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.
Mike Van Unen
Mike Van Unen was one of the longest tenured Centennials on the roster this season after serving the team for 3 seasons. His game took a major jump in his final year with the Centennials as he was leaned on as the number one defenseman, and proved he could carry the load with his supreme skating skills, crisp first pass, and ability to join the rush.
Before coming to the Centennials, Van Unen spent time with the BCMML’s Thompson Blazers and the KIJHL’s Chase Heat. He also played spent some of his minor hockey career playing in Merritt before making the move to Kamloops.
While he didn’t put up big numbers in midget and as a youngster in Junior B, Director of Hockey Operations Brian Barrett said the tools were there.
“Mike has had a lot of the tools you look for in a strong defender since day one, and he has the fire and compete you need to push yourself to the next level.”
Push himself to the next level Van Unen did, as every year in the BCHL he steadily improved. In year one, Van Unen paid his dues getting into 31 games, adding 6 assists, and getting into 7 playoff games as well. Year two saw Van Unen round out his game and get into more playing 57 while scoring 3 goals and adding 10 assists. After an injury to Tyrell Buckley heading into the playoffs, Van Unen moved up in the depth chart to play top line minutes. Despite a first round sweep at the hands of the Wenatchee Wild it was a solid preview of what was to come the following year. This past year Van Unen set career highs in all categories: goals (4), assists (23), points (27), and penalty minutes (92) while leading the Centennials back line during one of their most successful regular seasons. However, his point totals don’t tell the whole story as he was always patrolling the defensive zone with solid play in front of the net, a good first pass out of the zone, or just rushing the puck up the ice himself. His all-around play earned him a commitment to Northern Michigan University.
Governor Barrett says that Van Unen turned some heads this season.
“From my perch in the NVMA, I get to talk to my fair share of scouts, and a number of them were impressed with Mike’s balance of physicality and puck-moving ability.”
Next season Van Unen will play for the Northern Michigan Wildcats and Barrett says that he will get a chance to shine there.
“Northern Michigan is getting a defender they can use in all situations. Mike can eat up minutes, and play whatever role he’s tasked with.”
Next year will be Van Unen’s first without twin brother Rylan on his team, but he will match up against many familiar faces including former team mates: Tyrell Buckley, Jacob Berger, Nick Wicks and Zack Court, and Tyrell Buckley to name a few. The Cents wish Van Unen and his family all the best as he moves forward with his career, and thank them for their continued contributions to the Centennials organization.