The Merritt Centennials get set to officially begin their exhibition campaign with a tilt against a foe they will get to become all too familiar with in the coming months - the Prince George Spruce Kings.
The Cents are coming off a battle for intrasquad supremacy that saw the team line up against each other in a series of three games. Game one saw Team White prevail with goals from Josh Olson, Carson Preston, and Lucas Lundy over Team Red who got a lone goal from Brandon Dent. Game 2 was the most offensive of the bunch with Team Red bouncing back with a 6-3 win over Team White. Wyatt Marlow and Dylan Sydor tallied lone goals while Hunter Brown and Brandon Dent added a pair for Team Red. Team White jumped out to the early first period lead with goals from Jerzy Orchard, Zack Dallazanna, and Jacob Dewitt before seeing their lead evaporate in the final two frames. The Barnes Cup finale played host to a little bit of everything as the teams traded a pair of goals in the first period. Cubby Myers and Orchard bulged the twine for Team White while Dylan Sydor and Brandon Dent answered for Team Red. Goals from Ben Ward and Joe Davidson had the teams heading to an overtime shootout for all the bragging rights and it was Team Red scoring the lone goal of the shootout of the stick of Davidson and off the stellar play of Josh Dias in net to capture the inaugural Barnes Cup.
The team that Merritt will ice tonight will be far removed from the team that represented the town in the 2019-20 season as there are only six players returning from last years roster. Lead by local Talon Zakall on defense, fellow Merritonian Chase Cooke on the back end, and bolstered by Ben Ward, Jake McLean, Jerzy Orchard, and Wyatt Marlow up front the young core will be looking to make strides after a hard off-season training regimen.
The Centennials have been able to fill some holes through the trade market by acquiring forwards Zack Dallazanna, Brandon Dent, and Walker Erickson through future consideration deals. Veteran defender Grayson Valente was acquired for forward Josh Van Unen. The Cents solidified their goaltending by acquiring Josh Dias from the AJHL for forward Chase Nameth. More recently the team continued to tinker with their blue line by bringing in Liam Visram from the Nanaimo Clippers and Trevor Isaksson from the Trail Smoke Eaters.
The bulk of the hockey staff's work this offseason has been scouting and recruiting and it shows by some of the promising prospects they've brought aboard over the long summer. Forwards Alex Ochitwa, Cubby Myers, Carson Preston and defender Alek Erichuk were among some of the first committed to in the spring. Lucas Lundy and Joe Davidson were announced before a flood of new recruits came through as a result of the Centennials Fall Evaluation Camp. Jacob Dewitt and Liam Davidson have been added on defense, while Dylan Sydor, Josh Olson, Blake Astorino, Nolan Wall, Jack Henderson, Jacksen Hungle, Hunter Brown, and Mark Thurston have been added up front.
Of course tonight we can only be treated to 20 of those names on the lineup card, but it will be a solid test for veterans and newcomers alike as the Prince George Spruce Kings look to reload after a first round playoff exit last season. Sporting a veteran laden lineup that is only at 23 total players overall, the Spruce Kings are focused on continuing to build off of the growing pains of last season. They do have some once famliar faces on their team as both Christian Buono and Hunor Torzsok were acquired by PG over the off-season. One time Cent for a day Carter Woodside is now the veteran number 1 goaltender, and Prince George features a long list of returners.
Special teams will be an area that both teams look to improve. Prince George was respectable, but not near the top of the class in the BCHL last season, while the Centennials have no where to go but up after finishing last in both categories last year.
Powerplay: Penalty Kill:
PG - 17.2% (11th) PG - 78.3% (12th)
Cents - 12.9% (17th) Cents - 72.3% (17th)
The goaltending battle will see Josh Dias get his first taste of BCHL action while Colton Phillips-Watts will serve as the back up. Dias went 8-30-3 in 42 appearances last season in the AJHL while sporting a goals against of 3.77 and a .900SV%. Dias served on the Lloydminster Bobcats who were among the bottom teams in the AJHL last year.
The one time Cent affiliate Carter Woodside should get the start for the Spruce Kings in the games first official action. He went 5-11-1 in a half season in PG last year with a .900 SV% and a 3.08 GAA.
Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter says that he's looking forward to seeing how his team handles this first test.
"It's going to be a game filled with a lot of emotion for some of younger guys, but in the end it could come down to who's legs last the longest."
The Cents hope to get a passing mark on the first test of the season.
Puck drop 7pm. Pre-game 6:45 on HockeyTV and Q101 with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
A reminder to sign up for your HockeyTV subscription using the promo code - BCHLCENTENNIALS20 - and receive $80 off your ALL ACCESS pass.
The red light was getting some extra work at the NVMA on Tuesday morning as game 2 of the Barnes Cup got underway with an offensively fueled 6-3 rebound by Team Red over Team White.
After being a non-factor in game 1, special teams became a focal point of game 2, and it was on special teams that the first goal of the game was scored. Wyatt Marlow was at the right place at the right time after a Grayson Valente shot rebounded off his body and slid over the line past Colton Phillips-Watts into the net to open the scoring. It didn't take long for Team White to respond after a shot on net let to a goal-mouth scrum and Jerzy Orchard was the first one to find the puck to bat it past Josh Dias to tie the game 1-1. Then it was Team White's turn to go to the man advantage and after some solid puck movement it was a similar goal mouth scramble that led to Zack Dallazanna being able to find the puck in the blue paint and shovel the puck through the legs to make it 2-1 White. Mere moments later the ice continued to tilt as Jacob Dewitt cheated down from the point to finish off another battle in front to make it 3-1. Phillips-Watts was a difference maker in the first period after two clean breakaway tries for Team Red from Dent and Erickson - but both were denied thanks to some spectacular saves. The four goals combined in the first period were scored from about 4 feet in front of the net as the Cents showed off their grittiness is game 2. Shots after 1 were 14-12 Team Red.
Team Red looked to be down in a hole after period one, but on the heels of a bit of a lucky goal they were able to climb back into the game. Streaking down the left wing, Hunter Brown through a shot on from near the goal line and was able to sneak it past Phillips-Watts to make it 3-2. Later in the period with another chance on the powerplay, Team Red went to work. Working the puck around the horn, a cross-ice feed found Dent at the right dot and he unleashed an absolute laser top corner to tie the game at 3's. Shots after 2 were 23-20 Team White.
In the final frame, Team Red continued to put the pedal down with relentless pressure and play in the offensive zone. Despite the multitude of chances it wasn't until Dylan Sydor was ripped down the left wing, and ripped a shot bar-down, short-side to put Team Red ahead 4-3. Hunter Brown scored his second of the game off a rebound from the point to make it 5-3. With a powerplay late in the game, Team White pulled the goalie to put the pressure on but coughed up the puck at the offensive blue line and Brandon Dent scored the empty netter to make it a 6-3 final. Final shots were 39-31 Team Red.
After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter said the chemistry is starting to build.
"Some of the lines we've put together are really starting to get a read on each other now. They're looking solid and implementing some of the things we've taught in practice which you love to see. It's all shaping up for a big game Thursday morning. Even though there's only pride on the line - these kids all want to win."
A deciding game 3 of the Barnes Cup will get going bright and early on Thursday morning at 9:30am - free to view on HockeyTV.
Come Saturday's preseason opener against the Prince George Spruce Kings fans will have to purchase an All Access pass - use discount code BCHLCENTENNIALS20 for $80 off.
The Merritt Centennials had a spirited bout within themselves on Friday morning, and Team White was able to find the late magic to prevail 3-1 in a tight checking, physical affair.
In period one, the teams came out flying in what's been the closest to real game action they've experienced so far. With the pace ramping up, Liam Visram went across the blue line to Lucas Lundy who fired up to Josh Olson. Olson was able to out maneuver the d man, and cut in with a short-side snipe - glove high on Josh Dias to open the scoring in the Intrasquad Barnes Cup. Despite chances, that would be all the scoring provided from the first period. Shots after 1 were just 6 aside.
It didn't take long for Team Red to level the ledger in period 2 as Grayson Valente chopped the puck up the wall to Jake McLean who made a clever bank play to himself to cut around the defender at the line, that sprung McLean and Brandon Dent on a two-on-one and after a pass across the offensive zone, Brandon Dent pulled to the backhand and had just enough to squeeze it under the pad of Colton Phillips-Watts five-hole. After the early goal, the physical play really took off with some crushing hits, some players taking exception, and some after whistle scrums, but none of it led to more offense on the scoreboard. After 2 shots were 15-10 Team Red.
The final frame started off a little more muted than the second period ended, but the pace didn't slow. It wasn't until midway through that the deadlock at 1's was finally broken. Mark Thurston was working hard behind the net, worked his man off the puck, and found an unmarked Carson Preston open in front who was able to tuck the puck under the bar from the sharp angle over Dias to make it 2-1 White. Team Red continued to push for the equalizer, and even pulled the goalie in the final minutes to try and get the tying goal, but a Lucas Lundy prayer was answered when he found pay dirt from the opposite end of the rink to ice the game 3-1. Final shots were 22-18 Red.
After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter said that he was impressed by the pace.
"What we were looking for coming into this game was could they keep the pace up for the entire game, and the boys did that. It was nice to see the intensity out here as well, we have 30 guys that all want to be Merritt Centennials out there, and they are going to force us to make some tough decisions to get to 25."
The Centennials will look to play game 2 of the Barnes Cup on Tuesday morning at 11:30am - free to view on at hockeytv.com.
A reminder to look for Merritt Team Red or White as opposed to Centennials when searching for the games as they are not part of the official schedule.
The Merritt Centennials had another internal battle on a Friday where the BCHL is starting to play host to exhibition games across the league. Team Red managed to survive a late scare from Team White in game 1 to hang on with a 2-1 victory, and Team Black came back with a vengeance after surrendering the opening goal to Team Green with a 5-2 win.
In the early contest, the teams were skating evenly until the first penalty of the game. On the powerplay, veteran Talon Zakall opened the scoring with a seeing eye shot from the line that went top shelf after a dish from Zack Dallazanna and Joe Davidson. The newcomer Davidson then did some more digging behind the net, working the puck free for Dallazanna at the right circle where from bended-knee he blasted through to make it 2-0 Red heading into the first intermission.
The second half was more evenly contested with Team White pushing for the equalizer throughout the frame. Alex Ochitwa would net his first of the morning by picking five-hole to give Team White some life. Sparked to life, Team White tried to pull the goalie to get the equalizer, but Team Red would stand tall for the 2-1 win.
Team Black and Team Green came out flying with some pace and an early goal was found by Josh Olson after a good passing play between Grayson Valente and Zakall. The 1-0 lead for Green wouldn't last long as Jacob Dewitt went to work from the blueline unleashing a lethal shot with his large frame after Ben Ward set him up. Then returning forward Jerzy Orchard would get on the board after some more solid work by Ben Ward and Chase Cooke to set him up. Dewitt went back to work from the blueline after a dish from Lucas Lundy, he wired a lazer towards net that caught Ochitwa in the midsection and deflected in to make it 3-1 Black at the end of the first half.
The boys in black kept rolling in the second half as Orchard would add another after a nifty feed from Ward got him open in front, Orchard popped it upstairs on the backhand to make it 4-1 Black. Dallazanna would get sprung by Ochitwa for a breakaway, and despite bobbling the puck on the approach, he got enough of a shot away to fool the goaltender and make it 5-1 Black. Team Green would get a late one after a rocket from Zakall on the line would find Carson Preston to the side of the net for a rebound goal.
Overall it was another good internal test for the teams ahead of exhibition play which begins when the Trail Smoke Eaters come to town on October 9th.