Merritt Centennials defenceman Michael Van Unen has played on the same team as his twin brother Rylan from minor hockey all the way up to the BCHL. After announcing his commitment to the Northern Michigan University Wildcats for the 2019-20 season, the brothers will now become rivals for the first time next season in the NCAA.
Michael is enjoying a breakout season offensively in his third year with the Centennials, putting up three goals and 12 assists for 15 points, surpassing his previous career-best total of 13 points he set last year. He’s now played 117 regular-season games in the BCHL and totaled 34 points.
The 19-year-old from Kamloops, B.C. sees himself and his new school as a perfect match.
“They like my skating and puck movement and said it would fit in well with the culture they’re trying to build there,” he said in a release from the Centennials.
Northern Michigan is located in Marquette, Mich. and plays in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). His brother Rylan recently announced his commitment to WCHA-rival Alaska, which will see the two play on separate teams for the first time in their careers.
“It was more about finding the best fit for ourselves rather than going as a package,” said Michael.
After coaching him for the past two-and-a-half years, Centennials head coach Joe Martin knows Michael has the skillset to make the jump to the NCAA.
“It’s what he can do with his feet,” said Martin. “He can shoot the puck at the next level. He can do a lot of things that we can only see glimpses of that the next level gets really excited about.”
The Wildcats currently have a 6-8-0 record and 5-3-0 in conference. Their roster this season features former BCHLers Tyger Howat, Rylan Yaremko, Tony Bretzman, Adam Rockwood, Luke Voltin, and Darien Craighead.
Penticton Vees forward Andre Ghantous and Wenatchee Wild forward Josh Arnold are also committed to Northern Michigan for the 2019-20 season.