HockeyCanada.ca takes a closer look at some of the players comprising Team Canada West.
DAMON KIPP - BCHL
KIPP FOLLOWS THE LEAD AND LEADS TO BE FOLLOWED
Damon Kipp knows that just because this is his second World Junior A Challenge, things aren’t guaranteed of coming any easier.
>Kipp is one of two returning players on the Team West roster and isn’t surprised that this time isn’t any different.
“You basically have to want to win more than the other team, trust your teammates, and trust that the coaches know what they’re talking about,” said the rearguard for Team West.
Kipp has also played under returning coach Boris Rybalka, and the coach’s philosophy hasn’t changed.
The Salmon Arm, BC, native also sees the benefits of having a returning coach, which has led to the team coming together almost immediately, and the guys are playing for each other as opposed to for themselves.
With the team playing as a unit, some of the internal pressure is relieved as often, players put too much pressure on themselves at such large scale events.
Kipp has in fact placed more pressure on himself to be a prominent leader on team made up of players from five different leagues. He is looking to be a key cog in Canada West becoming repeat champions.
In their first game of the preliminary round, the Team West played before a packed house at the Trail Cominco Arena of about 2,600 boisterous fans.
When asked about the fans attending the games in Trail, the alternate captain was impressed.
“First class all the way around.”
Kipp is no stranger to the recently renovated Cominco Arena. Kipp and his Salmon Arm Silverbacks make a few trips to Trail during the regular season.
When the Team West players visited local Trail elementary schools, Kipp was picked out by some students.
“They knew my name when I told them and that is pretty special,” said Kipp.
Kipp was held off the scoresheet in a 4-2 loss to Team Russia in Wednesday’s game.
MIKE CONNOLLY - AJHL
CONNOLLY WANTS TO KEEP SNIPING
Mike Connolly has been racking up the points against his AJHL opponents and has continued to produce at the World Junior A Challenge.
Before Connolly left his Camrose Kodiaks he was averaging two points per game.
In his first game of the WJAC against Team Germany, Connolly lit the lamp twice and added two helpers.
“To be honest, it took a lot of pressure off… they (the team) is relying on me to put the puck in the net and help the team out,” said the eighteen-year-old forward.
Connolly will continue to feel the pressure of expectations due to his recent performance.
“Being a hockey player it’s a pressure you’ve got to like, and you’ve got to learn to play with,” said the Calgary native.
Connolly had no expectations of what the WJAC would be like, but was excited and honoured to play for Team Canada West.
“It’s a totally different level, every player is just that much better, the competition is fierce,” says Connolly.
Connolly has noticed how the hockey fans of Trail have taken to the hockey and his team.
“They have been absolutely outstanding…they have kind of adopted us as the hometown team,” noted Connolly.
In Wednesday night’s action, Connolly was held pointless, but generated multiple scoring chances on way to named Canada West’s player of the game.
TOMMY BROWN - SJHL
BROWN NOT ALONE ANYMORE
Tommy Brown may have come from Saskatchewan alone, but he will leave with 21 friends for life.
Brown plays in Melfort for the Mustangs of the SJHL and is the lone representative dawning the Team Canada crest for Team West.
“It is been a great experience. I have a new group of friends and I’ll know them for life now,” said Brown.
Brown is convinced that the team building and the closeness of the group will translate to on-ice success.
Brown collected two assists in a 7-2 win on Tuesday night against Team Germany.
With an opening win, Team West, the defending gold medal champions, Brown senses the pressure that the team, and himself, are under to repeat.
“Every team’s goal here is to win the gold and for us to repeat would mean a lot,” said the Prince Albert native.
With team pressure comes internal and personal demands to not hurt the team. Brown feels that if he leaves those thoughts in the back of his mind, things will take care of themselves on their own.
“There is a lot of exposure out here but I’m not trying worry about it,” said the eighteen-year-old defenceman.
Blowing off some steam and getting away from the arena, the players from Team West spent Monday visiting local elementary schools.
Brown was blown away with the support and the effort the students of the elementary schools took in making posters of support for the team.
The community support that has been given to Team West reminds Brown of the support teams receive in the SJHL.
The crowd was holding its collective breath throughout the third period as Team West scored two goals to bring the game to a tie on Wednesday night. But Russia rallied with two goals late in the third to steal the victory. Brown logged a load of ice time as Team West lost two defencemen during the second period to injury.
DEREK ROBINSON - MJHL
TAKING PRIDE IN REPRESENTING MANITOBA
Derek Robinson comes to Team West with a purpose of reminding people that there are quality hockey players in Manitoba. And he came to win a gold medal, too.
Robinson who plays for the relocated Beausejour Blades of the Addison Conference of the MJHL is one of three who are lone league representatives on the Team West roster.
“Manitoba gets skipped a lot… I definitely want to represent Manitoba and take pride in my representation,” said the Winnipeg native.
The talent in the WJAC is the best of the junior age group. Robinson has noticed the skill level of his teammates over the last week and is relishing the opportunity to skate among top players.
“It is definitely an experience of a lifetime… it is too bad we all have to go back to our teams after this tournament,” said the eighteen-year-old.
Although the skill level is high, the team has followed in tow the coach’s message of putting the team first to reach their goal of repeating as the gold medal champions.
“You pretty much just trust the coaches here and do what they say to follow their lead,” emphasized Robinson.
With the players fully receptive to this message, Team West came out and handed Team Germany their second loss of the WJAC with a 7-2 win on Tuesday.
Although Robinson didn’t register on the scoresheet, aside from a hooking minor, he played a steady game, especially in his own zone.
With a capacity crowd of about 2600 for the first preliminary game against Team Germany, Robinson said he has never experienced this type of crowd atmosphere.
“The community support has been unreal,” noted the Team West defenceman.
Robinson and his teammates got a chance to meet and interact with the communities of Trail and Nelson with some special events. The team skated with some local kids on Sunday. And on Monday, the players visited local elementary schools to talk with the students and received signs of support created by the children.
“The community supporting us is huge and it’s helping,” acknowledged Robinson.
The crowd looks to be to capacity again for the quarter-finals when Team West faces Belarus on Thursday night at Cominco Arena in Trail.
The sellout crowd was treated to a preliminary round nail-biter on Wednesday, when Team Russia gained a two goal lead only to have Team West rally with two goals of its own to tie the game early in the third. An unfortunate Canadian bounce allowed Team Russia to take 3-2 lead. Team Russia added a late goal to make the final 4-2.
RYAN MAGILL - SIJHL
LIVING OUT A CHILDHOOD DREAM
Like many young hockey players Ryan Magill is living out his dream of wearing the maple leaf crest on his chest while playing for his nation at the World Junior A Challenge.
Ryan Magill who plays for the Fort William North Stars of the SIJHL is skating with the best from the four western Junior A leagues (BCHL, AJHL, SJHL and MJHL) as Team West at the 2007 World Junior A Challenge. The SIJHL is the fifth league as part of the CJAHL five and five split to make up two Canadian teams at the WJAC.
“When you actually get to do it (wear the Canadian jersey) it’s really nerve racking but it is a big honour,” said the Team West winger.
Magill admitted he was a bunch of nerves before Team West took to the ice for its first preliminary game against Team Germany.
“I was as nervous as the first (exhibition) games, but I felt a little more confident as I’ve gotten to know the guys,” said the Thunder Bay native.
Magill has eased right into the team over the last few days together and hasn’t let the stigma of repeating as WJAC champions get to him.
“I just want to play my best and the rest will just take care of itself,” noted Magill.
Magill, who was second in scoring for the North Stars before he left the team, was not able to record a point against Germany. Magill won’t let this get to him either.
The near capacity crowd was treated to an entertaining hockey game on Wednesday, ending in a 4-2 Russia victory. Russian player Evgeni Grachev fired a wrist show over Brad Eidsness’ glove side to break the tie late in the third and steal the win.
Canada West will now face Team Belarus for a spot in the semi-finals on Saturday. The winner of Thursday’s game will skate against Team USA at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Nelson and District Community Complex. Tonight’s game is available to fans via webcast at www.hockeycanada.ca .
The community support has been phenomenal acknowledged Magill of the two communities, Trail and Nelson, who are hosting the 2007 WJAC.