With ten days left before the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship kicks off in British Columbia, Team Canada’s roster has been finalized. The two goalies, seven defencemen, and 13 forwards selected to represent the host country were presented to the media at a downtown Vancouver hotel Friday morning.
“It’s always a tough thing to do,” said Head Coach Brent regarding the final roster cuts. “There’s obviously a lot of communication between the whole staff, and in the end, there are decisions that have to be made. There will always be some disappointed players in this process, but you’re still very proud of them, and they’re all very good players.”
The starting goalie will be Justin Pogge (Calgary Hitmen), with Devan Dubnyk (Kamloops Blazers) serving as his backup.
On defence, Cam Barker (Medicine Hat Tigers), Luc Bourdon (Val-d’Or Foreurs), Kristopher Letang (Val-d’Or Foreurs), Ryan Parent (Guelph Storm), Sasha Pokulok (Cornell), Kris Russell (Medicine Hat Tigers) and Marc Staal (Sudbury Wolves) will suit up.
The forwards include Dan Bertram (Boston College), Michael Blunden (Erie Otters), David Bolland (London Knights), Dustin Boyd (Moose Jaw Warriors), Kyle Chipchura (Prince Albert Raiders), Andrew Cogliano (Michigan), Blake Comeau (Kelowna Rockets), Steve Downie (Peterborough Petes), Guillaume Latendresse (Drummondville Voltigeurs), Ryan O’Marra (Erie Otters), Benoit Pouliot (Sudbury Wolves), Tom Pyatt (Saginaw Spirit), and Jonathan Toews (North Dakota).
“We’ve got a blend of guys with speed and skill,” said Sutter. “We’ve also got some bigger guys that will grind you out. That’s what I want as a head coach. You can’t have a small team in this tournament. You’ve got to have some size.”
Chipchura was named team captain, and Barker, Bolland, Bourdon, and Comeau will serve as alternates on a rotating basis.
“His leadership capabilities are second to none,” said Sutter of Chipchura. “He’s a heart and soul guy, and when you have a team that’s perhaps lacking some experience at the national level, which obviously we are, you need a real strong character who’s fully committed to the way we want to play. I know what he brings to the table because I see him play a lot. He’ll fit very well as our captain.”
About half the players on this year’s roster, which averages 6-1 in height and 193 pounds in weight, are 18 years old. Toews is the youngest at 17.
Not surprisingly, everyone was ecstatic about the opportunity to defend Canada’s gold medal title from 2005.
“It’s unbelievable to get a second crack at it,” said Cam Barker, the only returning player from the 2005 squad. “Not many people get that in anything, let alone the World Juniors. It’s something I want to try to take full advantage of.”
“It means a lot to me,” said Justin Pogge, who is expected to start against Finland December 26. “It was a big goal of mine this year to make the Selection Camp, let alone the team. It’s a dream come true. I always wanted to play for Team Canada, and now I’m getting my chance.”
“It’s amazing to get a chance to show what you can do for Canada,” said Guillaume Latendresse, who made a splash at the Montreal Canadiens’ training camp in September. “It’s different than going to Montreal’s camp in the fall was. I knew before going to the camp in Montreal that I would not make the team, because I’m 18, and I just wanted to play one exhibition game. There, I was an underdog, and here, I’ll have a bigger role.”
“Being named to this team is a dream,” said Dustin Boyd. “It’s a honour. You’re up all night thinking about what could happen. When we got up for breakfast, sitting there waiting for the knock on the door or the phone call was nerve-wracking. Now it’s not about nerves anymore. It’s excitement, and I’ll have to be ready to go every shift.”
Team Canada’s next stop is Chase, BC, where it will spend three days training before the pre-competition camp in Kamloops. Exhibition games versus the Czech Republic (Dec. 20 in Kelowna) and Russia (Dec. 22 in Kamloops) are upcoming, and tickets are still available through the arena box offices.