The 2019 NCAA hockey tournament is down to the Frozen Four and 18 former BCHLers, representing nine BCHL clubs, are still alive and competing for a national championship.
The Merritt Centennials will have two alums in the mix for the NCAA Division 1 Championship.
The Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs will take on the Providence Friars in the first semifinal on Thursday at 2 p.m. PDT at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y. Semifinal number two sees the Massachusetts Minutemen and the Denver Pioneers going head to head at 5:30 p.m PDT.
The Bulldogs are the defending national champions after defeating Notre Dame 2-1 in last year's final and are making their third-straight appearance in the Frozen Four after they beat Bowling Green 2-1 in overtime and Quinnipiac by a score of 3-1 to advance to the final weekend of the tournament. Quinnipiac featured 2 Centennials alums in Nick Jermain and Zach Metsa.
This will be the fifth Frozen Four appearance for Providence and the first since they won their first and only national championship in 2015 when they defeated Boston University 4-3 in the finals. There are five BCHL alums on the Friars roster, including two of the team's top scorers in Merritt Centennials alum and Minnesota Wild draft pick Brandon Duhaime (33 points) and former Penticton Vees forward Scott Conway(29 points). The Friars got to the Frozen Four by beating Minnesota State 6-3 and Cornell 4-0 on the first weekend of the tournament. Minnesota State featured former Cents goaltender Jacob Berger, and Cornell featured former Cents forward Michael Regush.
UMass is making their first ever appearance in the Frozen Four after they had a pair of 4-0 wins over Harvard and Notre Dame on the first weekend of the tournament. The Minutemen are led by Hobey Baker finalist and Hockey East Player of the Year Cale Makar. The sophomore defenceman and former AJHL standout was drafted fourth overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2017 and won a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in 2018.
The Pioneers lead the way with 10 BCHL grads on their roster. This is the third time in the last four years Denver has made it to the Frozen Four and their first since winning their eighth national championship in 2017, which is second only to Michigan's nine titles. Like UMass, they have yet to surrender a goal during the tournament as they beat Ohio State 2-0 and American International 3-0 on the opening weekend. The Pioneers have former Centennials forward Tyler Ward on the roster who has 5 goals and 9 assists on the year.
Thursday's semifinals will be broadcast on TSN2. The national championship game takes place on Saturday at 5p.m. PST and will be broadcast on TSN.ca and on the TSN app.
Nearly 100 players descended upon Merritt and the NVMA over the weekend to compete for a spot on the Merritt Centennials.
With players from across BC joining the camp from various levels, and various ages Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw says the coaching staff now has some hard decisions to make.
"It's easy to watch and pick out what some players do well and what some need to improve upon, but now it's on the coaching staff, scouts, and others who help with our camp to go over notes and decide who we like for next season, who we'll keep on the radar, and who might be an affiliate for next year. These young men came here and showed their best, so it's up to us to do them justice and give them some solid feedback."
Coach Shaw adds that the next step for those that impressed will be Summer Camp.
"In Merritt we treat this as an identification camp, and we'll invite the players that showed well to our Summer Camp in Abbotsford. There will be players from all over Canada and the US attending that camp, and the main goal from there is to make it to our 30 player main camp ahead of the season."
Time will tell how the 5 locals (Chase Cooke, Atrayu Johnny, Colton MacCauley, Anthony Tulliani, and Justin Vinterlick) along with the 3 younger brothers (Garrett Wicks, Josh Van Unen, and Ross Roloson) figure into the future of the Centennials.
The Cents will host their Summer Camp from June 7th -9th in Abbotsford. Registration details to come shortly.
The Merritt Centennials are set to open their spring camp this weekend at the NVMA from Friday April 5th to Sunday April 7th and there's a healthy dose of locals in the mix.
Among the 100 invitees, 6 local products will be participating, as well as 3 younger brothers of current or former Centennials.
The name most familiar to Cents fans is the youngster who's proven you can make the hometown team. Talon Zakall will participate in a supporting role along with some other veterans to help run camp. Joining Talon to help with camp will be defenders Mattias Dal Monte, Mike Van Unen, and Jackson Munro along with forwards Rylan Van Unen, Ben Ward, and Brett Roloson. In his rookie season Zakall got into 45 games putting up one goal and 9 assists.
Chase Cooke is a name already known to the Merritt Minor hockey community. He won a provincial championship in Peewee, and has added to his trophy collection since then. Last season, the 2003 born defender spent time with the Thompson Blazers Minor Midget program and tallied a goal and 13 assists in 28 games played.
Atrayu Johnny is in his second stint at Centennials camp. The 2002 born Merritt local was one of the final cuts to the roster before last season began, and spent his season with the Princeton Posse of the KIJHL. With Princeton he had 6 points (1 goal) in 45 games played.
Another name known to Merritt is Anthony Tulliani. The 2000 born forward spent last season with the Osoyoos Coyotes of the KIJHL and had a goal and 5 assists in 41 games.
A pair of Merritt Midget alums are set to challenge camp as well. Colton MacCauley served as the teams goaltender and saw a ton of rubber over the season, and Justin Vinterwick is also in the mix in camp.
Assistant Coach Brandon Shaw says that continuing to develop local talent is great for not only the team, but the town.
"It's great to have the locals out. We want to be a part of building the hometown talent. If it leads to them making the roster, if it leads to them playing Junior B, or if it sets them up to be a part of the team in the future - that's huge. It's also great for Merritt to see the local talents that's on display, and I encourage fans to come check it out."
The other story line heading in to camp is some of the brothers that are hoping to follow in the footsteps of some current or former Centennials.
Younger brother to the Van Unen twins, Josh will suit up in camp. He was an affiliate player twice during the season, failing to register a point but impressing the coaching staff nonetheless. The 2001 born forward had an impressive season at Shawnigan Lake Academy of the CSSHL where he scored 26 goals, added 36 assists in 29 games played and managed to register 2 points a game. He will be itching to join older brother Rylan on next years roster.
Nick Wicks may be leaving the Centennials for the University of Alaska Anchorage, but younger brother Garrett will be looking to continue the former Captain's legacy. The 2001 born forward, Garrett suited up in 6 BCHL games this season, one of which against the Cents where he registered one of his two assists on the year. He spent the majority of last season as the Captain of the Greater Vancouver Canadians in the BCMML where he scored 18 goals, and set up 24 for 42 points in 38 games.
The 3rd brother to be in the mix has some NHL bloodlines just like his older brother Brett. Ross Roloson is a defenseman who spent last season with the Northern Alberta Elite 15 squad of the CSSHL putting up 6 goals and 17 points over 35 games.
"These younger brothers really reflect the characteristics of what has made their older brothers successful, but each brings something unique to their own game that will help them be great Junior players in the future."
With the camp having 5 teams going head to head over the three days, Assistant Coach Shaw says that each player will have to bring what they do best.
"We want players to come in and play their game, but hopefully find those that fit into what we are trying to build. We play a high tempo, exciting game with a blue collar work ethic like the town itself, but what I'm looking for is players that showcase their best, try their hardest, and show some character."
Below is the camp schedule over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday should any fans want to come and check it out.
Friday April 5
1200pm - Blue v. Red
130pm – Yellow v. White
300pm – Blue v. Grey
430pm – Red v. Yellow
600pm White v. Grey
Saturday April 6
1000am – Blue v. Yellow
1130am – Red v. White
100pm – Yellow v. Grey
230pm – Blue v. White
400 pm Red v. Grey
700pm – Gold Game – 1st v. 2nd
Sunday April 7
900am GAME: TEAM MUCKALT vs. TEAM BEERS
1100am GAME: TEAM WATTERS vs. TEAM KRUSE
200pm GAME: TEAM BIRKS vs. TEAM WILLCOX
The final tallies are in, and after the final bid was cast at 8pm last Friday night the Cents raised $6275 for two great causes.
The proceeds will be split between two causes that help support Mental Health Awareness in their respective fields. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Kamloops will be one of the beneficiaries of half the proceeds while the other half will go to support the Ty Pozzobon Foundation.
Business Operations Manager Jared Thomas says the funds and the auction help further the cause of awareness.
"I think it's a great showing by the Centennials organization to ensure that two charities will receive some much needed support in their quest to raise Mental Health Awareness. We've seen the issue really come to the fore across the sports landscape, and also in day to day life. There are many who suffer, sometimes in silence, and we hope that by supporting these causes and getting the word out there we give those people courage to reach out for help."
The highest earning jersey was naturally the late Ty Pozzobon at $600, but the highest current Centennials bid went to MVP Nick Granowicz who netted $490 for the respective charities.
The $6275 is slightly more than last years 3rd jersey auction of $6105 despite having less Alumni jerseys available for auction.
At the start of the round of 16, 7 Centennials Alumni were in the running to make it to the NCAA's Frozen Four - the final four that will compete for the NCAA Championship.
After this weekend's action, only 2 Centennials Alums remain - Brandon Duhaime and Tyler Ward.
Former goaltender Jacob Berger's Minnesota State Mavericks were sent home in the first round with a loss to the Providence Friar's 6-3. Former defender Jake Clifford was part of ASU's historic first berth into the tornament, but fell to Quinnipiac in round one as well 2-1.
Former Centennials Nick Jermain and Zach Metsa of Quinnipiac were eliminated in second round action by Minnesota Duluth by a score of 3-1. Former stand out Michael Regush and his team Cornell were topped by Brandon Duhaime and the Providence Friar's.
Kamloops native and former forward Tyler Ward is now with Denver University and they got by Ohio State in round 1 by a score of 2-0 and then blanked upstart AIC 3-0 on route to the final four.
The remaining Cents are on opposite ends of the Frozen Four bracket, and have the opportunity to set up a no-lose alumni situation should both their teams win their berth into the final.
Action for the Frozen Four starts Thursday April 11th before the final on April 13th.