Alex Ochitwa has been a scoring machine for the Osoyoos Coyotes since joining the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League from the Merritt Centennials for his first Junior B game on October 20.
A graduate of the Prince George Cougars’ major midget program, Ochitwa started his Coyotes career on a five-game streak with at least one point that included a hat trick in his second game and a four-point outing in his third. In 10 games, he has 11 goals and 16 points.
âIt’s definitely a little different, going down a level,â Ochitwa says. âI was hoping to get down and start building my confidence and helping the team. I think that’s what I came here for – to try to score points and help the team to win.
Ochitwa joined the Coyotes with his confidence shaken, coming out of a difficult situation at Merritt where he had to play a more defensive style in a team struggling to win. After collecting six points in 18 games in the center of Chilliwack of the BC Hockey League last spring, he was released by the Cents after two games this season. He played two more BCHL games with the West Kelowna Warriors before the Coyotes hung on him.
Since joining the KIJHL, Ochitwa has learned to perform more on the ice and regain confidence in his skills. He arrived in Osoyoos and found a few familiar faces on the Coyotes – his former Cariboo Cougar teammates Jack Henderson and Ethan Floris, whom he knows well.
“They had nothing but good things to say about the program,” Ochitwa said. âAnd then I spoke to (head coach) Carter Rigby and we had some great conversations. This is really what made me make my decision.
Rigby loves having Ochitwa, who he says “has been amazing to us”.
“He’s a kid who gives Jack Henderson someone to play with,” added Rigby. âThey also grew up playing together. Everyone is watching goals and assists, but he does so many little things away from the puck. He’s on the PK, he’s winning one-on-one fights. He’s not a very vocal leader, but he does the right things in practice. He takes out his bag.
Rigby says Ochitwa protects the puck well and loves his offensive skills. In 2019-2020, his last season with the Cougars, Ohitwa scored 23 goals and 54 points in 30 games. In his rookie season, he collected 35 points in 40 games.
Rigby believes the 19-year-old deserves another shot in the BCHL and is confident the five-foot-six, 160-pound Prince George native has the fitness, strength and skills to excel at the senior levels of hockey.
âI think the game has changed a lot,â Rigby said. âYou can be smaller and play, but if there’s one thing I talked to Alex about and it’s speed. He’s a quick kid, but when you talk about BCHL, and arguably the best Junior A hockey league in North America, and especially now where you can shoot from anywhere, you have to be the best of the best. best to play in the BCHL. It will just have to be the speed of the foot.
Rigby wants to see Ochitwa gain that extra stride or two in order to generate offensive chances and produce at that level. There is interest in him from the AJHL and SJHL Junior A organizations, but it’s a question of what’s best for Ochitwa, Rigby says.
For now, he will continue to use Ochitwa and his production to help the Coyotes rack up the wins. They currently rank first in the Bill Ohlhausen Division with a 13-2-1-2 record.