Merritt Centennials
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The Merritt Centennials (1-4) get set for a rematch against the Trail Smoke Eaters (6-2) tonight.

The Centennials will be looking for revenge, while the Smoke Eaters have played the Prince George Spruce Kings in between meetings. The Cents and Smoke Eaters were in a tight 1-0 game through 40 minutes last Thursday, a large part of the reason was due to the stellar play of Josh Dias. Through 2 periods the Centennials netminder had his head on a swivel and was denying all comers on chance after chance. Trail heavily outshot Merritt through 2 periods of play 25-14 and in the third period it finally started paying dividends. Just 14 seconds into the third the Smoke Eaters were able to sneak one past the guard of Dias and the game slowly unraveled from there. The Centennials took 5 minor penalties in the third period and added 4 misconducts as they were never able to get momentum going for a steady stretch. The Smokies showed no mercy adding 4 goals in the final frame and making it a 5-0 final.

The Smoke Eaters are coming off a tight 2-1 shootout win over the Prince George Spruce Kings on home ice where Zack Feaver scored late in the first frame, before Rowan Miller scored in the second. With no scoring in the third or overtime the game went the distance to the shootout where Chase Dafoe and Feaver added 2 goals to Christian Buono's one to lift the Smoke Eaters over the PG.

The Centennials will look to discover some offense as coming into the contest they have 6 goals over 5 games, and Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter feels the goal scoring needs to come by way of committee as there's no established big gun on the Cents roster. The time on the road with a hotel stay will be a good opportunity for the team to bond, and will be made all the better if they can find a way to come together for some offense and some wins.

The Cents continue to be led by ex-Smoke Eater Trevor Isaksson with 3 points, while Ward, Orchard, and Valente have all tallied a pair.

The Smoke Eaters continue to be led by Connor Sweeney who has 8 points. Connor Michaud and Captain Cody Schiavon have added 6 points, while Dafoe, Disher, and Wakeford all have 5.

The penalty kill for both clubs is strong, but the powerplay could use a little work for both clubs as well.

Powerplay:                   Penalty Kill:

Trail - 11.9% (14th)     Trail - 92.3% (1st)

Cents - 11.1% (15th)  Cents - 82.8% (10th)

The goaltending duel sees Dias getting the lions share of the work but with a back to back situation there's a good chance we will see Colton Phillips-Watts get his second start of the preseason. Dias is 0-4 with a .855 SV% and a 5.01 GAA. Phillips-Watts is 1-0 with a .960 SV% and a 1.00 GAA.

Cayden Hamming scored the win in Merritt and is now 2-1 with a .954 SV% with a 1.34 GAA and 1 shutout. Logan Terness is 4-1 with a .911 SV% and a 2.94 GAA.

Head Coach Derek Sweet Coulter is preaching a strong breakout to lead to some more offense.

"What we are seeing on the video is that when we have guys keeping it simple in the neutral zone, and getting a crisp pass out of the defending zone we are having some better looks. We need to keep it simple in our own end and run our lines up the ice."

The Centennials are hoping that they break out to a win tonight.

Puck drop 7pm on BCHLTV.ca and Q101.ca. Pre-game 6:45 with Jared Thomas.

Catch the watch party at Boston Pizza Merritt - make your reservation now by calling 378-4222.

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The Merritt Centennials found themselves in the hockey game after 40 minutes of play thanks to some great goaltending from Josh Dias, but after coming into the period down a goal, they ended with a 5-0 final. 

There was no road rust to speak of for the Trail Smoke Eaters as they came into the game hot and put the pressure on from the opening puck drop. Dias had to be good early on to see the team through the first frame as he turned away 17 shots while the Centennials only mustered 6. No stop was more impressive than a diving blocker sprawl from Dias that punched the puck wide. After 1 it was scoreless. 

The story remained the same for a large portion of the second period. Dias held the Cents in the game while they managed to get a few chances at the other end. Throughout the game the physicality was at a fever pitch, but the Cents started to chase the hits a little too much midway through the frame. After shrugging off a check Drew Elser found Noah Wakeford in front and he was able to beat Josh Dias upstairs as he was unmarked. The Centennials weren't able to capitalize on their 2 powerplays in the period. Shots after 2 were 25-14. 

The Cents came into the third with the game for the taking, but those thoughts didn't last long as Quinn Disher scored just 14 seconds into the period. The Centennials then fell into a spiral of undisciplined play that saw them take 5 more minor penalties and multiple misconducts in the third period. To their credit, the Smoke Eaters only scored once on the powerplay, a two-man advantage where Captain Cody Schiavon absolutely wired a shot top corner. The Smokies added goals from Zack Feaver and Zach Park to make it a 5-0 final. The final shot count was 46-22. 

After the game Assistant Coach Zach Wright said the team has to try and do more for Dias. 

"This was a tough game because you can see Dias is giving us a chance heading into the third. We couldn't make good on the opportunity he gave us, and we have to learn from it."

The Cents will get a chance for redemption next week when they clash again with the Smoke Eaters. This time on their ice in Trail. 

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The Merritt Centennials (1-3) get set to take on a team other than the Prince George Spruce Kings for the first time in the preseason as they welcome their Interior Division rival the Trail Smoke Eaters (4-2) to town tonight.

The Centennials are coming off a tough 5-1 loss to the Prince George Spruce Kings that saw them suffer from some tough bounces. The game didn’t start well with Colton Cameron striking within the first minute with a floater from the line that found its way through a crowd in front. Austin Spiridakis netted his first of the preseason minutes later after an ill-timed pinch led to a 3-on-1 the other way. Merritt was on their heels through the first 10 minutes, but after the BCHL media time out the team hit the ice like a completely different squad and quickly found a goal from Ben Ward to get them back into the game. The Cents looked to be on the comeback trail to start the second period with a powerplay opportunity, but that’s where things started to unravel. Josh Dias was caught off-guard by a streaking Andrew Seaman who stole the puck and scored shorthanded. Late in the period after the Cents drew another penalty, Christian Buono was able to goad Trevor Isaksson into a misconduct. With all the commotion after the call, Mason Waite streaked in from centre, blowing past the defensemen and added another shorthanded to put PG up 4-1 after 2. The Cents weren’t able to muster much in the third period, and ex-Cent Hunor Torzsok sealed the game with a gift off the endboards of the RMCA that led to a 5-1 final.

The team will be glad to see a new opponent in front of them after playing a 4-set against one of the stingiest teams in the BCHL. The Centennials and Smoke Eaters have some history as they were spirited playoff rivals two seasons ago, before the Smoke Eaters took off to be one of the top offensive clubs and top clubs overall last season. However, a lot of those familiar faces that brought the Smoke Eaters to new heights last season are no longer there. No Kent Johnson or Phillipe Lapointe who have graduated to the University of Michigan. No more Owen Ozar who has moved on to the USHL. No more Michael Collela and the list goes on. The Smoke Eaters find themselves with a new bench boss in Tim Fragle, and are reloading this season with only 6 returning players from last seasons roster. However, at least early on the team seems to be clicking just fine with the new players in the fold. Also only playing against one opponent so far this preseason, the expansion Cranbrook Bucks, the Smoke Eaters have 4 wins and 2 losses so far. In their last 5 games they are 3-2 with a tight 6-5 win in OT their last time out that earned them a weekend split after a 4-1 loss to Cranbrook. Before that they were 4-2 and 3-1 winners after a 3-0 shutout at the hands of the Bucks.

The Centennials will be hoping to kick start the offense after struggling to a 1.50 goal-per-game rate against the trapping Spruce Kings. In talking with the players and staff, no one is hitting the panic button yet, and they’re hopeful a new team on the other end of the ice will help wake some of the offensive mojo.

Former Smoke Eater Trevor Isaksson currently leads the way for the Merritt Centennials with 3 points in 4 games. Ben Ward, Jerzy Orchard, and Grayson Valente have supplied 2 points while 8 other Cents have chipped in on the offense.

The Smoke Eaters are led by Connor Sweeney with 8 points, Connor Michaud and Cody Schiavon have 5 points while 3 others have 4 points.

The special teams battle sees both teams even with the extra man, but Trail is currently tops in the league when it comes to the kill.

Powerplay:                          Penalty Kill:

Trail – 12.5% (14th)            Trail – 90.6% (1st)

Cents – 12.5% (15th)         Cents – 81.8% (10th)

The goaltending situation sees Dias continue to search for his first win as he’s 0-3 with a .837 SV% and a 5.00 GAA. Colton Phillips-Watts is waiting in the wings with a 1-0 record, a .960 SV%, and a 1.00 GAA.

Reigning rookie of the year Logan Terness is 3-1 in the crease so far with a .905 SV% and a 3.48 GAA. Newcomer Cayden Hamming is 1-1 with a .932 SV% and a 2.20 GAA.

Assistant Coach Levi Start says the team is looking forward to a new opponent.

“I think the team is excited to see someone different, to be playing back at home, and to be playing a team that plays a different style. They’ve been working hard in practice to be ready for the game.”

The Centennials will hope that a new opponent will bring a new result tonight.

Puck drop 7pm from the NVMA. Pre-game 6:45 on BCHLTV.ca and Q101.ca with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.

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The Merritt Centennials were in it after one period of play, but a wild second period that saw a pair of shorthanded goals, and an additional goal waved off against paved the way for a Prince George victory 5-1. 

Early on it was all Spruce Kings as they were up 2-0 by the 4 minute mark. Colton Cameron and Austin Spiridakis helped get the Spruce Kings out of the gate hot, and they kept the pressure on for the first 10 minutes of the period while Josh Dias tried to recover from the two early strikes. Saved by the BCHL media timeout, the Cents came out swinging after the break and the new look top line was able to converge on net and bang home a goal. Jerzy Orchard pulled the puck off the wall, Brodi Stuart threw a shot on net, and Ben Ward got to the rebound first to make it a 2-1 hockey game and give the Cents a shot in the arm for the remainder of the first. They also picked up a late penalty in the first that would give them a powerplay heading into the 2nd. Shots after 1 were 17-9 Spruce Kings. 

With the powerplay to start the 2nd, the Cents appeared to have the upper hand, but on a routine dump in Josh Dias got his wires crossed and Andrew Seaman pounced on him in the crease and potted a quick goal. So quick in fact that the officials missed it at first, but after play went on for another 2 minutes, the refs converged and decided it was indeed a goal. The decision turned back the clock and the Cents still had a bit of time left on the powerplay. Despite additional powerplay throughout the period, the Cents couldn't hit pay dirt. Grayson Valente went off for a double-minor and after a mad play in front of the net PG batted in a goal. The officials reversed the decision citing a hand pass in the crease. Mason Waite was able to capitalize shorthanded late in the frame by dancing his way to the net and beating Dias five-hole to make it a 4-1 hockey game. Shots after 2 were 22-15 PG. 

The third period didn't have much going of consequence as both teams ground out the game to the final whistle. Hunor Torzsok was the beneficiary of a play reminiscent of the NVMA, as the puck bounced off the end-boards and right into the slot onto his stick, he made no mistake with the gift and put it into the empty cage to put the Spruce Kings 5-1. That would be the final as Josh Dias stopped 27 of 32 while Jordan Fairlie stopped 18 of 19 for the Win. 

After the game, Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter said that they will get to learn something before moving on in a short week. 

"We will take what we can from this game, and the good thing is the guys won't have to dwell on this one, they will get to play a game next week against a different opponent and try again."

The Cents will face the Trail Smoke Eaters on Thursday night 7pm from the NVMA. 

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The Merritt Centennials announced the addition of forward Brodi Stuart (00) to the team's roster on loan from the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League (WHL). 

Stuart is a veteran of 204 games over 3 WHL campaigns and has consistently put up numbers that have him hovering just over the half-point-per-game mark. Last season with the Blazers, Stuart contributed 9 goals and 30 assists for 39 points through 63 games played. In addition to the offense, Stuart also provides a lot of intangibles and has worn an 'A' for the past two seasons in Kamloops. He has also attended numerous pro rookie camps including the Pittsburgh Penguins, Dallas Stars, and Toronto Maple Leafs. 

Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter says it's the veteran presence and leadership that the team will benefit from most. 

"Brodi is a first class person and with the current situation in the WHL this was a no brainer for our organization to bring him in. He will fit in great with out group and will fill an important veteran role up front. FOr us it's not just what he brings on the ice, but off the ice as well. He will make everyone around him better and that was something we couldn't pass up. I'd like to thank Matt Bardsley and the Kamloops Blazers organization for their support throughout this process."

The Western Hockey League has agreed to allow teams to loan their players to Junior A teams until December 20th at which time they will rejoin their WHL team.

Look for Stuart to make his Centennials debut on November 7th when the Cents travel to Prince George. 

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