Hours after the final cuts, players and coaches get ready for the IIHF World Junior Championships
Joy and excitement were in the air on Monday morning for many, while disappointment met others, as Team Canada made their final cuts. Four more players were released in this round of deletions, including goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, defencemen Trevor Daley and Braydon Coburn and forward Erik Christensen.
Head Coach Marc Habscheid, who nervously survived cuts when he made the team as a player in the early 80's, said that every decision behind closed doors was a tough one, with the last round of cuts being the toughest. "All three rounds of cuts were difficult. Here in Canada, with the talent pool being as large as it is, there is a certain funnel effect. Just to narrow it down to 35 players at the start was incredibly difficult. To then make roster moves on three consecutive nights is always difficult, with the last night being the most so."
One of the players to really shine throughout this weekend's camp, was netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury, who turned eighteen under a month ago, was grinning ear-to-ear as he spoke of what being selected meant to him. "It was a very special moment for me to put on the jersey this morning. I'm going to try my best, work hard every game and have fun during the whole tournament. I've been watching the tournament since I was a little boy, and to be here this weekend with all of these great players was something very special."
Coach Habscheid had nothing but praise for his young goaltender. "He was spectacular last night [in the final exhibition game of the camp against the AUS All-Stars]. He has had a great season so far and he had an excellent camp. He definitely deserved to be on the team."
Scottie Upshall, a member of the team that won the silver medal last year in the Czech Republic, was selected as team captain for this tournament. Upshall, who appeared reserved and straight-faced with an air of unfinished business, was nonetheless thrilled with the honor bestowed upon him. "Being named the captain is huge. Coming here I didn't expect to have a letter or anything, but I wanted to be the guy that could create the leadership in the room by working hard and leading by example."
Canada's team is made up of smaller skilled players, much like teams the nation has sent to tournaments on the large international ice surface. Despite the fact that the games will be held on the cozier North American ice surface, Habscheid says that speed will still be a key feature. "We think we're a quick team, and one that can move the puck, and we like that in a small building. We still have a lot of the Canadian tenacity and courage that we all expect, and that too will help us in a small building.
We want to pursue pucks quickly, and force the opposition to make mistakes on a smaller ice surface than they are used to, with a loud hostile crowd adding to the confusion. I think with all of these factors added together, the quicker we can get on them and force them to make decisions, the better off we'll be."
For Team Canada their quest for their first gold medal in five years begins on December 26th when they take on Team Sweden at the Halifax Metro Centre.