Cents open 2012-13 season at BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack
The Merritt Centennials officially kick off their 2012-13 season this Saturday at the British Columbia Hockey League’s first-ever Showcase event at Prospera Centre in Chilliwack.
All 16 BCHL teams will convene in Chilliwack at various times from Sept. 7-9 to play two games apiece, with the results counting towards the regular season standings.
“It’s going to be an absolute zoo,” stated Centennials’ head coach and GM Luke Pierce earlier this week. “Some-how, amidst the chaos, we’re going to have to find a way to win.”
The Cents play their first game of the ‘real’ season Saturday at noon against the Prince George Spruce Kings. Their second outing is a little over 24 hours later when they renew acquaintances with the Trail Smoke Eaters in a 2:30 p.m. clash of Interior Division rivals.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for us,” added Pierce. “Fortunately, we don’t play on Friday. It gives us an extra day to prepare and get ready to go there [Chilliwack] and do a job.”
Unlike several Lower Mainland teams that are commuting back and forth to Chilliwack for their pair of games, the Cents are overnighting Saturday.
“Yeah, we’re staying over,” explained Pierce. “It’s important for our players to experience the whole thing. It’s a big deal for our league, and we want our players to be part of it.”
Merritt goes into the regular season having amassed a 1-1-2 record in exhibition play. They opened with a 5-5 tie against Langley back on Aug. 28, followed by a 3-1 loss to Chilliwack the next night in a game played in Hope.
The Centennials split a home-and-home series with Trail, winning 4-2 on Aug. 31 before losing to the Smoke Eaters 8-3 in Trail on Sept. 1.
With a large returning group of 11 Cents’ veterans, and a couple of key acquisitions/signings over the summer, Pierce and asst. coach Joe Martin used the pre-season to find the kind of players they wanted to build on last year’s outstanding second-place finish in the BCHL’s Interior.
“It’s a complicated process,” said Pierce. “If you rush to make decisions, you can really jeopardize yourself. So Joe and I wanted to take our time to discuss everything, and figure out how to make things work for us.”
Pierce really likes the new members of the Centennials’ team that he and Martin have finally committed to. There is a nice blend of not only talent but personalities, something that Pierce feels is vital in developing a strong team identity and culture.
The action and excitement all begins this weekend.