Cents Start on Bittersweet Note:

This is posted on the Merritt News website:

September 29, 2011

Robin Poon – News Reporter

The Merritt Centennials started off the regular season on a bittersweet note, bowing to the Prince George Spruce Kings 6-3 Friday before recovering Saturday for a 4-3 win.

At the Prince George Coliseum Friday, the Spruce Kings jumped to a two-goal lead by the end of the first period and adding another at the top of the second, leaving the goal-less Cents scrambling to catch up.

Newly minted Cents captain Evan Stack proved his worth twice that evening, breaking the streak in a power play just after the game’s halfway mark, at 10:23 in the second period. He scored once more in the losing effort during the third period.

In between, Chad Brears added one other goal late in the second period.

However, the Spruce Kings easily maintained their initial lead for the rest of the game.

While Stack’s goal in the third period brought the score to 4-3 and nearly closed the gap, the Spruce Kings added two more goals before the game’s end, resulting in a 6-3 victory for the home team.

The Spruce Kings also outshot the Cents 33-17.

Billy Marshall, Silvan Harper, Regan Soquila, Richard Sabourin, and Brandon Pfeil, all returning Centennials, each added an assist.

Centennial Lino Chimienti tended goal throughout the game, making 27 saves.

The Spruce Kings again made the first mark on the scoreboard Saturday but the Centennials were much quicker to respond.

After Jujhar Khaira added the first goal for Prince George at 8:48 in the first period, Centennial Payton Schaefer tied him at 14:48.

Schaefer was born and raised in Merritt. Although he played several games (and scored) for the Cents as an affiliate, Saturday’s goal was his first as a full British Columbia Hockey League player.

Leo Fitzgerald added another Spruce Kings goal at the end of the first period.

However, Pfeil and Stephen Wall added two more for the Cents in the second period.

Fitzgerald managed to tie the score with a second goal in the third, but Soquila responded less than two-and-a-half minutes later.

Soquila also racked up an assist, as did Marshall, Stack, and fellow vets Brent Fletcher and Dustin Lebrun. New team members Brandon Bruce, Dylan Chanter, Brandon Bruce, and Brendan Lamont had an assist each as well.

Tyler Steel kept the pucks at bay Saturday, blocking 35 Spruce Kings shots.

The Centennials faced the Trail Smoke Eaters Wednesday evening. The results of that game were not available as of press time.

The team’s home opener is 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, again playing against the Smoke Eaters. They face the Westside Warriors 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

One-on-One With Cents Coach Luke Pierce:

This was posted on the Merritt News website:

September 20, 2011

Robin Poon
Merritt News Reporter

Last season, there were quite a few rookies in the lineup. What does the mix look like this season?
-We’ll have five rookies plus Brandon Bruce has 35 games of WHL experience so (he’s) not classified as a rookie with us but he is a first-year guy, so we’ll have six new faces.

Are the returning players taking a bigger leadership role?
-It’s going to be a real big leadership group. We just announced our captains for the year: Evan Stack will be our captain, Steve Wall, Billy Marshall, and Richard Sabourin as our assistants, but there’s probably another five or six names that easily could be in that group. We want to have as many leaders as possible and I think to be a really good leader you have to also be a really good follower. We definitely won’t have a shortage of leadership.

Are the players getting used to each other yet?
-I think so. Obviously with such a big group, all those guys know one another and are comfortable, but the new faces seem to be fitting in well. Our returning guys have done a real good job of helping them with that transition. Definitely a lot quicker bonding process than it was last year.

Do you have any specific goals for the team in mind this year?
-At this point in our three-year plan, we wanted to be in the top four and it lines up well with the way playoffs are now, with only four teams making it. Our goal is to get into that and obviously improve on what our season was last year. We’re going to have to in order to be in that top four group.

How do you expect the changes in league rules to affect play throughout the year?
-I don’t know. A lot of it is going to probably take time to recognize. The fewer numbers in the roster (means) we have to have a good affiliate program that we can bring guys in. The league schedule, with only playing the other-division teams once instead of twice each, that makes more games within the division matter that much more. Every regular-season game, especially against your divisional opponents, is going to be huge. It’ll definitely make for more exciting regular-season hockey.

The team did a lot better in the pre-season. What’s behind the improvement?
-Having a big group of veteran guys around helped. At the same time, in the first five games, we had five essentially all different lineups playing every night with a lot of different players mixed in. I thought the guys had a real good desire to just do the extra thing to win a hockey game. They were all close, there were no blowouts, so going into a tie game in the third period, we just showed up with more will to win.

What are the team’s greatest strengths?
-In every position, there’s a lot of depth there. Having two starting goaltenders is big. We’ve got a very mobile defence group that’s going to be able to get pucks out of our zone quickly and then we got a fairly fast and physical forward core. The test for us is going to be making sure we can find ways to score on goal.

And their weaknesses?
-Obviously just natural finish and scoring. We didn’t want to sacrifice our overall intensity and work ethic for guys who can strictly just score. If we have to win a bunch of games 2-1, 3-2, so be it.

How has your coaching style evolved since you first started?
-It’s regressed. No, I’m just joking. (Laughs.) I think I’m getting more confident in instilling the game that I want to play and we want to play here, realizing that you can’t try to cover every single thing that happens in the game. We want to really be excellent at three or four different things as opposed to being mediocre at 20. In the past, maybe I’ve tried a little bit too much to cover off a whole lot of areas.

Anything else you would like to add, Coach?
-No. We just want to start playing hockey games that matter.

‘Smart Hockey’ Comes to Merritt:

This is posted on the Merritt News website today…

‘Smart hockey’ comes to Merritt
August 23, 2011

John O’Connor – News Editor

As the BCHL and Western Hockey League continue a neck-and-neck battle for junior hockey players from across the country, Canada’s elite Junior A league is upping the ante with some interesting cross-league games.

Two-time defending B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League champions Simon Fraser University Clansmen will visit the Nicola Valley Memorial arena for an exhibition game against the Merritt Centennials Sept. 9.

The BCIHL, founded in 2006, is a college-level league where many junior hockey players end up, including many from the BCHL.

“We are excited to be hosting SFU here in Merritt in what will be a unique opportunity for us,” said Cents head coach/GM Luke Pierce. “The game promises to be very competitive and we will approach it as another chance for us to prepare for our season.”

The BCHL’s Coquitlam Express and Langley Rivermen will also get a crack at SFU in exhibition games scheduled for September.

“The game provides our players the chance to get a first-hand look at a very good team in what is quickly becoming a very attractive league for our graduates to play in,” Pierce continued. “It goes hand-in-hand with our approach towards promoting education for our players, and I’d like to thank SFU general manager Jeff Dubois for reaching out to us and giving us this tremendous opportunity.”

The opportunity offered by the young league is a compliment to the BCHL and its “smart hockey” concept it tries to promote. The BCHL continues to increase its number of players graduating to the university/college hockey level and, unlike the Western Hockey League, offers players the chance to earn an education and play in the highly sought after U.S. college hockey system, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

“We’re looking forward to making the trip to Merritt and giving a couple of ex-Centennials on our roster the chance to face their old team,” said SFU general manager Jeff Dubois. “It’s also a good opportunity for fans in Merritt to see how good the calibre of play is in the BCIHL and leave a positive impression on some potential future recruits.”

The BCIHL currently has 7 teams: Selkirk College Saints, SFU Clansmen, TWU Titans, UFV Cascades, UVic Vikes, UFV Cascades, and the TRU Wolfpack out of Kamloops.

Alberta has a similar but much older league, the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC), which is comprised of 16 teams and has been around since 1964.

Cents Notes

The Cents announced last week the cancellation of their inaugural alumni golf tournament, scheduled for Aug. 27, due to lack of availability of some alumni.

“Only a handful of alumni were able to attend the event, and the Centennials would like to formally apologize to all those who have already signed up,” the team said in a press release Friday. “The Cents will now focus their efforts on the 2012 Alumni Golf Tournament as the team celebrates its 40th consecutive season of junior ‘A’ hockey in the BC Hockey League.

Cents Need Billets, Training Camp Preview:

With training camp starting Monday, the Cents continue to plan for the upcoming season. The team held a billet information meeting tonight at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. I did an interview with Cents co-billet coordinator Andrea Barnes on my morning show today and although the meeting was earlier, there is still some good info about billeting in the interview. So consider having a Cents player stay at your home this season!

Cents Co-Billet Coordinator Andrea Barnes

Click here to download

I also chatted with Cents head coach and GM Luke Pierce ahead of camp.

Cents Head Coach & GM Luke Pierce

Click here to download

Ian Webster wrote an awesome preview of training camp in this week’s Merritt Herald:

Cents’ training camp opens Monday

By Ian Webster – Merritt Herald
Published: August 17, 2010 6:00 PM

With the beginning of another Merritt Centennials’ training camp just days away, excitement in this hockey-mad community is rapidly building.

In excess of 100 players are expected to descend upon the Nicola Valley over the weekend in anticipation of Monday morning registration, and on-ice scrimmages starting in the afternoon.

Cents’ head coach and GM Luke Pierce states that his phone has been ringing off the hook in recent days.

“It’s been crazy,” says Pierce. “I’ve been getting calls from all over the continent from players looking to get an invite to camp.”

Pierce, along with assistant coach Chad DeLeeuw, have been busy organizing the five-day camp which runs until Friday, August 27 at noon at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, and will officially wrap up with the annual intrasquad game that evening at 6:30 p.m.

Approximately 90 rookies will be put through their paces on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of training camp. They will be divided into six teams, with 75-minute games running almost continuously over the opening three days. There will also be a goaltending session at 6:15 p.m. on Monday, followed by a parent meeting in the arena mezzanine at 7:45 p.m.

After a preliminary round of cuts Wednesday afternoon, the fifteen or so Cents’ veterans and off-season acquisitions will join the mix, and all remaining players will be reconfigured into four teams that will scrimmage throughout Thursday and into Friday morning. Another round of cuts will take place Friday afternoon.

Pierce hopes to have approximately 40 players participate in the intrasquad game Friday evening, and then trim that number down to about 30-32 for the team’s quartet of pre-season games beginning on August 29 in Salmon Arm.

Returning players that Cents’ fans can expect to see at camp include forwards Dustin Johnson, Jeff Jones, David Sabey, Steven Wall, Silvan Harper, Sam Gemmell and Alex MacMillan, along with defensemen Steve Tresierra, Jeff Zmurchyk, Kameran Crawford and Austin Baecker.

Last year’s youthful netminders Cole Holowenko and Keith Hamilton are also expected to put in an appearance at training camp, but both will depart somewhat prematurely for WHL camps in Chiliwack and Portland, Oregon respectively.

Rounding out the veteran core will be summer signings Jared Anderson, a 20-year-old goalie from the Grande Prairie Storm of the AJHL, and 18-year-old Jakob Reichert, a much-heralded 6’3” forward who spent last season with the Revelstoke Grizzlies.

Almost a dozen goalies, along with 24 defensemen and 54 forwards make up the ranks of the rookies vying for coveted spots on this year’s Merritt Centennials team. They are coming from as far east as Manitoba and Minnesota, as far south as Dallas, Texas, and as far north as Alaska.

There will be a strong contingent of local talent on hand, too, including Daylan Robertson, Cole Fex, Eric Schmidt, Brendan Colter, Mike Desimone, Russell Sanderson and Payton Schaefer – all of whom played on the Merritt midget AA team that made it to provincials last season.

Other players with a Merritt connection who will be in camp include Briar McNaney, who played last year in the KIJHL, Tye Moses, River Lafferty, and Jordan Paddock. The latter makes his way back to British Columbia from Regina, Saskatchewan after playing for the Merritt bantam reps back in 2007-8.

With so many bodies at training camp, Pierce and DeLeeuw will be getting some much-needed assistance when it comes to scouting and evaluation.

“We’ll have several Junior B coaches on hand,” states Pierce, “including Rylan Ferster (Revelstoke), Dale Hladun (Princeton), Steve Junker (Castlegar), and Tyler Lebow (Kamloops). As well, Maury Grant [Cents’ assistant coach last year] will be here.”

Pierce says that the process of narrowing down the numbers, and identifying the key players who can help the Centennials this year and into the future is a complex one.

“We’ve made it clear that overall, as a team, we want to get younger. That said, we still want to field the most competitive team possible every season. Presently, we have a target range of how many players we would like to have from each age group/birth year, but we’re certainly not going to pass on a talented player, no matter what age.”

High priorities for Pierce and his coaching staff are first and foremost work ethic along with character.

“We want players who are willing to play hard every shift, and are fundamentally good people. They will make a meaningful contribution to the team and to the community.”

Merritt News reporter Robin Poon also previewed camp in this week’s paper:

Cents filling out new roster next week
August 19,2010

Robin Poon
News Reporter

The Merritt Centennials training camp kicks off next Monday, beginning a weeklong series of scrimmages that will determine the makeup of this season’s roster.

After registration Monday morning, about 90 rookies from throughout Canada and the United States will be assigned to six teams that will start playing the same afternoon.

Initial cuts will be made on Wednesday afternoon.

In the second part of the camp, Cents veterans and other recruits will join the remaining rookies in four teams.

By Friday evening, Cents head coach and general manager Luke Pierce plans to have 40 players on the ice for the camp’s final intra-squad game.

Following the game, the Cents will have a roster of about 30 players for the team’s exhibition matches against Salmon Arm, which start Aug. 29.

Among the Cents returning from last season is Steve Tresierra, who has been promoted to team captain, succeeding Jordan Soquila.

Tresierra was alternate captain in 2009-10.

Soquila is moving on after two seasons with the Centennials. He has been recruited to play with the Queen’s University Gaels in Kingston, Ont.

Cents goalies Cole Holowenko and Keith Hamilton are also moving on to WHL camps.

Debtless Cents optimistic, but new BCHL protocols a challenge:

This is posted on the Merritt News website.

June 29, 2010

John O’Connor
News Editor

The Merritt Centennials new board of governors will have its work cut out for it with a new league protocol and a promise to deliver more entertaining hockey for fans.

But this year is going to be a little different for the board. For the first time in a long time the Centennials have come out on the plus side in their budget and it looks like they will be able to meet the league’s suggested $450,000 operating budget.

A new board of directors was named at the Cents annual general meeting last Wednesday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.

The new board is shaped by newcomers Andrea Barnes, Nik Vischschraper and Paul Barnes; while returnees Tod Dean, Brian Barrett, Frank Etchart, and Betty Doberstein round out the remaining seats.

“We’ve got some stability on the Board with all but one director returning and we’re excited about that,” said Jerry Canuel, who will again sit as team president this season. “We’ve got good community people who have been involved with the Cents and junior hockey in the past, and each director brings a huge amount of enthusiasm to the group.”

Tom Reynolds will sit as vice president with Cathy Frizzell as secretary, and Beth Nadeau as treasurer.

Despite Brian Barrett’s comments during the AGM that BCHL team owners appear to be trying to drive out small-market teams like the Cents, the new directorship will get a chance to show that it isn’t always the highest payroll that succeeds at winning games and entertaining fans.

“It was a tumultuous start to the year,” admitted Canuel, speaking of the Cents slow start last season.

Following the hiring and firing of three coaches, the Cents finally found what they were looking for in a local man and former Centennial player Luke Pierce.

“That enabled us to bring in our own brand,” said Canuel of hiring Pierce.

“We showed improvement, and I think what we did was instill confidence in the community.”

“Luke has a vision that we’ve all bought into,” continued Canuel.

Executing Pierce’s vision may not be as easy as it would have been before. The BCHL has implemented a new operations protocol manual that each team is expected to abide by.

“It provides each team with the direction they have to go (in a professional manner),” said Barrett.

“A lot of it is probably being brought in because of the Williams Lake situation.”

In May, the BCHL board of governors voted in favour of suspending the Williams Lake Timberwolves franchise due to what it said was the club’s lack of “good standing.”

“This year is going to be a real tough year as far as reaching expectations with the operations manual,” continued Barrett.

Pierce appeared not to concerned with the new BCHL protocol but said it goes a little overboard.

Home games at NV Memorial Arena may have a different feel this season as the Cents look to recruit more security staff.

And what of the much-complained-about arena heating? Barrett says there is not much he can do differently without upgrades to the existing system. City council may soon get a visit from the hockey club, looking to improve one of the league’s oldest buildings.

The Cents have beefed up the communication side of things by announcing Brian Wiebe as their media liaison person.

Wiebe currently maintains the Merritt Centennials website as well as his own personal blog, which is dedicated to everything and anything Cents. Maddison Canuel will continue in the marketing and sales department.

Merritt Centennials Home Projected Limited, which owns a house on Nicola Lake, is still looking to sell the property for an estimated $795,000.

The board admits that it made an error when it had the opportunity to sell the house, but instead held out to sell higher. The board says as markets dove it made it more difficult to sell.

Nadeau says the Cents budget will be released within the next few weeks.

Cents to Stage Big Party:

Here’s last week’s article from the Merritt News regarding the Centennials. Obviously some of this information is now out of date in light of the recent management shuffle within the team.

Cents to stage big party – John O’Connor – Merritt News

The Merritt Centennials will kick off their exhibition season with a big party in hopes of stirring up more interest in the team.

The British Columbia Hockey League’s longest running franchise, now in its 37th year, will kick off the exhibition round, starting Aug. 31, with a first ever tailgate party.

Merritt Centennials marketing manager Maddison Canuel says the party will be in the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena parking lot and begin around 4:30 and run until the opening face off at 7 p.m. There will be music, food, and a barbecue set up.

Tailgate parties are common in Canada and the United States, especially in the Canadian Football League, but this will be unique as it is not common with hockey.

“There’s already way more excitement in the community with the changes that have been made,” said Canuel.

The Centennials received a serious face lift during the off season, acquiring an entirely new coaching staff.

Cents head coach Joey Bouchard was hired in the spring and assistant coaches Luke Pierce and Richard Molenaar were added shortly thereafter.

Although only 100 season’s tickets have been sold, Canuel is optimistic that the team can sell just short of their 500 season’s ticket goal drive.

Canuel says people who buy season’s tickets have said that they will wait and see how the team does before they renew their ticket packages.

The Centennials are also looking for more corporate sponsorship and have made available some new packages.

An example of one of these packages is the silver package which buys a business the right to their logo on the Centennials game day roster, recognition on the team’s website, 2 seasons tickets, one set of stairs logo at the Memorial Arena, and a full page ad in the Centennials program.

The teams’ marketing department has also created the Player of the Month package for interested corporate sponsors. A sponsor will make an on ice presentation to the Merritt Centennial Player of the Month before the start of the first home game of each month.

The sponsor will provide the prize and be featured in the team program.

The Cents are seeking game night sponsors, rink board advertisements, and hockey jersey patches.

In addition to season’s tickets, there are also 30-game packs available.

Season’s ticket prices for adults are $250, $210 for students, and $100 for minor hockey players.

The 30-Game Family Pack is $650 and includes to adult season’s tickets and two season’s tickes for either students, seniors, or children.

The 10-Game Flex Pack is $110 for adults, $80 for students, and $70 for seniors or children. Corporate and group rates are also available.

Currently, the Centennials have the cheapest single game tickets in the B.C. Hockey League.

Merritt Centennials’ exhibition schedule:
Aug 31 – Merritt vs. Penticton 7 p.m. – Nicola Valley Memorial Arena
Sept 2 – Merritt @ Penticton 7:30 p.m. – South Okanagan Events Centre
Sept 3 – Merritt @ Salmon Arm – 7:30 p.m. – Sunwave Centre
Sept 4 – Merritt vs. Salmon Arm – 7:30 p.m. – Nicola Valley Memorial Arena
Sept 6 – Merritt @ Westside – 2:30 p.m. – Royal LePage Place

Regular Season Home Opener
Sept 11 – Trail @ Merritt 7:30 pm – Nicola Valley Memorial Arena