Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Look At The 2013/2014 Merritt Centennials:


Well, after a long and busy summer, I have surfaced again in the Hockey world. I was fortunate enough to have been brought on board by Taylor Landry and the Q101 team in Merritt, to be the official voice of the Centennials this season on Merritt's Music Mix.

It was a tough decision to return to the booth immediately this season, as it meant I had to leave a great opportunity in Leduc, Alberta with 93.1 The One FM, where I served as a News and Sports Reporter. I want to take a moment to praise the people I worked with in Leduc; I had a great experience and will definitely take a lot of positives forward!

Now... On to business! To all Centennials and BCHL fans, thank you for giving me the opportunity to connect you to the Centennials in a way that some very, very talented individuals have in the past. It's going to be a very fun year ahead and I look forward to meeting everyone and hearing from the fans, parents and everyone in between!

Let's take a quick look at the team you'll see introduced in Chilliwack this Friday at 4 pm when the Coquitlam Express take on the 'Cents in the opening game at the 2013 Bauer BCHL Showcase!The Q101 pregame show begins at 3:30 at BCHL.ca and Q101.ca! 

Goaltenders: 

#31 - Devin Kero

-A 19 year old from Hancock, Michigan. He spent last season with the NAHL Coulee Region Chill, posting a .888 save percentage and a 4.64 GAA. His brother Tanner is heading in to year 3 at Michigan Tech. Kero will push the returning Sanderson for the starting duties. 

#35 - Russell Sanderson

-This locally born and raised 18 year old looks to ramp up his minutes in his second year as a Cent, following his rookie season in which he posted an impressive .916 save percentage while holding his goals against average to just 2.28.

Defense: 

#2 - Tyler Martin

-It's not often the Top Defenseman from the season prior returns for an encore, but Martin is surely ready to gather the attention of scouts following a 15-point jump from his rookie season to last. It also must be noted Martin took home Most Improved honors back in his rookie campaign, showing the Port Coquitlam product's determination toward the game. 

#3 - Wayland Williams

-Hailing from Canton, Michigan, the 185 pound blue liner brings experience in the USHL, NAHL, and even some games in the BCHL following a 5 game stint in Trail early last season. Before he even arrived in BC, an internal illness put him periodically in hospital but he has shown up in Merritt and his presence in the lineup is anticipated.

#4 - Shane Poulsen
-A newcomer to the Cents roster, Poulsen brings experience and speed from the Trail Smoke Eaters, adding to a skilled group on the back end. Poulsen has put up 34 BCHL points and should be approaching the 100 game plateau near Christmas time. Dating back to 2010/2011, Shane & Payton Schaefer were teammates with the KIJHL Kamloops Storm. 

#6 - John Saunders

-An ex-North Okanagan Knight who can bring physicality and character to the room; Saunders will look for his BCHL playoff debut in 13/14 following a 5 point season last year although he suited up in just 32 games. According to the BCHL Website, Saunders has shot up 10 pounds from last year. 

#7 - Dane Birks

-Fresh off hearing his name called by the Pittsburgh Penguins at this past NHL Entry Draft in the 6th round, the Williams Lake product looks poised to impress in his second year in Merritt. Following next season, Birks will head to join Michigan Tech, but watch for him to add on his 5 goals and 15 assists from last season in the meantime. 

#22 - Jake Clifford
-The product of Brecksville, Ohio is sure to have Centennial fans on the edge of their seats this season, after coming over to BC from the NAHL Minot Minotaurs. His rookie season featured 4 goals and 16 points in 45 games, which was tied for the team lead among defensemen in Minot. 

#24 - Dylan Bowen *added as Reserve*
-Much like Saunders, an ex-North Okanagan Knight that can be utilized in situations.  He may be a rookie, but two seasons ago he slipped in to a game with the Vernon Vipers, while last season the Salmon Arm Silverbacks gave him 25 appearances in the lineup.  

#25 - Malik Maila

-A successful two seasons with the BCMML Northwest Vancouver Giants has allowed Maila to make the jump to Junior A, with the Squamish product improving his point production by 23 points in year two. Maila was teamed with Gavin Gould last season in Vancouver, and is a proven winner having won back-to-back BCMML titles. 

Forwards: 

#8 - Diego Cuglietta

-Even just looking at Diego's stats gives you feeling that this could be a breakthrough season for the 18 year old, as back-to-back 38-point seasons in 2010/11 and 2011/12 show that he is more than capable of filling any voids offensively. While just 5'9", improved speed should add to Cuglietta's ability to improve on his 4-goal rookie season in the BCHL. 

#9 - Zach Hartley

-A drafted prospect in both the USHL and NAHL, Hartley put up 15 points last season with the Chicago Mission U18's last season. Leaving home is nothing new to the '95 born lefty, as the Minneapolis, Minnesota native spent time in Colorado in 2011/12, before calling Illinois home this past season. Zach was chosen 23rd overall in the NAHL Draft earlier this year, while Sioux City in the USHL selected Hartley in the 9th round.

#10 - Adam Tracey

-It will be a fun adjustment for the Sleepy Hollow, New York born Tracey, who at 17 years old fled Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts for the small mountain town of Merritt, BC. Two seasons ago, Adam suited up in Long Island, New York where he was teammate with the son of NHL legend Pat Lafontaine. At 6'2" 190 lbs., Tracey has proven he can put up numbers, after an 11 goal and 26 point season in 27 games. 

#11 - Sebastian Pare

-He scored the Most Game Winning Goals for the 'Cents last season, and will likely be counted on to help carry the offense through this season as well. Pare picked up 44 points in 54 games last season, which featured a close-to team best 17 goals. Prior to joining Merritt, he earned his stripes in the PIJHL with the Richmond Sockeyes, where they carried away a league championship on Pares 50 regular season points. 

#12 - Rhett Willcox

-Family ties help bring Rhett in to the Nicola Valley, as his brother Reece earned a scholarship to Cornell following a two year stint with Merritt. The difference? Rhett will be more heavily involved in the offense as a forward, in which he surely proved last season by putting up 52 points in 40 BCMML games with the Valley West Hawks. 

#14 - Dan Nachbaur 

-Speaking of family ties, the son of WHL General Manager Don Nachbaur, Dan, will call Merritt home for the 2013/14 season. The 17-year-old Richland, Washington product spent last season with the U18 Phoenix Firebirds, scoring 15 goals and 27 points in 40 games. Nachbaur attended the Tri-City Americans Rookie Camp in 2012, and he was a 3-3.99 GPA graded student last season as well. 

#15 - Sam Johnson

-A product of Okotoks, Alberta, Johnson is ready for a big time season following splitting last season between the 'Cents and the eventual RBC Cup champion Brooks Bandits. Johnson was among the league leaders in points following his last season in the AMHL, and seems probable to add to his 6 career BCHL goals. 

#16 - Gavin Gould

-This youngster could be one of the prospects flying under the radar this season, following a BCMML title last season with Malik Maila in Northwest Vancouver. The point-per-game forward joins Kaila and Rhett Willcox as the three '96 born skaters on the Centennial roster this season. Gould suffered an injury last season that kept him out for nearly two months, so the offensive production following that is a sure sign of his potential. 

#18 - Payton Schaefer 

-As a local product in a 20-year-old season, you're bound to feel some pressure; but that may not be the case for Schaefer, who has now suited up for 119 BCHL regular season games, all with his hometown club. Schaefer has the most amount of games played with the 'Cents of any active player, and a full season could bring him close to the Top 10 in all time games played.

#19 - James Neil

-Not to be mistaken by the prolific NHL scorer, THIS James Neil is also ready to make his name known. An off-season trade by Head Coach Luke Pierce brings the 18 year old in already having broken the 100 game mark in the BCHL. Neil posted 14 points in his rookie season followed by 20 points last season, both of which were spent with the Powell River Kings. 

#21 - Jeff Wight

-Wight may test the academics of Dan Nachbaur, as the defending Athlete-Scholar Award winner looks to gather attention from NCAA scouts. 13 goals and 23 points last season gave Wight a year of Junior A experience and he now looks to build on that while utilizing his solid 6'2" frame. Wight was teamed with Coquitlam Express star Adam Rockwood two seasons ago with the BCMML Vancouver Northeast Chiefs. 

#27 - Scott Patterson

-Patterson was a key piece for the KIJHL's Osoyoos Coyotes season in 2011/12, putting up 46 points in 44 games - but it was what he did as an affiliate with Merritt that caught the eye of the Junior hockey world. In 7 games, Scotty garnered 4 points, and even earned himself a spot on the 'Cents roster for two playoff games that season. Last season was a welcoming one for Patterson, with 25 points through 50 games. 

#28 - Bennett Huber 

-Last season's Most Improved Centennial is back for more, as hard work continues to push Huber toward improvement. He suited up in 36 games in the Red, White and Black last season, recording 4 goals and 4 assists while only being penalized twice. The 19-year-old Calgary product is one of 7 forwards returning to Merritt for this season.

See you at the rink! The blog will surely pick up as the season gets going and things settle down! 

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