Two goals and four assists in just two games played thus far this season. Six points in total - good for fourth place overall in league scoring. Pretty impressive stats for a 17-year-old rookie defenseman in his first BCHL campaign.
The Merritt Centen-nials’ Dane Birks has turned quite a few heads with his early-season offensive output. The 6’3”, 165 lbs. blueliner picked up three points in each of his team’s two wins over the Trail Smoke Eaters in a span of just seven days.
On September 9 at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack, the Cents downed the Smokies 4-1. This past Saturday night in the Centennials’ home opener at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, it was a 6-2 victory for Merritt.
“I couldn’t be happier,” stated Birks on Monday of this week. “Everything’s going good so far, and I’m just going to keep on rolling.”
Asked if he saw the points production happening so early in his BCHL career, Birks said, “I’ve always been an offensive defenseman. I like to jump up in the play and create as much offense as I can, either by passing or shooting.”
It was Birks’ blueline shot at 5:17 of the first period on Saturday, while his team was on the powerplay, that put the Cents on the board, and erased an early one-goal Trail lead. And it was another tally by Birks at the start of the third period, again with the man advantage, that upped Merritt’s lead to 5-1 and effectively snuffed out any hopes the Smokies might have had of mounting a comeback in the final 20 minutes.
“He’s had two nights in a row where everything’s gone his way,” said Cents’ head coach and GM Luke Pierce of Birks’ accomplishments. “Do we expect him to get three points a night for the rest of the year? Of course not. But he does bring a different dynamic to our D-corps and that’s a good thing. We’re extremely happy for him, and for our team.”
On Saturday, in front of over 700 enthusiastic fans, Merritt also got goals from Bennett Huber (another rookie), Derek Huisman, Silvan Harper and Brendan Lamont to rather easily put away a Trail team that was coming off an emotional 4-3 overtime win over the Spruce Kings in Prince George the night before.
In addition to Birks, both Huisman and Regan Soquila had three-point nights with the latter two assisting on both of the young defenseman’s powerplay tallies.
Merritt outshot Trail Saturday 41-31, went 3-for-8 with the man advantage, and successfully killed all three shorthanded situations. Tyler Steel picked up his second win of the young season and improved his save percentage after three games to 0.918.
The Centennials don’t play their fourth game of the 56-game regular schedule until this Saturday when they travel to Prince George for a rematch with the Spruce Kings. The Sprucies defeated the Cents 4-1 in both teams’ opening game at the Showcase in Chilliwack.
The Cents’ next home game isn’t until Saturday, September 28 when they host the Langley Rivermen.