Thursday, January 2, 2014

Centennials Grade Well As Team Prepares To Kick Off New Year:

Sebastien Pare has served his two-game suspension and will
play on Friday night. 
As the Christmas break is now over, the 19-14-2-1 Merritt Centennials have had nearly two weeks to review their game plan, and Ian Webster of the Merritt Herald took an opportunity to review the Centennials season to date by publishing his 4th Annual Report Card.

The first game of 2014 for the Centennials is Friday night when the 24-9-1-3 Penticton Vees visit the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena at 7:30. It's the second of three visits to the valley for the Vees, who slipped by the Cents 5-4 back on December 6th in Merritt.

The Norgaard Ready Mix Pregame Show starts at 7:00 at and, while the game can also be viewed via Fast Hockey.

On a side note, the Merritt Tracker Sportswear Midget Rep Centennials are hosting their annual tournament this weekend at the Shulus and Nicola Valley Memorial Arena's. View the complete tournament schedule here.


Goaltending: B 
This season was supposed to see a return to the two-goalie system of two years ago, with returnee Russell Sanderson and rookie Devin Kero sharing the workload almost equally. That plan went out the window early as Sanderson spent a good part of the first four months on the sidelines due to injuries and illness. Ohio native Kero has been spectacular at times and solid almost every night in amassing a 12-11-2 record in 26 starts. His 2.39 GAA and 92.0 SV% are fifth-best in the BCHL, heady stuff for a first-year net minder.

Defense: B
With just two returnees from last season (Tyler Martin, Dane Birks), this year’s blueline brigade has been very much a work in progress. The acquisition of Shane Poulsen from Trail in the summer has been a blessing as he leads all Cents D’man with five goals and 20 points. More production from the rest of the rearguards is desperately needed. The loss of Dylan Bowan in a trade that went sour has left the backend paper thin and one has to think that something is going to happen at the trade deadline to shore up the ranks.

Offense: C+ 
More goals was a stated objective for this year’s team. It hasn’t happened. The goals-per-game average is down from last season at this time (3.25 to 3.03) — a big reason why the Cents find themselves in fifth place at the break. It’s scoring by committee again this year, but the committee lacks numbers. Merritt has one player in the league’s top-40: Scotty Patterson (18-16-34; 28th). Injuries ravaged the Cents’ forward ranks in the first half of the season. Hopefully the worst is over.

Special Teams: B 
The aforementioned injury woes have made it difficult for the Cents to excel in special teams play. They are to be commended for a powerplay that ranks 7th in the league, and a penalty kill that comes in at 6th overall. That said, the goal-starved Centennials simply have to get more productive with the man advantage. They must make the opposition pay for their indiscretions. It’s no coincidence that in the 16 games so far this season that they’ve failed to score on the PP, they’ve lost seven of them.

Coaching: B 
It’s year three for the coaching tandem of Luke Pierce and Joe Martin. Few can argue with the character and effort that their players demonstrate year in, year out — both on and off the ice. The reality is that Jr. A hockey, and the BCHL in particular, are results driven. The motto could well be: What have you done for me lately? This small-market franchise desperately needs to make and go deep into the playoffs. Hopefully, with a healthier lineup for the stretch run, the coaches will be up to the task at hand.

Intangibles: B 
Cents’ players and coaches have faced a tremendous amount of adversity over the first four months of this season, with a plethora of injuries and a mini-epidemic wrecking havoc with lineups and game plans. On many nights, it’s been a patchwork of veterans and rookies that has had to get the job done. The bottom line is that every team in every sport experiences the same obstacles at one time or another. Winners rise to the challenge and find a way to succeed. The next two months will determine if this year’s Cents have the mettle.

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