Alex Ochitwa is happy with how he’s played for the Osoyoos Coyotes since joining the club from the B.C. Hockey League’s Merritt Centennials, playing his first game Oct. 20.
A graduate of the Prince George Cougars major midget program, Ochitwa started his Coyotes career on a five-game point streak that included a hat-trick performance in his second game and a four-point outing in his third. In 10 games, he has 11 goals and 16 points.
“It’s definitely a little bit different, coming down a level,” says Ochitwa. “I was hoping to come down and start getting some confidence and help the team. I feel that’s what I came here to do – try to put up some points and help the team get some wins.”
Ochitwa, who started the season with the Centennials, joined the Coyotes with lower confidence as it was a hard situation in Merritt with the losing and playing a more defensive style. Last season with the Centennials, Ochitwa had six points in 18 games. Since entering the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, Ochitwa has been learning how to produce more and gain confidence with this skills.
Ochitwa joined the Coyotes who had familiar faces in Jack Henderson and Ethan Floris, who he knows well.
“They had nothing but good things to say about the program. And then I talked to (Head Coach) Carter Rigby and we had a few good conversations,” says Ochitwa. “That’s really what made me make my decision.”
Rigby loves having Ochitwa, who he says “has been amazing for us.”
“He’s a kid that gives Jack Henderson someone to play with,” added Rigby. “They’ve grown up playing together too. Everybody looks at the goals and the assists, but he does so many little things well away from the puck. He is on the PK, he wins one-on-one battles. He’s not a very vocal leader, but he does the right things in practice. He works his bag off.”
Rigby believes Ochitwa deserves another shot at the BCHL and is blown away that the Prince George native is still with him. Rigby says it’s tough as people look at Ochitwa’s 5-foot-6, 160-pound frame. However, he is fit and built.
“I think the game has changed a ton. You can be smaller and play, but if there is one thing, I’ve talked with Alex about and it’s the speed,” says Rigby. “He’s a quick kid, but when you are talking about the BCHL, and arguably the best Junior A hockey league in North America, and especially now where you can pull from anywhere, you have got to be the best of the best to play in the BCHL. It’s just going to have to be foot speed.”
Rigby says Ochitwa protects the puck well and likes how good offensively he is. In 2019-20, his final season with the Cougars, the 19-year-old put up 23 goals and 54 points in 30 games. In his rookie season he had 35 points in 40 games. 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 Junior A organizations from the AJHL and SJHL, but it’s a matter of what is best for Ochitwa, Rigby says.
For now he will continue to enjoy having Ochitwa and his production to help them pick up wins.