Friday, September 6, 2013

Centennials Win Season Opener Over Express:

The Merritt Centennials opened the 2013/2014 BCHL season on Friday night in Chilliwack, scoring three goals midway through the final frame in a matter of just :44 seconds en route to a 5-2 victory over the Coquitlam Express.

Daniel Nachbaur scored his first ever BCHL goal to make it a 4-2 lead with 5:19 left, while 20-year old local product Payton Schaefer singled in the 2nd period and added an empty net goal. Netminder Russell Sanderson had a solid outing in the 'Cents net, stopping 31 shots.

For the Express, solid performances were registered in from Nicholas Rasovic, who added a goal and an assist in the loss; while Bo & Canon Pieper had their legs under them and although being held pointless, played strong games in both ends of the ice. In net for Coquitlam, 17-year old Pierce Dushenko stopped 28 of 32 shots.

The game's scoring opened up midway through the opening period, when Rasovic picked up a loose puck in the high slot and was able to fire a shot in to the top corner of Sanderson's net at 7:09. Drawing assists on the first goal of the season were Matthew Berry-Lamontagna and Daniell Lange. Coquitlam out shot Merritt 12-10 in the period, but a penalty with just :25 seconds left had the Centennials on the man advantage to start the 2nd period.

Scott Patterson recognized the importance of the power play early in the 2nd, when he took a pass from Jeff Wight before beating Dushenko at just :52 seconds to tie the game up. The two teams began to adjust to their games during the period, but neither was able to establish consistent pressure despite penalties being exchanged on more than one occasion. Wayland Williams was issued a coincidental penalty along with Express Captain Ryan Rosenthal following a middle-period scrum that sparked some emotions on both benches. Shots on goal in the 2nd were 12-7 Coquitlam, and 24-19 overall in favor of the Express despite the game being tied at two.

Quite simply the strangest goal of the night came at 8:01 of the final period, when Rasovic and Jackson Cressey worked the puck to the stick of Lange, who fired a shot from near the goal line off the back of the Centennials goaltenders leg and in to the back of the net. Fast forward just over 5 minutes, and the Centennials were ready to attack as Payton Schaefer buried at 13:17. The assists were given to Diego Cuglietta and Sebastian Pare. That goal was followed by an errant shot by Tyler Martin that beat the goalie while bouncing off two Express players just :20 seconds after the tying goal. :34 seconds after that, Nachbaur deflected a Shane Poulsen point shot through the five hole to make it 4-2 as Rhett Willcox earned his first BCHL assist on the goal as well. With just :19 seconds left, Diego Cuglietta was sprung on a 2-on-1 with Payton Schaefer and he opted to pass, as Schaefer put the game away at 5-2 while adding his 2nd of the night. Shots on goal favored Merritt in the 3rd, 15-9. Overall, the 'Cents were outshot 33-32 but they left Prospera Centre happy following a 5-2 win.

The Fortis Energy Player of the Game was Scotty Patterson, while 18-year old Russell Sanderson took home First Star honours followed by Bennett Huber at Second Star and Daniell Lange at Third Star.


The Centennials will practise on Saturday before returning to Chilliwack on Sunday afternoon to conclude the 2013 BCHL Bauer Showcase by taking on the Langley Rivermen at 5:30. The Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show begins at 5:00 on Q101 - Merritt's Music Mix. You can find the broadcast link at Q101.ca and BCHL.ca.

A side note - Thank you to everyone who sent me tweets, emails and comments today! Being in the Nicola Valley has been nothing short of amazing so far! I'd like to also add a thanks to Ian Webster at the Merritt Herald, as he will be supplying the pictures on Dustin's Cafe this season when possible! 

Thanks for listening and reading, and I hope to see you in Chilliwack on Sunday. Or around Merritt throughout the season!

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