Sunday, March 7, 2010

At long last... an update!

OK, so after two weeks of no blogging, I'm back with tons to post about.

Firstly, thank you for your patience, I had full intentions of blogging about the Cents playoff series against Penticton last week, but my 18-month-old came down with a serious case of the flu (which apparently was going around in Merritt last week) and I even missed most of Game Three because we were at the hospital with him. The good news is that he seems fine now and is acting more like himself.

I conducted a few alumni interviews to run during our playoff broadcasts. My focus was on the 2006-07 Cents team, which is the last time the club made the playoffs. Merritt was down 3-1 in the first round to Trail, but came back to force Game Seven at the Cominco Arena. I was able to catch up with forwards Steve Cavanagh and Jordan Zalba, and defenceman Cody Butcher. I should be able to post Cody's interview later this week, but first here's Steve and Jordan.


(Former Cents forward Stephen Cavanagh)

Former Cents forward Stephen Cavanagh

Click here to download

All audio property of Merritt Broadcasting Ltd.


(Former Cents forward Jordan Zalba)

Former Cents forward Jordan Zalba

Click here to download

All audio property of Merritt Broadcasting Ltd.

I also had the chance to chat with former Cents assistant coach Bob Dever, who is now coaching in Hungary. Bob's an assistant coach to Glen Williamson with Budapest and the MOL Liga is the top men's pro league in Hungary. His team won the league title this year.


(2009-10 Budapest Stars with former Cents assistant coach Bob Dever)

Former Cents assistant coach Bob Dever

Click here to download

All audio property of Merritt Broadcasting Ltd.

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I'd like to commend the Cents for their effort against Penticton in their four game playoff series. If not for a few bounces and a little more timely offence, there's a chance that the Cents would have been up 2-0 heading to Game Three in Merritt.

I'm not going to go into any great detail about the playoffs because it's ancient history by now, but there's one big-time encouraging thing as far as I'm concerned. With all of the Centennials players eligible to return next season except for the four graduating ones, I hope that all of the guys learned what it takes to win in the playoffs and make that step next season.

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Speaking of returning players, I thought I'd break down who's eligible to come back and what holes Luke Pierce might have to fill this off-season and heading into training camp in August. One decision that Luke HAS to make before opening night is the 20-year-old situation. As of right now, there are eight 1990-born players and the BCHL allows only six, so changes are definitely going to be made in regards to that.

Goaltenders
Cole Holowenko (93) - WHL property of Chilliwack
Keith Hamilton (92) - WHL property of Portland

There's a chance the Centennials will have two new goaltenders to start 2010-11 once again, if Hamilton and Holowenko stick with their WHL clubs. Hamilton seemed to come into his own at times down the stretch, he seems poised to become a very good goaltender at the junior A level (if he's back). Holowenko will likely push very hard for the back-up job in Chilliwack after making a couple of appearances there earlier this season.

Defence
Derek Hills (90)
Steve Tresierra (90)
Jeff Zmurchyk (90)
Matt Mazzarolo (90)
Mitch Jones (91)
Kameran Crawford (91)
Austin Baecker (92) - WHL property of Seattle

This group of seven eligible returning defencemen could look very different come next season. There's been NCAA interest in Tresierra, but the question is whether a school would want him for 2010-11 or 2011-12? Jones left the Cents and it's expected that he'll be traded. Baecker might stick in the WHL. Could four of the six 20-year-old spots be filled by defencemen? Maybe.

Forwards
Dustin Johnson (90)
Colton Sobchak (90)
Alexander MacMillan (90)
Sam Gemmell (90)
Jeff Jones (91)
David Sabey (91)
Daniel Chang (91)
Stephen Wall (91)
Silvan Harper (92)
*
*
*

The asterisks represent the three spots right now that are open on the forward lines for the Centennials heading into next season. Throw into the mix that there are two 20-year-olds who need to be moved from the roster and there could be as many as five new faces in the lineup. I would think it may be even more than that, but there is a very solid nucleus moving forward.

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This is from the Cents website:

The Merritt Centennials have reached the maximum number of goaltenders for their Spring Camp April 2-4 at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. Registration remains open for defence and forward positions.

I am really looking forward to spring camp this year as they Cents had a number of promising players AP with them during the season. If you've got a son who's thinking of coming to Merritt for spring camp, consider this posting from the BCHL Message Board:

"As the parent of a Cent, I feel the need to do an unsolicited and unconditional endorsement of the Merritt program. Last year, one attendee at the spring camp made the team, played for the Cents all year long and got the award for the most promising player.

Things have turned around dramatically for the team after two bad seasons. They made the playoffs and finished 4 points out of fifth place in the Interior. They beat every team in the division except Vernon. They have a good group of boys both on and off the ice. My son tells me he has never played with a better bunch of kids. There are no superstars, and every player is needed to work as a team member. They will do even better this year and scholarships will be earned.

It is a community owned team and the community loves the Cents. The boys are recognized around town; they do radio spots for Q101; they are involved in community activities. The fans are coming back. We had 1,000 fans for the last season game and season tickets are being sold in greater numbers.

Merritt is central for travel. It is almost midway between the Okanagan and the coast. You don't get the long bus rides like you do in Trail or up north. It has a lousy arena that is very difficult for visiting teams to play in.

Coach Luke Pierce, while being young, is a former Centennial (and Viper) and played college hockey. He is friendly and outgoing and communicates well with players and parents. He is a players' coach.

Merritt might not be your first choice, but don't write it off as a very good second choice. It is tough to crack the line ups of the top three teams in the interior. Two of our rookies were later cuts from Vernon. One ended up on the top line as rookie of the year with 52 points. The other got lots of playing time and won the award for the best plus - minus.

Why not come to spring camp, get some ice time, take a look around, and see that Merritt is a pretty good place to play Junior A hockey.
"

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