Martin, Van Unen headed to WJAC Team Canada West selection camp

By on November 22, 2017
Joe Martin and Rylan Van Unen. (Photos contributed).


The Merritt Centennials will be well-represented at this year’s World Junior A Challenge selection camp.

On Nov. 20, Hockey Canada announced the invitees to the Team Canada West and Team Canada East selection camps — in advance of the 2017 World Junior A Challenge, scheduled for Dec. 10 to 14 in Truro, Nova Scotia.

A total of 60 players will converge on the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary from Dec. 2 to 5 for four days of Team Canada West practices and games.

The players in attendance will be drawn from the five western Junior A leagues — the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL), the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) and the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL).

Twenty-eight of the 60 Team Canada West invitees are from the BCHL, and include 18-year-old forward Rylan Van Unen of the Merritt Centennials.

In his second season with the Cents, Van Unen has seven goals and four assists for 11 points in 23 games.

A good skater with an excellent shot, Van Unen is also noted for his gritty play and aggressiveness on the forecheck.

The Centennials will also be represented in Calgary by Joe Martin, who was selected earlier this fall as an assistant coach with Team Canada West. Last year, Martin was a guest coach at the selection camp.

“As a group, we are very excited at the depth of talent, character and work ethic of the 60 players that have been identified for the selection camp,” said Team Canada West director of operations Ken Saurette in a press release issued by Hockey Canada. “We look forward to watching these players earn the opportunity to represent Team Canada West at what will be a very competitive selection camp.”

The 28 BCHL invitees include four goaltenders, eight defencemen and 16 forwards. Twelve of the 17 member clubs are represented, led by the Chilliwack Chiefs with five selections.

The World Junior A Challenge is made possible thanks to the partnership between Hockey Canada, the CJHL and NHL Central Scouting. The annual tournament features two Canadian teams representing East and West, as well as four international teams.This year’s international representatives will be Team USA, Russia, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

Nine of the 11 gold-medal games to date have featured at least one Canadian team. Team Canada West won gold in 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2015, silver in 2008, 2009 and 2012, and bronze in 2013. Team Canada East won silver in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2016, as well as bronze in 2008. Team USA is the defending champion.

Previous Merritt Centennials players who competed for Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge include Casey Pierro-Zabotel (2006, 2007), Reece Willcox (2011), Dane Birks and Jeff Wight (2013) and Michael Regush (2016). 

In addition, previous Cents’ head coaches Al Glendinning and Luke Pierce were assistant coaches with Team Canada West at the WJAC events in 2007 and 2014 respectively.

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