The Cents had one of their most successful seasons in 30 years, and with that comes the unfortunate reality that some of the best players to don a Centennials crest will be leaving for the next step in their hockey careers in the NCAA. In the coming weeks we will give one final salute to the young men who served the Cents in the 2018/19 season.
Austin ‘Rode Closed’ Roden
Austin Roden’s Centennials journey started midway through the 2017-18 season when he joined the team from the Nanaimo Clippers. The Cents were in need of a proven backup after for Jacob Berger after Vincent Duplessis went down with a season ending injury early in the season, but in Roden they got a whole lot more. A sound positional goaltender with solid rebound control, great athletic ability, and a wildcard who could come up with a game-changing save.
Hailing from BC’s capital of Victoria, Roden was groomed for the BCHL through the BC Major Midget League ranks. Playing for his hometown South Island Royals, Roden got plenty of time between the pipes in two season’s spanning from 2014 – 2016 starting 48 games and sporting a combined record of 21-14-7 with a 3.31 GAA.
After proving himself in the BCMML, Roden got a chance with the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL. In his first season in Junior A, Roden put up respectable numbers on a Clippers team that finished 5 games below .500 and 4th in the Island Division. He posted a record of 8-10-1 with a .900 SV% and a 3.19 GAA. The following year he was off to a good start in Nanaimo before being traded to the Cents getting into 7 games and posting a 2-4-1 record, then Joe Martin was able to acquire him for future considerations and Roden’s play made a drastic jump.
Director Of Hockey Operations Brian Barrett recalls liking what he saw in Roden pretty early.
“Austin is a goalie that is just a battler, he’s mentally tough, and he wants to win and be a difference in every game he plays.”
Roden says that the jump to Merritt was a big one for many reasons.
“My initial thoughts when joining the Cents was a mix of emotions. I’d never been traded before and Nanaimo was close to home for me. I was mostly nervous about playing in the rink and living further away from home.”
When he first took to the crease in Merritt there was no nervousness to speak of, he helped the Centennials solidify one of the best goalie tandems in the league, and pushed Jacob Berger for starts all through the season. Despite only sporting a record of 12-11-3 in his first year with the Cents he had a sparkling .931 SV% and a 2.40 GAA. His .931 SV% has him in a tie for 4th highest overall in BCHL history.
Roden gives a lot of credit to his team mates for helping him with the transition from the Island, and helping him post good numbers.
“The success I had after joining Merritt was due to the way the team brought me in and made me comfortable right away. A ton of credit is also in order to Goaltender Coach Jamie McCaig for the small changes we made to my game that went a long way.”
In his second season with the Cents, Roden was saddled with some big expectations after his spectacular performance the year before. He admits that he put some undue pressure on himself early, but came back refreshed for the home stretch of the season.
“I started the season putting myself under a ton of pressure to steal games every night and try to get a scholarship every game. After Christmas break I came back relaxed and only worried about what I could control. The end of the season for me was when I started to have fun playing goal for the first time that season.”
A big reason for the early season struggles was a shift in the Centennials overall mentality. They transformed into an offense first team that produced the second highest output on the season, but also gave up a number of quality chances on the defensive side. Through it all Roden kept the ‘Rode Closed’ with phenomenal saves on partial and all out breakaways, 2-on-1’s, and grade A scoring opportunities. Roden would be leaned upon heavily through different stretches of the season especially when he heated up in the last month of the regular season. In the end he got into 42 games while sporting a 27-11 record with a .912 SV% and a 2.95 GAA. His stellar play through the tail end of the season caught the eyes of NCAA Div 1 program Nebraska-Omaha, and just before the playoffs began, in his 20 year old season, Roden got the scholarship he had worked so hard for.
Roden says that the small town vibe of Merritt really brings teams together.
“The two teams I played on in Merritt were the two closest teams I’ve ever played on due to the fact that there’s not much else to do in Merritt than be with your team mates all the time, and that creates a tighter team than other towns.”
Like many other players in the BCHL, although it may surprising to hear from a goaltender, Roden says speed was what he learnt most and really credits Goaltender Coach McCaig for his help.
“I think the biggest improvement I made to my game was skating. Working with Jamie McCaig the last two seasons was vital for my development to get to the next level. Not only on the ice but having someone who really knows the position to bounce things off of when it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.”
Governor Barrett says that Nebraska-Omaha is getting a goaltender that checks all the boxes.
“He can make the routine save, he can make the saves that have you out of your seat. Sometimes he makes it look easy, other times he makes it look sensational, but he does it all with a great mental fortitude to bounce back when one does get past him.”
Roden says the bond forged with his team mates will last long after he’s left Merritt.
“What I will remember most about Merritt is the friendships and people I’ve met along the way. It’s such a different experience playing in a town like Merritt where you’re with your team mates and the fans every day. The locker room and friends I’ve made for life is what will stick with me though.”
Nebraska-Omaha plays in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in the NCAA, and it features some of the best teams in the nation including St. Cloud State, University of Denver, and the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The Cents wish Roden and his family all the best as he moves forward with his career, and thank them for their contributions to the Centennials organization.