This is posted on the Merritt Herald website:
By Ian Webster – Merritt Herald
Published: September 29, 2011 12:00 PM
Merritt Centennials’ fans will finally get to see their BCHL team in its entirety this weekend, as the Cents play their first two games of the 2011-12 regular season on home ice.
Friday night, the Centennials host the Trail Smoke Eaters in the back half of a home-and-home two-game series that saw Merritt visit the Kootenay city on Wednesday of this week. The score of that game was unavailable at press time.
Saturday, it’s the Westside Warriors who roll into town for the second meeting between the two teams this year. The Cents edged the Warriors 2 – 1 in exhibition play back on September 3rd.
Last weekend, the Centennials opened their 2011-12 campaign with a split of games played against the Prince George Spruce Kings in the northern B.C. community.
On Friday night, the Cents displayed some first night jitters in a 6-3 loss to the Spruce Kings. The team managed to settle itself down overnight, and rebounded with a 4-3 victory over the Sprucies just 24 hours later.
“I thought that Friday’s game was a bit of a coin toss,” stated Cents’ head coach and GM Luke Pierce following his team’s return to Merritt from PG in the wee hours of Sunday morning. “Both teams made lots of mistakes. Whoever got the breaks was going to win. We probably had just as many scoring chances as they did, but just weren’t able to capitalize.”
Merritt fell behind quickly on Friday night, giving up three goals in just over 21 minutes of hockey. Evan Stack got the Cents on the board at 10:23 of the second period with a power play tally, but the Spruce Kings replied less than three minutes later with a man advantage marker of their own.
A late second period goal by Chad Brears, and Stack’s second of the night at 4:41 of the third gave the Cents life, but two late goals by PG’s Gerry Fitzgerald snuffed out any hopes of a Merritt comeback.
Fitzgerald, along with brothers Leo and Myles, feasted on the Centennials all weekend long. Between them, they garnered five goals and five assists for a total of 10 points in the two outings.
“Those three, I’ll give them a lot of credit,” said Pierce of the diminutive but talented Fitzgerald triplets who were traded to Prince George in the off-season by the Nanaimo Clippers. “They’ve had a lot of people doubt them, but their compete level is tremendous. They have a lot of speed and a lot of skill.”
Pierce was much more pleased with his team’s effort and execution in the second half of last weekend’s doubleheader.
“It was nice that we were able to make some adjustments and be that much better on Saturday,” he stated. “We put a lot of focus on putting the game on Friday behind us, and making sure that we didn’t lose back-to-back [games].”
While the Spruce Kings again got the first goal of the game on Saturday, the Cents were able to reply just a few minutes later, as Merritt’s own Payton Schaefer registered his first BCHL goal at 14:48 of the first period.
For the second night in a row, the Centennials gave up a goal in the final minute of the first period to fall behind 2-1 at the intermission.
Merritt’s Brandon Pfeil tied things up at 6:02 of the second with one of his trademark goals off a point shot from the right side. Stephen Wall then put the Centennials back in front at the 12:20 mark. The 3-2 lead held up until the midpoint of the final frame when a Fitzgerald again, this time Leo, evened things on the scoreboard with a pretty goal off a three-way passing play with his brothers.
Merritt’s top line of Stack, Regan Soquila and Brandon Bruce answered back just over two minutes later, with Soquila burying the eventual game winner behind Sprucies’ netminder Kirk Thompson.
Both Stack and Soquila had three-point weekends. Equally as impressive, no fewer than 14 Centennials garnered at least one point in the team’s opening two games. In net, Tyler Steel was the game two winner between the pipes, stopping 35 of 38 shots on the night, including 21 by the Spruce Kings in the third period.