for the final playoff spot with a division rival. The 'Dogs and Cowichan Valley have just one point between them, with the extra game for AV being the difference to date. Merritt is in the same boat, but trails Salmon Arm by a point with the 'Backs having played the extra game.

Game time on Saturday is 7:30... It's Ladies Night in Merritt!! That means all ladies get in to the game for just $5.00 no matter the age, and the first 50 ladies in the doors get a special gift from the Cents!

Tune in to the game on Q101 at 7:00 with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Centennials and Smoke Eaters Combine For 15 Goals, Cents Take The Win:

It was likely the strangest game many have witnessed in their time, as the Merritt Centennials and Trail Smoke Eaters provided goals early and often in a 9-6 Centennials win, with 9 of the 15 total goals coming in the games first thirty minutes.

Merritt had goals from seven different players to improve to 25-18-4-1, including a pair from Sebastien Pare and Jeff Wight each, while James Neal, Scott Patterson, Gavin Gould and Diego Cuglietta all had multi point nights.

Taylor Armbruster scored his first BCHL goal to put the Smoke Eaters up a pair midway through the first, and went on to tie the game twice in the second period for his first ever hat-trick. Joel Webb had a pair of assists for Trail, who fell to a league-worst 9-36-2-3.

Devin Kero was relieved in the second period after surrendering four goals, and Jarrod Schamerhorn settled in to his Centennials debut as the pair combined for 25 saves. Nate Rabbitt started for Trail and made 34 of 42 saves.

The Centennials are now off for the week before hosting the West Kelowna Warriors again in a Friday night classic in Merritt.

Okay, here we go... Scoring started when the Smoke Eaters won an offensive zone face-off to the left of Devin Kero, with the draw being won right to Bryan Basilico who sent it in to the net 2:55 in from Brandon Volpe. Sheldon Brett set up Jake Lucchini in front of the Cents net as Kero made the stop near the five minute mark, but the Smokies would respond again as Jake Lucchini dropped the puck inside the zone for Taylor Armbruster who ripped home his BCHL-first. James Neal set up in front of the net just prior to the 13:00 mark, and he got a pass from the back of the net from Diego Cuglietta and sent a quick shot past Rabbitt to make it a 2-1 game. After the goal, you could see the Centennials were not going to have any part of trailing the Smoke Eaters much longer. A couple unlikely rushes were just stopped but would have made for excitement as Jake Clifford dangled his way through everyone and Malik Kaila was set up on an odd man rush from Gavin Gould. Jeff Wight tied the game with just :16 seconds left in the opening period as a point shot from Tyler Martin off a Cuglietta face-off win resulted in a rebound bouncing to Wight who picked up his 19th and 20th goals of the season in the game. Merritt outshot Trail 17-9 in the opening period as the teams were tied 2-2. 

Very early in the second we would see the Smoke Eaters re-take the lead as Scott Davidson wheeled wide on the Centennials defenders and sent a shot past Kero just :12 seconds in to the period, from Joel Webb. Merritt struck back at 4:12 as Zach Hartley was in the right spot to collect a Tyler Martin deflection and calm the puck down to shoot and score on Rabbitt to make it 3-3 from Dane Birks. The Centennials took their first lead of the game when Gavin Gould and Scott Patterson skated away on a 2-on-1. Patterson found his spot early and waited for the right time to beat the goaltender, making it 4-3 at 6:16. At 7:29, Trail tied it once more as Taylor Armbruster picked up a shot that was blocked and went right to him, shooting it through traffic and Kero to make it 4-4. Gould gave Merritt the restored lead at 9:11 as Sebastien Pare caught the speedster moving in to the slot who fired the water bottle off the top of the net. At the media timeout, Devin Kero stayed on the bench and was replaced by Jarrod Schamerhorn, undoubtedly with some fatigue setting in for the Cents net minder after a high octane game on Friday. Scott Davidson cut through the inside of the Cents' blue line as Rhett Willcox moved the puck up ice, before dishing off and preparing for open ice. Davidson then swung his hip in to the knee of Willcox and the Centennial spark plug would leave the game and attend hospital with a lower body injury. No call was made on the play. Taylor Armbruster got the hat trick at 13:35 as his shot looked to deflect off the leg of a Centennial, making the game 5-5 and fortunately that's all we got from the second. For goals. Patterson and Webb dropped the mitts shortly after the goal, as Patterson continues to show he can lead this team in many ways. The clubs would then have struggles for the last 4:00 or so, as the line that had been drawn for much of the game was moved and special teams were given their opportunities, although just the 3rd Armbruster goal goes down as a powerplay marker.  Merritt outshot Trail in the period 14-13 with a 5-5 split.

Just under 6:00 minutes in to the third, Jason Bird would be ejected for being a little too vocal with the stripes(Grant Tyson), as playing in Vernon has seen him face last night's official several times so with history may come some adversity. Justice would eventually be served on Davidson as he got a stick up on Patterson(I believe) and had to sit off for a four minute double minor. Sebastien Pare made Trail pay not once, but twice on the man advantage, with his 10th and 11th goals of the season putting him just 3 points back of 100 BCHL points. Assists to Cuglietta on the first and Patterson on the second goal. Cuglietta now has 12 points in his last 8 games, chipping in big time to an offence that has also seen 9 points in 7 games from Wight, and Scott Patterson now has 9 points in his last 4 games. The Smokies cut back in to the Cents lead at 12:25 as Sheldon Brett went in on a breakaway and snapped the puck past Schamerhorn to make it a one goal game once again, 7-6 Merritt. With 1:53 left, Adam Tracey showed some moves and speed as the goaltender came far out to challenge and Tracey slipped by on the left and fired the puck past to seal the deal on his 9th of the year. Jeff Wight sealed the deal some more with :31 seconds left as he got a drop pass from Cuglietta, who was set up by James Neal, to slide the puck in to the empty net. That line for the Cents was incredible all night long, combining for 8 points in the game. Merritt outshot Trail 12-8 in the third, and 43-30 overall, taking a 9-6 victory. It wasn't pretty, but it's two points.

With Salmon Arm also picking up a win as well as Vernon, these points could be marked up as critical or irrelevant, either way you write it. Guaranteed to be crucial points will be on the line on Friday night when the Centennials look to pull back past Salmon Arm in the standings. This was one of those games where the positives were really positive but there were far too many mistakes that cost the Cents, although they maybe shouldn't be sent as mental mistakes, rather mistakes due to being fairly drained from Friday night. No excuses anyways in hockey. 

It's another near-week long week as the Centennials get back to the rink on Monday to start preparing for the West Kelowna Warriors once again on Friday night. It will be Family Night 2.0 as well as Elementary Night, with free admission for all students of Merritt-area elementary schools! On top of that, tickets are just $20.00 for two adults and two children passes.

Gametime Friday is 7:30, while the Q101 pre game show gets going at 7:00 PM!

Notes: Was great to have some parents in town for the week/weekend, I know the kids really appreciate your support, as does the organization's off ice staff. I got to meet Randy Emery in Trail on Saturday, the photographer who took the picture of me when I was trying out for the Smoke Eaters, so that was a bit of a cool experience to put a face to the name. Also great to see Billy Birks out at last night's game.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Centennials Take Double OT Thriller Over Warriors:

It took nearly the entire 70 possible minutes of hockey to determine a result between the Merritt Centennials and West Kelowna Warriors on Friday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, as Sam Johnson put home the overtime winner in the final minute of the second overtime with his 7th of the season.

The goal came off the stick of Adam Tracey, who forced an odd man rush for the now 24-18-4-1 Centennials, who also got a stellar performance in goal from Devin Kero, who made 41 saves. Scott Patterson opened the scoring under four minutes in to the game with his team-leading 24th of the season.

West Kelowna tied the game midway through the third period off a point shot from Taki Pantziris, with Liam Blackburn and David Pope picking up helpers. Andy Desautels was equally sharp in the Warriors net, making 37 of 39 stops for 28-12-3-3 West Kelowna.

The Centennials are back on the road on Saturday night, with a journey to the Cominco Arena in Trail, details below.

The game would start just as it would finish; quick pace and action packed. Early in the opening period, both teams exchanged scoring chances before a face-off to the right of the Warriors goaltender was won by Payton Schaefer, and Sebastien Pare set up Scotty Patterson in the high slot with a quick shot that opened the scoring just 3:54 in to the first. Both teams developed as much as they could in the first but with the smaller rink in Merritt, fans definitely saw playoff-like pace to the game early and often. The only penalties of the period struck late as Rhett Willcox and Jordan Masters became tangled up in the corner, leading to pushes and shoves, unfortunately for the spark plug Willcox he is playing with a cage otherwise may have wanted to shed the mitts. The teams finished the period closely playing back and forth, with Merritt up 1-0 and 11-10 in shots. 

The second period provided plenty of action with big defensive, offensive and goaltending plays throughout the period. Merritt put up 15 shots and West Kelowna 10, so there was no shortage of shots toward the 'tenders. Malik Kaila was given plenty of chances to play with Sam Johnson and Gavin Gould up front in the game, and with the help of Johnson's leadership played as solid of a game as any other forward on the roster. Kaila, along with Shane Poulsen, were both assessed penalties in the period for stick infractions, while the Centennials penalty kill looked composed and strong, clearing the puck safely each opportunity. Merritt and West Kelowna wrapped up the second with the Cents up 1-0 on the scoreboard, looking for their first win over West Kelowna since March 18th, 2013. 

In to the third period... West Kelowna came out with plenty of jump and you could see an extra sense of pep in their stride, but as much as the Warriors improved, Merritt also looked to step their defensive game up in the expected burst from West K. The line of Adam Tracey, Rhett Willcox and Zach Hartley was buzzing all night and burst in on a shorthanded rush(minus Hartley at the time) with a huge stop being made by the goaltender for the Warriors. West Kelowna tied the game at 9:16 as the Centennials couldn't clear the puck as Liam Blackburn set up Taki Pantziris on the right point, and his quick and hard snap shot may have been deflected as it beat Kero from the blue line. The teams both played fairly conservative for the rest of regulation protecting the point they each could guarantee. West Kelowna outshot Merritt 36-33 in regulation, as the teams headed to OT tied 1-1.

The first overtime seen mostly back and forth attempts that never developed in to much. West Kelowna looked to have possession when Adam Tracey picked up a puck in his own zone and started up the left wing boards. Sam Johnson slipped to the open right wing on a 2-on-1 rush with Tracey, who had to fight through defenders to get the pass across to Johnson, who fired a quick shot far side of Desautels, sending the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena in to an uproar as the bench poured off and celebrated near centre ice. Tracey picked up the lone assist on Johnson's 7th goal of the season. Tracey has now put up 13 points in his last 15 games. 

The Cents are on the road to Trail on Saturday morning for their final visit of the 13/14 season to the Cominco Arena. Merritt and Trail met to an 8-1 Cents win on Tuesday in Merritt, so expect the Smoke Eaters to come out with a bit more jump.

Game time is 7:30, with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show beginning at 7:00 on Q101 and!