Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cents Captain Jordan Soquila Tabbed for RBC Scholarship:


(Cents captain Jordan Soquila, speaking at the team's annual Icebreaker fundraiser)

A HUGE congrats to graduating Cents captain Jordan Soquila for receiving the lone RBC Junior A Scholarship from the BCHL. Here's the official release from the league:

Merritt Centennials team captain and four-year British Columbia Hockey League veteran Jordan Soquila has been named the league's recipient of the RBC Junior A Scholarship for the 2009/10 season, Hockey Canada announced Wednesday.

Soquila recently completed his final year in the league by leading the Centennials to their first postseason appearance since 2007. On the ice, the 20-year old set career bests with 17 goals and 45 points during the 2009/10 campaign. But his selection for the award was based primarily upon his excellent academic background and his commitment to community service.

"Jordan represents everything we hope to create here in Merritt, including an outstanding work ethic, commitment level, respect, and most of all ability," says Centennials head coach Luke Pierce. "His leadership ability was undeniable in our dressing room, and in our community."

The Maple Ridge, B.C. product is currently determining where he will play his university hockey in the fall but plans to use the scholarship award towards a degree in Engineering.

"Being rewarded with this scholarship speaks to his dedication to academics, which is paralleled by his overall dedication to hockey and team success. We are extremely proud of Jordan and are excited that he will, in a way, be representing the Merritt Centennials during the next step in is life."

Soquila is also eligible for the $5,000 National Award, which will be announced during the 2010 RBC Cup in Dauphin, Manitoba.
“RBC is pleased to continue helping provide opportunities for Junior A hockey players to further their education,” said Josh Epstein, manager of sponsorship and Olympic marketing for RBC. “This program provides scholarships based on players' outstanding academic accomplishments and extraordinary community service. We are proud to play a part in this and other important initiatives that develop well-rounded Canadian athletes.”

Hockey Canada also issued a release:

HOCKEY CANADA ANNOUNCES 2010 RBC JUNIOR A SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS

CALGARY, Alta. – Hockey Canada announced on Wednesday the 2010 RBC Junior A Scholarship winners. These annual scholarship awards provide financial assistance to players of the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) for post-secondary education.

2010 RBC Junior A Scholarship winners:
British Columbia Hockey League – Jordan Soquila - Merritt Centennials
Alberta Junior Hockey League – Breyden DeCock – Drumheller Dragons
Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League – Travis Janke – Notre Dame Hounds
Manitoba Junior Hockey League – Joe Caligiuri – Dauphin Kings
Superior International Junior Hockey League – Andrew Childs – K&A Wolverines
Ontario Junior A Hockey League – Paolo Alexandre Pianosi – Aurora Tigers
Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League – Bronson Kovacs – Soo Thunderbirds
Central Junior Hockey League – Andrew Calof – Nepean Raiders
Ligue de hockey junior AAA du Qu├ębec – Etienne Archambault – College Francais de Longueuil
Maritime Junior A Hockey League – Samuel MacCormick – Bridgewater Lumberjacks

“RBC is pleased to continue helping provide opportunities for Junior A hockey players to further their education,” said Josh Epstein, manager of sponsorship and Olympic marketing for RBC. “This program provides scholarships based on players' outstanding academic accomplishments and extraordinary community service. We are proud to play a part in this and other important initiatives that develop well-rounded Canadian athletes.”

Players eligible for the RBC Junior A Scholarships must be Canadian citizens, on Canadian Junior A team rosters, and be registered or applying for full-time post-secondary studies. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic achievement, hockey achievement, and community involvement.

The winner of the $5,000 national RBC Junior A Scholarship will be announced prior to the 2010 RBC Cup, which takes place May 1-9 in Dauphin, Man. Ticket information for the tournament is available by CLICKING HERE. The winner is selected for the award from a list of finalists by a national panel of Hockey Canada-appointed junior hockey representatives.

The winners of the Nickerson Family Awards, which are made possible through the Friends of the RBC Society in Fort McMurray, Alta., will be announced at the same time as the national award.

Cents Spring Camp This Weekend:

Although I'll have more on the Cents Spring Camp in the next day or two, here's the article from today's Merritt Herald.

Cents' spring camp this weekend

By Ian Webster - Merritt Herald

Published: March 31, 2010

Our city will be hoppin’ with hockey players this Easter weekend as over 60 prospects from around B.C., Alberta and the western States invade the Nicola Valley to take part in the Merritt Centennials’ second annual spring evaluation camp.

“We have them coming from as far away as California and Arizona,” states Cents’ head coach Luke Pierce. “We even have a player from Germany. He spent this past season playing with the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Vernon.”

Most of the prospects coming to camp are bantam and midget-aged players, adds Pierce, with many already packing major midget and junior B experience. “We have 10 goalies registered, 15 or more defensemen, and over 35 forwards.”

There will be a strong contingent of local talent on hand at the three-day camp which will take place at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, including Russell Sanderson, Cole Fex, Eric Schmidt and Brendan Colter from the Tracker Sports Tier 3 midget team that attended provincials in early March. In addition, Merritt’s Briar McNaney will be in camp after spending this past season with Invermere of the KIJHL.

Pierce will be aided in his assessment over the three days by Cents’ assistant coaches Maury Grant and Josh Yurkowski, along with team personnel from several KIJHL teams such as Golden, Fernie and Princeton.

“We’re going to try and cram a couple of years’ worth of scouting into one weekend,” explains Pierce, who only assumed the Centennials’ head coach and general manager positions in November of 2009. “And if we see something good enough, we won’t hesitate to make a commitment.”

One player to keep an eye on, according to Pierce, is Regan Soquila, 17, the younger brother of graduating Cents’ captain Jordan Soquila. Regan played this past season with the Northeast Chiefs of the BCMML. The head coach projects that as many as 20-30 of the participants in this weekend’s evaluation camp will earn invites to the Cents’ rookie or possibly main camp in late August.

The schedule for the spring camp sees scrimmages Friday at 5:15 and 7:00 p.m., Saturday from 1:15 p.m. right through until 8:00 p.m., and on Sunday at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. There will also be a goalies-only session on Saturday from 10:00 – 11:15 a.m. with former Centennials’ puckstopper Jamie McCaig (1999-2000).

Anyone wishing more information about this weekend’s camp can contact Pierce at the Centennials’ office (378-3607).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Congrats Cents AP's:


(KIJHL Champion Revelstoke Grizzlies)

Congrats to the Revelstoke Grizzlies, who won the KIJHL championship last night with a 2-1 victory over Nelson in Game Five of the series. The Grizzlies roster features five players who were listed as affiliate players with the Cents this past season. Lucas Blinkhorn, Caleb Roy, Brad Friedrich and Cole Buckley each got into game action with Merritt, while Luke Richardson was listed as an AP, but never played a game with the Centennials.

Buckley, Richardson and Friedrich are each eligible to play junior hockey again next season and although it's pretty much a guarantee none of them will be at the Cents Spring Camp this coming long weekend because the Cyclone Taylor Cup Provincial Junior 'B' Championship is being held simultaneously in Parksville, it's safe to assume that all three may be attendees at main camp in August.

Interview with coach Luke Pierce and Lots of Alumni News:

I had the chance to have Cents coach and GM Luke Pierce on the air a couple of weeks ago to talk about how things were coming together for Spring Camp.

Cents Head Coach & GM Luke Pierce

Click here to download

All audio property of Merritt Broadcasting Ltd.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(Former Cents defenceman Cody Butcher)

I also chatted with former Cents defenceman Cody Butcher prior to the Centennials playoff series against Penticton. Butcher, who's in his sophomore year at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and is joined on the Nanooks by another former Centennial in Chad Gehon, was a member of the last Merritt team to qualify for the playoffs in 2006-07.

UAF Nanooks defenceman Cody Butcher

Click here to download

All audio property of Merritt Broadcasting Ltd.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(Former Cents MVP Brandon Wong)

Former Cents player Brandon Wong signed an amateur tryout with the Grand Rapids Griffins last week after his final season at Quinnipiac University came to an end. So far Wong's been a healthy scratch in three straight games as he gets adjusted to the pro game. Here's the official release from the Griffins:

GRIFFINS SIGN BRANDON WONG

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins on Tuesday signed forward Brandon Wong to an amateur tryout.

Wong, 23, recently finished his senior season at Quinnipiac University (ECAC), where he paced the Bobcats with 19 goals and 41 points, tied for fourth in the league in scoring, and led NCAA Division I with 14 power play goals. A 2010 Hobey Baker Memorial Award nominee, he finished his collegiate career as the third-highest leading scorer among active Division 1 players with 143 points (68-75—143).

A native of Victoria, British Columbia, Wong also led Quinnipiac in scoring as both a freshman and sophomore. He was named the ECAC Hockey Co-Rookie of the Year and runner-up for the National Rookie of the Year Award in 2006-07, when he ranked first in the ECAC with a career-high 27 goals and first nationally with three hat tricks.

After skating in his first practice with the Griffins today, Wong will be available to make his pro debut on Thursday when Grand Rapids wraps up its season-high six-game road trip in Milwaukee at 8 p.m. EDT.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(Former Cents defenceman Alan Mazur)

Former Cents defenceman Alan Mazur is part of a pretty special team at RIT as the Tigers are one win away from a spot in the Frozen Four NCAA Championship tournament. You can read the latest on Mazur's RIT squad here.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bill Muckalt, who's fourth all-time in points by a Centennials player, has been hired as the first head coach in franchise history for the North American Hockey League's New Mexico expansion team. Here's a portion of the release from the New Mexico website:

The team has hired Bill Muckalt as its first head coach. Muckalt is an eight-year NHL veteran who played for the Ottawa Senators, Minnesota Wild, New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks. He's also a two-time NCAA Division I champion, having won titles with the University of Michigan (CCHA) in 1996 and 1998.

"I'm excited for the opportunity to be an integral part of building a quality program and putting a quality product on the ice that our fans can enjoy," said Muckalt, who served as head coach of the Western States Hockey League's (WSHL) Valencia (Calif.) Flyers this season. "I'm also excited about working for Ken Dennis because his commitment as an owner and his goals for this program are top-notch."

"Bill will be a huge asset to our program," said Dennis. "As a player, he's a guy who's made it and had success at both the college and professional levels and he'll do everything in his power to make the team successful for our fans."

The Santa Ana Star Center, a $47 million facility, leads the field among venues in New Mexico when it comes to hosting concerts, sporting events, conferences and cultural programs. It boasts 500 club seats and 26 private luxury suites.

"This is an exciting day for the Santa Ana Star Center and the city of Rio Rancho," said Global Spectrum's Gunnar Fox, general manager at the Santa Ana Star Center. "Hockey is back at the Santa Ana Star Center with a team from the NAHL that will provide fans with exciting family entertainment coupled with world-class hockey."

"Rio Rancho is a great market," Dennis added. "Bringing junior hockey to town is something the citizens of New Mexico will appreciate and support."

No stranger to the NAHL having followed the league while living in Michigan two years ago, Muckalt is sold on everything the 25-team circuit has to offer in terms of development and exposure for its players.

"I think it's a great opportunity for student-athletes who are trying to reach their goals of playing college hockey and I'm excited to help these kids realize their dreams, develop them and promote them," he said. "That's the primary goal of our organization, to help guide these young men and promote them to the next level."

A successful product of the NCAA system, Muckalt, who played four years with the Wolverines, is also bullish on the college route.

"I'm a big believer in college hockey and I'm a big believer in post-secondary education," he said. "It's a steppingstone for these kids to do well in the classroom, on the ice, and in the community and that's what NCAA programs are looking for."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Merritt Grad Hockey Games:

I received this email today from Tammy Bangsund, PR Director for Merritt Minor Hockey:

Event: Grad Class of 2010 VS RCMP & Teachers Hockey Games.
Date: Thursday March 25th.
Time: 6:30pm.
Place: Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.
Admission: By donation to Dry Grad Festivities or to Merritt Food Bank.

* 2 games 1st VS RCMP & 2nd VS Teachers.
* 50/50.
* Come cheer on the local Grads of "2010"!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Merritt Minor Hockey Awards:



The Merritt Minor Hockey Association handed out its annual awards last night at the Merritt Secondary School multipurpose room. Association secretary Tami DeSimone sent me the complete list of award winners, congrats to all!

ATOM
BEST GOALIE - ANDY GUSH
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER - WYATT MACDONALD
MOST SPORTSMANLIKE - SHAILYN JOE
BEST DEFENSEMAN - WYATT MACDONALD
MOST IMPROVED - RAHUL CHHABRA

PEEWEE

BEST GOALIE - JAKE TOURAND
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER - LANE ANTOINE
MOST SPORTSMANLIKE - ADAM MCCORMACK
BEST DEFENSEMAN - SELENA HENRY
MOST IMPROVED - AUSTIN DAN

BANTAM

BEST GOALIE - TREVOR HILLSON
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER - DONOVAN CHARTERS
MOST SPORTSMANLIKE - THOMAS MANUEL-HANUSE
BEST DEFENSEMEN - TRISTAN COUTURE
MOST IMPROVED - KARUN RAHDHAWA

MIDGET

BEST GOALIE - BILL PRICE
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER - TANISHA SUZUKI
MOST SPORTSMANLIKE - AARON SMYTH
BEST DEFENSEMEN - REX COLLINS
MOST DEDICATED - JESSE WRIGHT
MOST IMPROVED - DALLAS EDGINTON

JR GIRLS

BEST GOALIE - EMMA FERCH
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER - MADELEINE BARNES
MOST SPORTSMANLIKE - RENEE STOCKWELL
BEST DEFENSEMEN - JENNA SIGURDSSON
MOST IMPROVED - GRACYNN BOSE

ATOM DEVELOPMENT

TEAM AMBASSADOR - TRAVIS STERLING
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER - NOLAN KNEEN
MOST IMPROVED - TANVEER BANSI


PEEWEE REP

TEAM AMBASSADOR - GRADY MUSGRAVE
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER - RILEY BARNES
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER - JAYDEN MCGOWAN

BANTAM REP

TEAM AMBASSADOR - TREVOR LINDLEY
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER - DAYTON RIPLEY
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER - BRYCE DIXON

MIDGET REP TIER 3

TEAM AMBASSADOR - JORDIE CHRISTY
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER - ERIC SCHMIDT
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER - COLE FEX

TIMEKEEPER - SARA HARDY

OUTSTANDING SR OFFICIAL - TAYLOR LAMB

OUTSTANDING JR OFFICIAL - JESSE EVANS

SUKHI RANDAWA MEMORIAL - DAYLAN ROBERTSON

GREBLIUNAS MEMORIAL-UNSUNG HERO - DAYLAN ROBERTSON

RON ROSS MEMORIAL - BETTY DOBERTSTEIN/ELAINE GRANT-GILL

COACH OF THE YEAR - JOE QUEWEZANCE

PRESIDENT’S HONOR ROLL - TAMI DESIMONE

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD - TAMMY BANGSUND

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.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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.
"