The Merritt Centennials embark on the 2020-21 campaign by first testing their mettle against themselves. The Cents will be looking to play a trio of intrasquad games, dubbed the Paul Barnes Cup, as a final tune up before their exhibition season begins in earnest against the Prince George Spruce Kings on October 10th. The follow up games should get underway on Tuesday and Thursday morning.
Coming into action this morning the Centennials have had a couple split squad games over the past couple weeks to prepare. The previous intrasquad affairs had the 30 man roster split into 4, and held the action in two 20 minute running halves. This mornings affair will feature three running 20 minute periods as Head Coach Sweet-Coulter hopes the teams will be able to keep their tempo up for the entire game.
The team that Merritt will ice this morning will be far removed from the team that represented the town in the 2019-20 season as there are only six players returning from last years roster. Lead by NHL Draft hopeful and local Talon Zakall on defense, fellow Merritonian Chase Cooke on the back end, and bolstered by Ben Ward, Jake McLean, Jerzy Orchard, and Wyatt Marlow up front the young core will be looking to make strides after a hard off-season training regimen.
The Centennials have been able to fill some holes through the trade market by acquiring forwards Zack Dallazanna, Brandon Dent, and Walker Erickson through future consideration deals. Veteran defender Grayson Valente was acquired for forward Josh Van Unen. The Cents solidified their goaltending by acquiring Josh Dias from the AJHL for forward Chase Nameth. More recently the team continued to tinker with their blue line by bringing in Liam Visram from the Nanaimo Clippers and Trevor Isaksson from the Trail Smoke Eaters.
The bulk of the hockey staff’s work this offseason has been scouting and recruiting and it shows by some of the promising prospects they’ve brought aboard over the long summer. Forwards Alex Ochitwa, Cubby Myers, Carson Preston and defender Alek Erichuk were among some of the first committed to in the spring. Lucas Lundy and Joe Davidson were announced before a flood of new recruits came through as a result of the Centennials Fall Evaluation Camp. Jacob Dewitt and Liam Davidson have been added on defense, while Dylan Sydor, Josh Olson, Blake Astorino, Nolan Wall, Jack Henderson, Jacksen Hungle, Hunter Brown, and Mark Thurston have been added up front.
This mornings contest will be a good litmus test for the many newcomers to see their unkown potential, the traded for veterans to see how they mesh, and the returning players to see how they’ve progressed. The coaching staff will be evaluating the team as they’re at the extended training camp max of 30 players before cutting down to 25 for the beginning of regular season.
The Cents will look to impress this morning.
Puck drop 9:30AM – Pre-game 9:25 view for free on www.hockeytv.com
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