Short term tournaments such as the World Junior A Challenge and the RBC Cup, Canada’s National Junior A Championship, present special challenges for the players and staff.
While in their junior A leagues, players are accustomed to playoffs that consist of best-of-seven series. The tournament format doesn’t allow for huge comebacks. If you lose three games at the World Junior A Challenge, you are out of the running altogether.
Canada West has the benefit of experience on several fronts when it comes to short term events ... and to winning. First of all, you have two returning players (Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Damon Kipp) from the 2006 World Junior A Challenge champion team. Head coach Boris Rybalka and team General Manager Darcy Rota have returned as well from that win, and have assembled several players with short term and championship experience.
Rybalka’s own Camrose Kodiaks of the AJHL, are regular participants in the RBC Cup, having won in 2001 and taken part in two finals. Star forward Mike Connolly can rely on last year’s experience at the RBC Cup where a young Camrose squad finished 4th.
“The margin for error is so slim (in this type of tournament),” noted Connolly. “Against Russia (on Wednesday), I thought maybe we took one period off. I thought we played a pretty good game for the most part but we made a couple errors and they capitalized. The margin for error here is so slim and you have to pay attention to the details. It could cost you one game, and one game could cost you the tournament.”
Rybalka and the team’s management gave lots of weight to that experience, as well as to the experience of winning when they assembled the best combination of players for Trail.
“I give a lot of credit to our GM, Darcy Rota. He has done the research and knows which players have won championships, have played in championships. We said from the start that we want winners. Winners know how to win. Whether it’s Joe Colborne or Tommy Brown or a Connolly, they have been through a Royal Bank Cup, a TELUS Cup or even the Canada Winter Games for example. These people have gone through short term competitions. It is so different from club team mentality. Every game in a short term competition is a seventh game. And that is our mentality this whole tournament. Every game is a best of one.”
Tommy Brown arrives with a very special and unique winning experience. The member of the Melfort Mustangs was a member of the Prince Albert Midget AAA Mintos that did what no midget team has ever done before: win two consecutive TELUS Cups, the National Midget Championship (2007, 2006). That experience has served the offensive defenceman well in his first ever international experience.
“In the TELUS Cup, it was seven games in seven nights so it was important for everyone to stay focused and stay with the task at hand, get a lot of rest and get the job done on the ice.”
“I think that winning those two years in a row gives me a lot of confidence going in here. I know what it takes to win now. I’ve been through it and now I have to bring it here too, and hopefully bring home the gold.”
Canada West is now hoping that all that winning and short term tournament experience can lead to more winning over the weekend at the World Junior A Challenge.