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.
Brad Cocca played nearly two full seasons with the Merritt Centennials, and proved to be an offensive powerhouse in year two. Serving as a catalyst in the offensive zone, he could set plays up as well as he could finish them off, and took a major leap forward in production.
Before coming to the Centennials, Cocca made a name for himself all the way back at the Minor Midget level while playing for the Don Mills Flyers in Greater Toronto. Scoring 27 goals and adding 42 assists, he finished the year with 69 points in 61 games. It was there that he caught the eyes of Harvard University and earned his first scholarship. He made the jump from minor midget to the OJHL, playing for the St. Michael’s Buzzers. There he put up 19 points in 54 games in his rookie season. The following year he left the OJHL for the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms. His production and his ice time took a bit of a hit producing only 5 points in 34 games.
Despite the low totals in the USHL, Head Coach Joe Martin saw something special in Cocca.
“As with many players that move to the USHL sometimes they’re not put in a role where they can succeed. We knew that if we gave Brad the opportunity to flourish that he could be an offensive force in our league, and it took a while, but through his own hard work he got there.”
Cocca joined the Centennials when they were already a couple months into the season, but didn’t seem to miss a beat. Like many first year Centennials he wasn’t forced into a starring role or expected to carry the offense, but he chipped in when necessary and showed flashes of offensive brilliance. He could stick handle in a phone booth, make defenders miss, and has very good offensive awareness. In 44 games with the Centennials, Cocca put up 8 goals and 23 points in year one. In an interview done earlier this season, Cocca credits knowing where he was going to play, what was expected of him, and being more comfortable with the team as the big reasons why he was able to put in a lot of hard work in the offseason to be ready for a big offensive jump this season.
In year two, Cocca created a dynamic duo with running mate Nick Granowicz and early on they torched the league. Cocca started in the top 3 in scoring and remained in the top 5 for the majority of the year. His vision, his ability to make moves under pressure, and a quick release all helped him nearly triple his point total from the year previous with 68 points in all 58 games in the regular season. His dynamic output also helped Cocca re-commit to Brown University, another Ivy league school where he’ll get the education that’s important to him and his family.
Coach Martin says that Cocca is a player that won’t soon be forgotten.
“Being an undersized guy, you have to play with that chip on your shoulder. Cocca came in with something to prove this season, and he proved that he’s an elite talent that can rely on his own skills, but also work with other players extremely well and bring out the best in them too.”
Next season Cocca will play for prestigious Brown University and Martin says that he will fit in with the culture they’re building there.
“Brown is getting a player that works extremely hard, prepares the right way, and is very easy going with his team mates. When it comes to game time, Brad becomes very focused and can raise his game to that elite level, he can play in all situations, and is a very smart player.”
At Brown Cocca will join the NCAA Division I’s ECAC conference and play against the 5 other Ivy league schools as well as some of the other top ranked colleges in the nation. The Cents wish Cocca and his family all the best as he moves forward with his career, and thenk them for their contributions to the Centennials organization.