The Merritt Centennials are announced today that they've committed to Forward Carson Preston (01) of the Aldergrove Kodiaks (PJHL).
The Langley, BC native is another player who relies on speed, skill, work ethic, and compete as he comes in at 5'7" and 160 pounds. Preston started off the 2019-20 campaign with a very strong Revelstoke Grizzlies (KIJHL) club that had a strong nucleus of returning players from their Cyclone Taylor Cup championship. In a limited role, Preston put up 4 points in 13 games before making the move to the Aldergrove Kodiaks of the PJHL. After joining the Kodiaks, and getting more of an opportunity on the depth chart, Preston's numbers sky rocketed where he put up 15 goals and 10 assists for 25 points in 21 games. Preston also was a huge factor in the abbreviated playoff run for the Kodiaks putting up 7 goals and 6 assists in 9 games on the teams march to the PJHL Championship series against the North Vancouver Wolf Pack before the season was cancelled due to Covid-19. Fans will also remember Preston from the exhibition season last year, where provided some offense before being one of the final cuts.
Preston says that playing for the Centennials and in the BCHL has always been a dream of his.
"It's always been my goal to play in the BCHL. Growing up I've spent my summers at Nicola Lake and Merritt has become a second home to me in the off-season, I can't wait to make it my home during the season. I went to main camp last year and everybody in the organization and in the community was great to me."
Director of Hockey Operations John Stuart says that Preston is a player he's followed for a long time, and knows he will fit the Centennials core beliefs.
"Carson is a player I have known and followed for 10 years. I know his character, his work ethic, and his values and that he will bring them day in and day out to the Merritt Centennials. Carson is a student of the game and is constantly striving to learn and develop. He's a team first player that is happier for team success than his own. This past season Carson showed he has great leadership, talent, work ethic and above all that he's a good teammate. He is exactly the type of player the Merritt Centennials are looking for moving forward."
Preston says that he brings a number of tools to the table, but a few stand out above the rest.
"I plan on using my speed, offensive skill, and tenacity to help the Cents however I can."
Over the off-season Preston plans to put the work in to be ready to join the Cents.
"I will be working a lot on my speed, and spending a lot of time in the gym working on my size and strength."
Fans can look forward to seeing him on the ice next season.
The Merritt Centennials announced today that they've committed to forward Alex Ochitwa (02) for the 2020-21 season.
A native of Prince George, BC, the 5'6, 160 pound, left shot forward may be small in stature, but he's high in skill. Playing the past two seasons in the BC Major Midget League with the Cariboo Cougars the Ochitwa is over a point-per-game producer. In his inaugural BCMML campaign he was able to contribute 17 goals and 18 assists in 40 games during the regular season and added 5 points as the Cougars took home the Championship Banner and the Cromie Memorial Trophy. This past season despite being shortened with injury to just 30 games, Ochitwa was able to continue his upwards trajectory and net 23 goals and 31 assists in just 30 games.
Ochitwa says he is looking forward to what the Cents are building.
"I'm most excited about the atmosphere being built in Merritt. The culture the team is creating looks like it could build towards something very special. Being a part of a team-first program is very promising and I'm excited to contribute to that. Also, very excited to join such a long standing organization."
The new recruit says that he brings a number of things to his game, but he knows and is ready to play Cents hockey.
"Hard work is always a key value for the Cents and that is something I'm committed to bring. I think the creative aspect of my game is something I can contribute to the team and hope to help bring some offence."
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says he's excited to add a player that checks not only the offensive boxes, but the overall character boxes as well.
"Alex is a dynamic and creative offensive player who has great East/West ability. More importantly he is a person of tremendous character and will be a big part of our team first culture moving forward. He understands that with team success first, personal success will follow. He is a positive leader and a determined individual that wants to get better every day. We are extremely excited to add this talented player and great person to our organization. We have done extensive research on Alex and we have no doubt he will fit our new culture and represent the Cents core values on and off the ice."
Ochitwa says he's ready to train hard to make sure he's ready for the season ahead.
"My summer is geared towards working on my speed and strength. Becoming faster and stronger will help open up ice for myself and teammates."
Cents fans can look forward to seeing Alex in action at main camp in Merritt on the eve of the season.
The Merritt Centennials announced yesterday that Captain Rylan Van Unen has committed to Northern Michigan University for the 2020-21 season.
Van Unen is a rare specimen in the BCHL in that he spent his entire 4 year junior career with one team, the Centennials. In total, the Captain got into 212 regular season games and 16 playoff games during his tenure registering 50 goals and 45 assists over that span to go along with 213 penalty minutes. Characterized by his honest north-south game, Rylan also possesses breakaway speed, a lethal shot, and a grinders mentality that should serve him well at the next stage in his hockey career.
Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says its the work ethic that sets Van Unen apart.
"I am extremely happy for Rylan. He has worked hard for this opportunity and I can't wait to see him succeed at the next level. His work ethic is second to none andhe's a great leader and person. I am proud of him and wish him nothing but success in his new journey."
The departing Captain Van Unen says that he's excited to be joining a program on the rise and the prospect of playing with a familiar face.
"I couldn't be happier to join a program like Northern Michigan, and I'm especially excited to play with my brother again. I'd like to thank everyone in Merritt for what they have done for me in the last 4 years."
In joining the Northern Michigan Wildcats, Rylan will not only suit up with his twin brother Mike, but he will also play against former Centennials that have gone onto play in the WCHA conference in Nick Wicks, Zach Court, Tyrell Buckley, Jacob Berger and more.
The Centennials would like to thank Rylan and the Van Unen family for their commitment to the Nicola Valley community and Cents hockey over his 4 year stint, and wish them all the best on this next chapter in hockey and education.
The Merritt Centennials went out on their shields in their final game of the season, but ultimately fell to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-2.
In the first period the Silverbacks opened the scoring on the powerplay with a goal from Rybarik to make it 1-0. Captain Rylan Van Unen quickly answered for the Cents after being set up by Manty and Matsui in front he went top corner hockey for the final goal of his Junior career. Ryan Winter kept the team in it throughout the first with timely saves when they were under fire with 22 shots from the 'Backs. Christian Buono was able to score off a faceoff play to give the Cents the one goal lead despite spending a lot of the period in their own zone.
The second period was filled with neutral zone play, back and forth,but neither team could find a foot hold. Then with the Centennials on a late powerplay a shot rung round for a short handed break out and William Poirier scored for the Silverbacks. The mental mistakes continued for the Cents as shortly thereafter Salmon Arm would add another in the goal mouth from Unruh to make it 3-2.
Despite a big push from the Centennials in the third period, they couldn't find the back of the net and the Silverbacks would hang on for the win.
Ryan Winter made 37/40 saves in his final junior game.
After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter said that he was proud of the effort the team showed in the final game and throughout the season.
"The boys showed through this final stretch what kind of team they were. With all the changes throughout the year it took us a while to figure out what kind of identity we had. I'm proud of the effort they showed throughout this final stretch."
The Cents would like to thank the fans who stuck with them through thick and thin throughout the season.
The Merritt Centennials (14-39-1-3) finish their season against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (29-23-4-1) this afternoon.
Last night the Merritt Centennials scored their 2nd win in their 'No Bull' Ty Pozzobon third jerseys by their second big score 7-4 over the Trail Smoke Eaters. The offense was flowing early for the Merritt Centennials who after killing a penalty got a goal on the rush after Talon Zakall set up Daniel Tkac back door to open the scoring 1-0 just 2:34 into the game. Michael Collela scored top corner off a faceoff play to tie the game at 1's just 2 minutes later. Late in the frame, Owen Ozar snuck behind the D to break in all alone from the blue line and dangle in on Winter to make it 2-1, and that's where the game would be after 20 minutes. In the 2nd frame, the Centennials came out flying led by their Captain Rylan Van Unen in his final home game at the NVMA. After putting some early pressure on, the Captain caused a turnover at the blue line then dangled in around a man and then slipped the puck five-hole to make it 2-2. Christian Buono followed that up by flying up the left wing, and despite having an option on the other side, he kept and sniped top corner to restore the Cents lead 3-2. Talon Zakall opened up a 2 goal lead after he jumped up in the rush and Evan Benwell found him back door to make it 4-2 at the 10:05 mark. Brophy Dunne then took a boarding penalty against Collela and the Smoke Eaters' Chase Dafoe quickly scored on the powerplay to make it 4-3. On the ensuing shift, Owen Ozar danced into the zone and deked out the team but got tied up at the final moment to draw a penalty shot. He made no mistake with the free break in to tie the game 4-4. With the Cents on a powerplay it was the Captain who book ended the period with another goal, this one from the point with traffic in front to restore the one goal edge 5-4. In an effort to spark their team, the Smoke Eaters swapped to Logan Terness to start the 3rd period, but the gamble didn't pay off as Payton Matsui danced to the slot and fired top corner to make it 6-4. On a follow up play, Ben Ward went crashing to the net and Terness was swapped back in favor of Matteo Paler Chow. Ben Ward would add another one for the Cents in the third to make it 7-4, and the despite the Smoke Eaters scoring one late to make it 7-5 the Cents would hang on for the win.
The Silverbacks faced the same Smoke Eaters club on Friday night and suffered a 5-1 defeat. With the loss the Silverbacks are limping into the last game of the season having gone 2-3 over their last 5. Despite the loss to the Smoke Eaters they were able to come away with a gutsy 5-4 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs. The last time on home ice they lost 4-1 to Wenatchee and before that lose to the Cents last week 4-2 on Brian Barrett night. The Silverbacks come into this game with something to play for however. With a regulation win they could vault into home ice advantage in the playoffs and depending how the tie breakers go even have a shot at 3rd place in the Interior division to secure a trip to the Island to take on the Grizzlies. The Cents will face a team not only hungry to go out strong on home ice, but also a team hungry to improve their playoff seeding. The Cents have been playing with pride in their final two weekends, and are looking to continue that trend.
The season series has been a wild one. The Cents own a 2-2-1 record against the 'Backs and every game has been close. The series opener was a tight 4-3 OT loss on the road, but the Cents followed that up with a 6-5 win at the NVMA. A double header at the turn of January to February saw the Silverbacks take both games 6-2 and 5-3, but the Cents have the most recent success with that 4-2 win on Brian Barrett night. The Silverbacks have been able to pick up wins at home however, and the Cents will be looking to spoil the part at the Shaw Centre for the first time this season.
Offense was coming from all over the lineup last night on Ty Pozzobon night, and the Cents will look for that to continue in their finale. Payton Matsui now has 43 points, Christian Buono with a snipe last night is up to 37, Thomas Manty has 33, and fresh off a 4 point night Daniel Tkac has shot up to 32 points.
The Silverbacks are led by their Captain Akito Hirose with 51 points, Noah Wakeford is just behind with 50, and Daniel Rybarik is the big goal scoring threat with 30 goals and 48 points.
The special teams battle sees the Cents continuing to improve to the end.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
Cents - 13% (17th) Cents - 72.4% (17th)
'Backs - 19.1% (8th) 'Backs - 77.1% (14th)
Ryan Winter will be looking to close out his junior career with a win after staring down the Smoke Eaters last night. Winter is 6-19-1 with a .891 SV%, a 4.40 GAA, and 1 shutout. Tanner Marshall is waiting in the wings with a 7-19 record, a .882 SV% and a 4.86 GAA.
In a must-win situation, you'd think the Silverbacks would turn to Ethan Langenegger for his final tune up before the playoffs. He has been a workhorse this year going 22-15-2 with a .907 SV%, a 2.81 GAA and 3 shutouts. Grant Adams is 4-4-1 with a .904 SV% and a 2.99 GAA.
After the game last night, Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says the team needs to bring that positive energy to their final test of the year.
"It just makes such a huge difference when the guys are on the bench supporting each other, cheering for each other, and thinking positive about the next shift."
The Cents will look to end their 2019-20 campaign on a positive note this afternoon.
Puck drop 3pm. Pregame 2:45 on Q101 and Hockey TV with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
A reminder to check out the Online 50/50 Jackpot for Beyond Fitness which is sitting at over $3000 here where you can enter Canada wide for as little as a toonie here: https://centsweekly5050.thelottofactory.com/
and the 'No Bull' 3rd Jersey Auction at www.32auctions.com/nobull