Over the course of five years, Cranbrook product Ryan Chynoweth saw a whole lot of western Canada and the Pacific Northwest as he played out his junior hockey days.
Now, after graduating from the junior ranks, the 21-year-old is looking forward to the next chapter as he joins the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns and faces the challenge of Canada West hockey and life as a Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) student athlete.
“I’m just excited for the next chapter of my life,” Chynoweth said over the phone from Calgary on Monday afternoon. “All I’ve really known is junior hockey the last five years. I’m excited to get on with it, play hockey at a high level and get my education started.”
After a total of 271 regular season junior hockey games, including 218 in the Western Hockey League, Chynoweth confirmed on Monday he has committed his services to the University of Lethbridge for the 2016-17 CIS campaign.
Selected 24th overall by the Everett Silvertips in the second round of the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft, Chynoweth was eventually traded to the Tri-City Americans before being dealt to his hometown Kootenay Ice in September 2013.
Over 113 games with the Ice, the 6-foot-1, 187-pound forward was utilized primarily in a checking role as he rounded his WHL career at the conclusion of the 2014-15 campaign. In 218 games, Chynoweth collected 12 goals and 27 assists for 39 points, adding 200 penalty minutes.
With one year of junior eligibility remaining, the feisty forward took his game to the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), signing with the Drumheller Dragons ahead of the 2015-16 campaign.
The veteran Chynoweth made an immediate impact upon his arrival in the Alberta Badlands.
Through 35 games to start the season, the former WHL energy winger was relishing a brand-new role with the Dragons, lighting up the Viterra South Division by collecting 19 goals and 33 points, as well as 102 penalty minutes.
“It was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed it,” Chynoweth said of his time in the AJHL. “It was nice to have a different role from what I played in the Western League. It was cool to be that go-to guy again, be able to score some goals.”
With the trade deadline looming in early January, Chynoweth was dealt to the Lloydminster Bobcats, who were stockpiling firepower ahead of hosting the 2016 RBC Cup — Canada’s national Junior A championship.
The scrappy forward picked up in Lloydminster where he had left off in Drumheller, producing at nearly a point-per-game pace (5-12-17 in 18 games) after making the move to the AJHL’s Viterra North Division.
In 12 post-season games, Chynoweth was once again a reliable force on offense, tacking up eight goals and 11 points in 12 games as the Bobcats fell to the Spruce Grove Saints in the Viterra North Division final.
After a few weeks on the sidelines watching the Brooks Bandits and Saints battle it out for AJHL supremacy — Brooks claimed the crown in five games — Chynoweth and the Bobcats took back to the ice as hosts of the Canadian national championship intent on proving their worth amongst the country’s best.
The Bobcats clawed their way into the RBC Cup finale, but ultimately were unable to scrounge enough offense, as the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors struck for a 4-0 win to claim the national title.
“To be able to go to the RBC final, one win away from a national championship, that was pretty special,” Chynoweth said. “It would’ve been nice to win, but it was a tough game.”
After putting up another respectable performance through the RBC Cup — Chynoweth amassed two goals and three points in six games on the national stage — college offers began coming in for Cranbrook product, who opted on the University of Lethbridge, due largely in part to being closer to family after a year on the road.
Outside of having a sister who attended the University of Lethbridge, Chynoweth said having a number of other friends enrolled at the post-secondary institute and within the men’s hockey program played a significant factor in his decision to join the Pronghorns.
“I was contacted by a couple of schools, went on a couple fly-downs and then made my decision to go to Lethbridge due to the fact it’s close to home, I have some friends there and obviously it’s a good school,” Chynoweth said. “I’m super excited for it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
“There are seven or eight guys I played with or against throughout my career. That was honestly a huge reason why I decided to go there.”
Outside of friendly faces within the Pronghorns dressing room, Chynoweth is looking forward to seeing some familiar faces around Canada West, with even more former teammates scattered around the CIS conference.
It has recently been reported that former Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin is headed for Mount Royal University, while former Ice forward Austin Vetterl just wrapped his rookie campaign with the University of B.C. Thunderbirds, where he registered 21 points in 28 games.
Out in the prairies, former Ice forward Levi Cable had a stellar rookie season with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, collecting 28 points in 28 games.
“Honestly, there are a lot of guys from that [2014-15 Kootenay Ice] team that are in CIS,” Chynoweth said. “Levi Cable at U of S, some guys at U of [Regina] and all over the place. It’s going to different, but it will be fun to made chirp them a little bit. But it will be fun to play against them.”
Chynoweth is enrolled in business, with sights set on majoring in finance. Expecting the CIS game to be bigger, faster and stronger than what he faced in the AJHL, he’s spending his summer working and training in Calgary.
The Pronghorns finished just outside the Canada West big dance in 2015-16, going 11-15-2, landing in seventh place and two points outside of the playoff picture. The top six teams in Canada West men’s hockey qualify for the post-season.
Canada West is one of the premier university athletic conferences in Canada, stretching from B.C. to Manitoba. It is one of four conferences within CIS.
The conference is home to 17 member schools, which have combined to claim over 100 national championships in the past decade.