PIESTANY, Slovakia – Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team is ready to go.
After a four-day selection camp in Calgary, followed by a trip to Europe and four days in Slovakia, Canada will open the 2008 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament on Tuesday against Switzerland.
“We’re feeling real good,” Bill Peters, Canada’s head coach, said following the team’s practice on Monday. “We just got done a quality practice and we get better every time we take to the ice. Our guys are full of confidence and excited about the round-robin starting.”
Canada is in Pool B with Switzerland, Slovakia and Sweden. Canada will play three games in three days in its quest for its fourth gold medal in the last five years at this event.
Matthew Duchene (Haliburton, ON/Brampton, OHL) is Canada’s captain. Duchene says he and his teammates are pumped to get going.
“We’re pretty confident,” he says. “We had two really good games in exhibition. And our practices are going real well, we’re starting to come together as a team. We’re right where we want to be.”
Peters, along with assistant coaches Steve Spott (Kitchener, OHL) and Andre Tourigny (Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL), spent much of Monday’s practice telling their players to shoot the puck more.
Peters says Switzerland will play a 1-4 trap and Canada has to find ways through that trap.
“We have to get pucks in behind, make their d-men turn and be willing to be physical on offence and shoot pucks,” he says. “We haven’t done a good enough job so far in our exhibition games of getting enough pucks to the net from the wings.”
Canada’s players and staff arrived in Slovakia on Thursday, August 7th. Canada played two exhibition games, defeating the United States 6-4 on Saturday and the Czech Republic 4-2 on Sunday.
Canada finished in fourth place at this event last year, after having won the previous three tournaments. The event brings together the top 1991-born players in the world, most of whom will be available for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.