After playing his entire hockey career in B.C.’s Interior region, including three years in the BCHL with Merritt, Centennials forward Rylan Van Unen will be heading north next year as he has committed to play for the University of Alaska Nanooks for the 2019-20 season.
Van Unen has already equaled his career-best output in points (18) and goals (11) this season in just 29 games. The Kamloops, B.C. native has 52 points (27 goals, 25 assists) in 125 career regular-season games over his three years with Merritt. Van Unen is tied for seventh in points on a high-scoring Centennials team that ranks second in the BCHL in goals scored.
Merritt head coach Joe Martin is happy for Van Unen, but not surprised that he ended up with Alaska.
“[I’m] extremely excited for his family and for Rylan,” said Martin in a release from the Centennials. “The Nanooks have had their eye on Rylan even all the way back to their former coaching staff, so they have a lot of notes on him, did their homework, made three trips to see him play and he’s really happy with the opportunity he’ll get there.”
The University of Alaska is located in Fairbanks, Alaska and plays in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). Van Unen will see a lot of his twin brother and longtime teammate Michael Van Unen who just announced his commitment to conference-rival Northern Michigan. Other teams in the WCHA include Alabama Huntsville, Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State.
The Nanooks current roster features several BCHL alums, including Matthew Doran, Steven Jandric, Jake Gresh, Max Newton, Chad Staley, Kylar Hope, Chris Jandric, Tony Rehm and Kyle Marino.