This is posted on the Merritt Herald website:
By Ian Webster – Merritt Herald
Published: September 22, 2011 12:00 PM
Updated: September 22, 2011 12:21 PM
“I’m really excited to get going,” stated Luke Pierce, Merritt Centennials’ head coach and GM on the eve of a new BCHL season that will see his team play their first three games on the road. “Training camp and the exhibition schedule were long. I’m tired of games that don’t mean anything. It’s time to start playing for real.”
Reality comes in the form of an opening-weekend doubleheader up in Prince George against the Spruce Kings this coming Friday and Saturday nights, followed by a mid-week encounter with the Trail Smoke Eaters next Wednesday at the storied Cominco Arena.
“I’m glad we’re on the road to start,” said Pierce. “It gives our players some time to be together and to bond.”
The Cents begin their regular schedule following a 5-1-0 record in pre-season play, including a 5-3 win against the Sprucies back on September 2 in 100 Mile House.
That game ended on an emotional note as a couple of Prince George players who were not dressed for the contest began mouthing off and taunting Cents’ team members as they left the ice at the conclusion of the game. Pierce called the Spruce Kings’ behavior “classless’ at the time, and isn’t prepared to retract his comments now.
Merritt’s bench boss feels his team will have plenty of edge to their games in Prince George given that their only exhibition loss was a 4-1 setback at the hands of the Chilliwack Chiefs in their final pre-season outing.
“I never like to lose,” declared Pierce, “but I think that the loss was valuable, and we can take an important lesson out of it. They were a pretty solemn bunch in the dressing room after the defeat. I want them to remember that feeling. It’s not fun.”
The loss to the Chiefs on home ice came less than 24 hours after the Cents handed coach Harvey Smyl’s newly-reborn War Bonnets a 2-1 setback at the beautiful Prospera Place in Chilliwack.
“They weren’t well-played games by any means,” said Pierce in summarizing the two Cents-Chiefs encounters. “I didn’t really see a lot of desire on anybody’s part. In Merritt, they capitalized on three stupid mistakes by us and that was the game.”
Cents’ netminder Lino Chimienti went the distance and picked up the win in Chilliwack. Jacob Reichert tallied both goals for Merritt and continued to look great at the start of his sophmore season with the Centennials.
Merritt defenseman Brandon Pfeil saw his first game action of the pre-season Friday, but it lasted just 36 seconds.
After initiating a thunderous but clean hit on a pinch at the blueline, Pfeil was jumped and forced to drop the gloves with Chilliwack’s Tyler Miller. The early fisticuffs resulted in game misconducts to both participants.
Some further ill-will at the end of Friday night’s game in Chilliwack carried over to Saturday as the Chiefs came at the Cents hard in the opening period, and scored with just three minutes gone on the clock.
Centennials’ newcomer Brandon Bruce continued to sparkle since arriving in Merritt, and drew his team even with a precision one-timer at the 13:34 mark of the first period.
Unfortunately, that was a good as it got in their final pre-season tune-up, as costly errors led directly to Chiefs’ goals that Cents’ netminder Tyler Steel had no chance on.
Immediately following the two games versus Chilliwack, Pierce and assistant coach Joe Martin began the process of reducing the final Cents’ roster down to 21, the new league maximum for this season.
Gone from the forward ranks are Dylan Playfair and weekend pick-up Brandon Formosa, and from the defense Dominic Centis, Simon Horlick and Braeden Hikichi.
Named to the final Cents’ line-up was Merritt minor hockey product Payton Schaefer, the first local player to officially “make the team” since Codie Kightley in the 2008-2009 season. Pierce stated that the 18-year-old Schaefer was full value for his selection.
“Payton made a strong case for himself right from day one,” he said. “He showed a great attitude and willingness to learn.”