Payton Schaefer Comes Home to Merritt Centennials:

This was also posted on the Merritt News website:

September 21, 2011

Robin Poon
Merritt News Reporter

After a season with the Kamloops Storm, Merrittonian forward Payton Schaefer has returned to play in the Nicola Valley with his hometown team, the Merritt Centennials.

Schaefer was one of 21 players named to the Centennials roster Monday. Born and raised in Merritt, he is the first local to make the team since defenceman Codie Kightley spent two seasons with the Cents, from 2007-09.

“It feels good to be home and I’m having fun,” says Schaefer.

Schaefer scored six goals and 17 assists over 41 games with the Kamloops Storm, a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League team, in the 2010-11 season. He was named one of the league’s top prospects last December.

Schaefer attended the Centennials summer training camp in 2010 and appeared in several games as an affiliate player, but did not earn a permanent spot on the team.

He says, however, that he still wanted to be a Centennial after joining the Storm.

“It was my goal. That’s what I was working for.”

Schaefer says he has enjoyed playing in Merritt and praises the Centennials’ coaches and trainers.

“They’re a lot different. They really try to get close and personal with all of the players. They’re really great to have.”

He says his goal is to add 20 points over the season but adds, “You just play to get better. They’ve been keeping me busy, so it’s good, but we’ll see in the regular season.

“As long as I’m playing, it’s good.”

Asked how the fans in Merritt differ from those in Kamloops, he says, “If they’re any different, it’s that they’re local people you know.

“The worst part is knowing my mom’s watching. It’s good to know the community’s watching.”

Nevertheless, Schaefer’s family will be out in force to cheer him on.

“They got season tickets. They’ll be out all the time.”

The Cents’ first regular-season game will be played against the Prince George Spruce Kings in Prince George on Friday.

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