Sunday, March 9, 2014

Interior Division Semi-Final Game 4 Highlights:

Vees Come Back Again To Sweep Centennials 4 Games To None:

The 2013/2014 BCHL season has ended for the Merritt Centennials following a 4-3 loss to the Penticton Vees in Game 4 of the Interior Division Semi-Final on Saturday night, resulting in the Vees taking the series 4-0 and advancing to face either West Kelowna or Vernon.

The Centennials got goals in the game from James Neil, who had a pair, as well as Tyler Martin, who scored an early third period goal to give Merritt some breathing room before the Vees struck back with a pair. Devin Kero finished with 23 of 27 saves for the Cents. 

Replying on the Penticton side was Steen Cooper, Brad McClure, Jack Ramsey and Brett Beauvais as the Vees will face either Vernon or West Kelowna in the 2nd Round starting on Friday night in Penticton. Hunter Miska was solid in the Vees net making 32 of 35 saves. 

It's too bad that the end of the line had to come here, a time that feels all too early. But that's just the business of hockey I guess. The players deserve great recognition for battling in the series, despite being without 3 and sometimes 4 regulars from the lineup. 

 The Cents opened the scoring with a hard forecheck as on the back half of a shift Zach Hartley and Adam Tracey went for one last push, getting the puck tied up along the right side boards where it came free for James Neil near the face-off dot, who wristed a shot short side top corner. Penticton struck back, though it took some time. Merritt nearly made it 2-0 with opportunities then creating a powerplay but the Vees were able to fend off pressure and goals. Steen Cooper flew up the left wing against Shane Poulsen and just slapped the puck on net mid-stride and caught Devin Kero five-hole to make it 1-1 with just 2:45 left in the first. Merritt outshot the Vees 15-5 in the period. 

It didn't take long for excitement to start in the second as Neil moved in to the offensive zone with a quick shot that beat Hunter Miska, with Jeff Wight and Gavin Gould both picking up helpers as Merritt's lead wouldn't last much past the 2:33 mark. At 3:52 on the powerplay, Brad McClure got the Vees back knotted up as he skated to the high slot and took a hard shot that went right through traffic and past Kero from Shane Mccolgan. Merritt outshot Penticton 11-10 as both team exchanged equal opportunity along with a pair of man advantages each.

To start the third period, AP call up Josh Teves got some good ice time which seemed to fire up the veteran blueliners. Teves got a shot on net and had provided strong support when his line change brought out Tyler Martin, who sent a blue line shot past Miska to put Merritt in front. Adam Tracey and Gavin Gould both had great offensive passes on the play to make it 3-2 at 6:33. With the Vees looking frustrated, it also seemed as though that fact distracted the Centennials, as a late hit at centre on Shane McColgan took attention away from Jack Ramsey who fired a shot past Kero on the right wing to tie the game with 5:20 to go. A speed play had the Vees take the lead as Brett Beauvais and Brad McClure both rushed up left-and-right sides with McClure firing the puck right to the far left post where Beauvais tipped it along the ice past the sliding right foot of Kero to make it 4-3 with just 2:01 remaining in regulation. Following the settling of discussions between officials(possible goal review, but no argument against), the Centennials were assessed a bench minor misconduct and that put them shorthanded for the final 2:01. To make that call at that stage considering the circumstances was very questionable, but I am unsure what was said on the ice to compensate for the decision. The Centennials put Kero and pushed and pushed but couldn't open up the ice as the Vees took the celebration back to the South Okanagan with a 4-0 sweep of the Centennials.

Congratulations to Penticton and best of luck int he 2nd Round against the Vipers or Warriors. This could have been a completely different series had a double minor high stick not been called against the Cents in the third period in Game 2, as a win that night surely wouldn't have had the Vees taking both games in the Nicola Valley. But, as they say, does it matter? The season has ended and you have to focus on the good things that this team did for the league and for the community. 

From the players to the off ice personnel, the Centennials organization should be proud of what a tight-knit group it has. The players moving on will be greatly missed as they provided some of this seasons' greatest moments, and for that I have put together a highlight reel of nearly every one of their goals (and saves!) during the 2013/14 season. There is also highlights from Game 4 coming in a seperate post. 

The 20-year old graduating players include Jason Bird, Tyler Martin, Sebastien Pare, Scott Patterson, Payton Schaefer. With NCAA scholarships, the Cents will/could graduate Shane Poulsen, Dane Birks, Jeff Wight and Devin Kero. 

The Centennials finish the 2013/14 season with a combined regular season and playoff record of 31-25-4-2 with a GFA of 3.12 and a GAA of 3.02. 

The teams playoff leaders were Jeff Wight and Sebastien Pare, who both posted 4 points in 4 games. 5 rookies earned points in the post-season, while James Neil led the team with 3 goals.

The team will be holding a season-ending banquet with information to follow, stay tuned!

I want to send a special thanks out to everyone involved with the organization and radio station that helped to make this season so much fun. For myself, my time in this league is going to be long-lived and I am so excited to have the opportunity to have begun my BCHL career with the Merritt Centennials. 

And to the parents, thank you for committing to allowing your child to continue to do what he loves. You are what a head gasket is to an engine. These kids need you, and this team appreciates your support and I hope you'll all be back in the Memorial Arena very soon!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Centennials vs Vees Game 3 Highlights:

Centennials Force OT Late As Vees Take Win And 3-0 Lead In Series:

Photos by Ian Webster (Merritt Herald)
In a game easily classified as among the most exciting to be played at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena this season, the Merritt Centennials showed true Cents pride and heart with a pair of late game goals to tie the game before surrendering a disappointing overtime goal to fall 5-4 and go down 3-0 in the series to the Penticton Vees.

The story line had seemed so perfect for the Centennials, who rallied behind a sold out crowd making more noise than I have heard in a Junior Hockey arena in a long time. Late game goals by fan favourite players' gives this team big time hope going in to Saturday's Game 4 - a do-or-die game for the Cents.

Sam Johnson scored his 1st playoff goal to tie the game late in the opening period on a net-front play with Daniel Nachbaur and Devin Oakes also chipping away at the puck and gaining assists. Minutes before, Riley Alferd opened the scoring for the Vees when he got a puck up and over Kero, who was solid on the night with 30 saves for Merritt.

Penticton took the lead a pair of times in the second period, with Nicolas Pierog starting things off just before the six minute mark. Paul Stoykewych would put his team back in front with a point shot less than two minutes after Jeff Wight tied the game at 2 on a one-time feed from Tyler Martin on the powerplay that beat Olivier Mantha. Scotty Patterson also picked up an assist on the goal, as Merritt took a 3-2 deficit in the intermission.

With both teams getting powerplay opportunities in the third, both also failed to convert on several chances. Dexter Rasmussen and Brandon Liefke did fans and players alike the honour of having a perfectly level field to play on, while keeping respect between the teams. The game featured five sets of coincidental penalties as well an ejection on Rhett Willcox for a blow to the head. 

With four players aside, Payton Schaefer gave fans the celebration of the season with the tying goal with 2:55 remaining in regulation. Sebastien Pare and Shane Poulsen had the helpers, but then something went wrong. Just :23 seconds later, the Vees took the lead once more as Paul Stoykewych got his 2nd of the night. 

Cue the timeout. The empty net. The crowd getting truly in to it. And cue the other man who has carried this team on his back throughout the season; Tyler Martin. Martin took a slap shot that made its' way past Mantha and gave the Centennials incredible inspiration with just :41 seconds left. The goal was first thought to be tipped by Patterson, but Martin now has credit on the BCHL box score. Sebastien Pare continued his hot night with his 2nd assist while Jeff Wight added an assist as well for a two point night. 

Merritt had a couple of great chances in overtime, as Mantha hung tight in the Vees net and made some great saves. A rush near the midway mark of overtime had Brett Beauvais rush up the left wing before laying the puck in to the corner for Erik Benoit, who fed a wide open Brad McClure in the high slot for his 1st of the night and 5th of the series. With the win, the Vees take a 3-0 lead with Game 4 right back in Merritt on Saturday night at 7:30.

Once again, fans are encouraged to come to the game early and tune in to the Q101 pre-game show during the Tailgate Party. The Centennials have life and a chance to really take momentum heading back to Penticton for a possible Game 5 on Monday.

Merritt finished 1-for-4 on the man advantage while Penticton went 0-for-5. Payton Schaefer was 1st Star, Scotty Patterson was 2nd Star while Vees defender Paul Stoykewych was 3rd. Sebastien Pare was the much deserved Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game. 

Here guys, GET ON MY BACK! 
Let's get out on Saturday and really fire these guys up!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Centennials Look For Answers Down 2-0 Returning Home:

If you look back to nearly every preview of the opening round series between the Merritt Centennials and Penticton Vees, you will find the common trend of defense-first mentalities and great goaltending. Through two games in the series, despite Merritt playing undermanned on the blue line, the two teams have a combined 17 goals; 14 of which belong to Penticton.

In Game 1, the Vees spanked the Centennials 8-0 with goals from 7 different players, while forcing the Cents to pull a third period goaltender change.

The following night, Merritt came out with a positive attitude and results followed through the first two periods with at one time a 3-1 lead, before eventually falling 6-3 due to a third period breakdown.

Early in the first, the game got going in fashion as Gavin Gould threw his weight around on Cody DePourq with a big check at the benches, before the two got engaged in a scrap right in front of Devin Kero, who made 30 of 35 saves in the loss(BCHL site is incorrect as Vees final goes was empty net). Both players got their fair share of hits in, with no clear decision as both benches cheered.

James Neil opened the scoring for the Centennials with a shorthanded goal as he flew up the left side and caught his own rebound before beating Hunter Miska, who looked to battle pucks at times, making 18 of 21 saves. Despite 3 goals allowed, Miska's performance was slightly flashier than Olivier Mantha's 20 save shutout in the opening game.

Brad McClure tied the game for the Vees late in the first, before the Centennials took a second period lead as Sebastien Pare showed off his speed shorthanded as he blew by Brett Beauvais and cut backhand to make it 2-1.

4:00 minutes after that, just after the midway point of the second, Scotty Patterson surprised everyone with a bullet right off the face-off win by Pare, to give Merritt a 3-1 lead.

Cody DePourq put Penticton down by one under five minutes later, and as Luke Pierce stated on the post game show it was a goal that hurt his hockey team, but they appeared to recover fine with a 3-2 lead in to the break.

In the third, Malik Kaila was assessed a linesman penalty after his stick caught Matt Serratore high and drew blood, giving Penticton a four-minute man advantage. That powerplay would be the difference maker as DePourq put home his 2nd of the night before another penalty was issued against Merritt with twelve minutes to go.

Shane McColgan was then set up for a beauty from the goal line on one knee, before Brad McClure made it 5-3 under thirty seconds later.

The Vees would seal the game with an empty netter, taking a 2-0 lead in the series heading back to the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena for games on Friday and Saturday night. Both games begin at 7:30 with the Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show starting at 7:00.

Tickets can be purchased from Canadian Tire, Cooper's, and at the Centennials office; call 378-3604 for more information.

If the Centennials want to be successful, they need to play a similar game to that of Game 2, with a home-ice touch. When they play that way, it was been fool-proof this season, notably against the Vees. There wasn't a single 'break' for the Cents in the first two games, and that does play in on confidence but officiating doesn't dictate goals and in the end the Centennials will need to keep pucks out of their own zone and stop letting the Vees get wide open shots.

It's going to be a great weekend in Merritt, let's paint this town RED!!

Visit the link for more details on Paint the Town Red!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Centennials vs Vees - Round 1 Playoff Preview:

The Merritt Centennials finished the 2013/14 BCHL regular season with a record of 31-22-4-1 for 67 points, good for 4th place in the Interior Division.

The Penticton Vees went 36-16-2-4 on the year with 78 points, capturing the Division title with a tie-breaker over West Kelowna.

The two teams' open the 2014 Fred Page Cup Playoffs on Tuesday night in Penticton, with Game 2 on Wednesday before transferring back to Merritt on Friday for Game 3.

Here is the schedule for Round 1:

Game 1: Tuesday, March 4th- Centennials @ Vees 7pm, SOEC Q101 BROADCAST AT 6:30
Game 2: Wednesday, March 5th- Centennials @ Vees 7pm, SOEC Q101 BROADCAST AT 6:30
Game 3: Friday, March 7th- Vees @ Centennials 7:30pm, NVMA Q101 BROADCAST AT 7
Game 4: Saturday, March 8th- Vees @ Centennials 7:30pm, NVMA Q101 BROADCAST AT 7
*Game 5: Monday, March 10th- Centennials @ Vees 7pm, SOEC Q101 BROADCAST AT 6:30
*Game 6: Tuesday, March 11th- Vees @ Centennials 7pm, NVMA Q101 BROADCAST AT 6:30
*Game 7: Wednesday, March 12th- Centennials @ Vees 7pm, SOEC Q101 BROADCAST AT 6:30
*-If Necessary

Click to view information on Centennials playoff tickets.

ALL games can be heard live on Q101, at 101.1 FM in Merritt and online at!

Team Comparison

31-22-4-1, 67 points
36-16-2-4, 78 points

Home Records:
17-7-4-1, 39 points
19-7-0-3, 41 points

Away Records:
14-15-0-0, 28 points
17-9-2-1, 37 points

Power Play:
43/232 28.5% 8th (Home: 22/117 18.8% 11th - Away: 21/115 18.3% 5th) 
55/234 23.5% 1st (Home: 22/111 19.8% 9th - Away: 33/123 26.8% 1st)

Penalty Kill:
209/248 18.5% 3rd (Home: 94/110 85.5%% 5th - Away: 115/138 83.3% 3rd) 
192/221 86.8% 1st (Home: 93/105 88.6%% 1st - Away: 99/116 85.3% 1st)

Goals For:
184- 10th(4th in Interior)
199 - 6th(2nd in Interior)

Top Scorers:
Diego Cuglietta- 19+37=56 points
Scott Patterson- 27+26=53 points
Jeff Wight- 22+27=49 points

Brad McClure- 41+39=80 points
Brett Beauvais- 13+45=58 points
Nicolas Pierog- 31+18=49 points

Goals Against:
165 - 6th(2nd in Interior)
137 - 1st(1st in Interior)

Top Defencemen:
Jason Bird- 8+25=33 points
Shane Poulsen- 7+19=26 points
Tyler Martin- 4+19=23 points

Brett Beauvais- 13+45=58 points
Paul Stoykewych- 4+15=19 points
Alexandre Coulombe- 3+9=12 points

Devin Kero 19-15-4, 2.48 GAA, .918 Sv%
Jarrod Schamerhorn 5-3, 3.08 GAA, .905 Sv%

Hunter Miska 19-12-2, 2.26 GAA, .915 Sv%
Olivier Mantha 17-9, 2.27 GAA, .912 Sv%

Penalty Minutes:

Season Series(Merritt goes 2-4-1-0, Penticton goes 4-1-1-0
September 27, 2013... Penticton wins 4-1 at SOEC 
October 16th, 2013... Merritt wins 3-2 in OT at SOEC
December 4th, 2013... Penticton wins 4-1 at SOEC
December 6th, 2013... Penticton wins 5-4 at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena
January 3rd, 2014... teams tie 1-1 at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena
January 5th, 2014... Penticton wins 6-2 at SOEC
January 17th, 2014... Merritt wins 2-1 at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena

Penticton outscores Merritt 23-14 in 7 games.

Special Teams:
Merritt goes 3/30 for a 10% PP

Penticton goes 7/35 for a 20% PP

Top Scorers Versus:
Diego Cuglietta 2+3=5 points
Shane Poulsen 2+3=5 points
Jeff Wight 2+2=4 points
Sebastien Pare 0+4=4 points

Brett Beauvais 4+5=9 points
Brad McClure 4+3=7 points
Travis Blanleil 2+4=6 points
Ben Dalpe 1+4=5 points

If you look by the numbers, for the most part Penticton has the advantage, but in the way that Merritt has played against the Vees this season with a full lineup, I see no underdog. Should be a great series, with excitement in either arena. 


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Centennials Announce Playoff Ticket Sales Ahead Of Regular Season Finale:

The Merritt Centennials are still unsure of who they will be facing off against in the opening round of the 2014 Fred Page Cup playoffs, but going in to Saturday night's action they are preparing for both the Penticton Vees and West Kelowna Warriors.

Tickets for the first round are not quite on sale just yet, but the dates of the sales have been announced, and here they are! Looking forward to seeing a packed house every night as the Centennials go to the post-season for the fifth consecutive season.

In town tonight to close the regular season is my hometown team, the Vernon Vipers. Vernon and Merritt have played some great games this season, with the Centennials taking 8 of 12 points in the season series, and Vernon 6.

Game time is 7:30 at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, it's First Nations Appreciation Night so I look forward to seeing lots of regional pride at this game!

Tune in on Q101 at 7:00 with yours truly. Last one until... Tuesday!

Ticket Sales are as follows:

Wednesday, March 5 from 12-3pm at the Marketing Office

Friday, March 7 from 12-3pm at the Marketing Office,  4-6pm arena    7:30pm game 

Saturday, March 8 from 12-3pm at the Marketing Office,  4-6pm arena     7:30pm game

Tuesday, March 11 from 10-3pm at the Marketing Office,  4-6pm arena     7:00 game *if necessary     

Visit the Marketing Office, across from the Post Office, in with Property Guys or phone 250-378-3604 during Marketing Office hours to purchase.

On game days purchase tickets at the arena between 4-6pm, or call 250-280-1418. 
$13 adults    
$9 all others (seniors, students, children)

*Note—Season ticket holders will have an earlier deadline this year if they wish to buy their seat.They will have to purchase by 3pm on game day. After 3pm the unsold seats will be available for others to purchase. After 6pm all seats are general admission.

Starting Monday, March 3rd , Coopers and Canadian Tire will also be selling general admission


For general playoff ticket information, call Karen Webster 250-378-2345