Vernon’s Tyler Steel

Vernon’s Tyler Steel

Steel bound for Brown Bear den

Merritt Centennials' netminder Tyler Steel, a Vernon native, signs with the NCAA Division 1 Brown Bears.

His goals-against average keeps dropping and his save percentage continues to rise.

Merritt Centennials’ netminder Tyler Steel’s numbers are heading in the right direction, and so is he. The 19-year-old Vernon product is taking the Ivy League route, signing with the NCAA Division 1 Brown Bears of Providence, R.I., for the 2013-14 season.

Steel has continued to improve his goalie stats, along with his workload, over three B.C. Hockey League campaigns. His 2.38 GAA and .918 SAV have helped the Cents into a three-way tie for third overall at 8-3-1-1.

After filling more of a backup role to starter Lino Chimienti in his first two seasons, Steel is stoked to finally be the main guy in Merritt.

“It’s been a learning process,” said the 6-foot-2, 175-pounder. “My first two years, at the age I was, most guys don’t get to play too many games but luckily I did.

“It was tough to battle for every game, but it helped me to learn and grow and that set me up better for this year.”

Centennials’ head coach Luke Pierce applauded Steel for his determination.

“He’s gone through a very patient process which speaks of his character,” said Pierce, a former Vernon Viper (2003-04).

“He probably could have been a starting goaltender as young as 17, but we had a plan from the beginning that we went through with him…and he’s kept with it because he saw the long term.”

Steel was equally patient when it came to choosing a school. He had gone on flydowns to Alaska-Fairbanks and Notre Dame, but when Brown offered a full financial aid package, he said: “It made a lot of sense.

“An education at Brown is next to none and they’ve got an up-and-coming hockey program there.”

Viper grad Aaron Volpatti blossomed into a goal scorer at Brown, eventually signing with the Vancouver Canucks.