When it comes to gaining big-game experience, Corey Andonovski and Harrison
Blaisdell could do worse.
As the Chilliwack Chiefs continue season-long preparations for the 2018 RBC
Cup, Canada’s National Junior A Championship, on home ice next spring, a
pair of Chiefs have taken a few weeks out of the B.C. Hockey League
schedule to answer the Hockey Canada call.
Andonovski and Blaisdell are wearing the red and white of Canada West at
the 2017 World Junior A Challenge, chasing international gold while
learning what they can about short-term competition.
“It’s not something everybody gets to do, and to have that opportunity not
only prepares us, but calms us down a little bit, too,” Andonovski says.
“We’re going to know what to expect going into [the RBC Cup].”
So … what can they expect?
“Just play your game, not worry about people in the stands, who is
watching, stuff like that,” he says. “Obviously there is lots of hype
around the event itself, and it is going to be no different around the RBC.
So that would be the biggest thing – trying to focus on what’s going on on
the ice and not getting distracted.”
Andonovski is getting his first taste of a short-term tournament, but it is
becoming old hat for Blaisdell, who has spent more time in a Team Canada
jersey than a Chiefs jersey since late October.
He made the trek to northern British Columbia for the 2017 World Under-17
Hockey Challenge, helping Canada White reach the bronze medal game, and was
back in Chilliwack for just a few weeks before departing for Calgary for
Canada West selection camp.
Not that you’re going to find Blaisdell complaining about his busy
“It is awesome being in Chilliwack, but as soon as you get that call for
Team Canada you don’t hesitate because you never know when it could be your
last chance,” he says. “It’s a fantastic feeling.”
Blaisdell is actually on track to join a very exclusive club in May.
Barring something unforeseen, the 16-year-old will join Colorado Avalanche
forward Tyson Jost as the only players to compete in the TELUS Cup (he was
a member of the Regina Pat Canadians at the 2017 tournament), World
Under-17 Hockey Challenge, World Junior A Challenge and RBC Cup.
While the trip to Truro has been beneficial, in reality it is just two
weeks in a nine-month journey. The real focus for Andonovski and Blaisdell
is on Chilliwack, where the Road to the RBC Cup has been anything but
smooth for the Chiefs.
With a host of new faces Chilliwack – which reached the league final in
2016 and 2017 – struggled out of the gate, winning just one of its first
eight games, and sits 10th in the 17-team BCHL as of mid-December.
The slow start has meant a revolving door in the Chiefs dressing room –
general manager and head coach Jason Tatarnic swung seven trades in the
first three months trying to find the right fit.
“We have a really good group, so I don’t have a doubt in my mind that we’re
going to come together by the end of the season,” Andonovski says. “It’s
kind of been up and down, a little inconsistent, but we’re really starting
to find our stride here and hopefully we can take that into playoffs and be
ready when RBC rolls around in May.”
But the Chiefs duo isn’t looking too far ahead just yet – there’s still the
matter of going for gold in Truro.
Blaisdell has felt international disappointment already this season,
falling short of a medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and that
experience will be front of mind as the World Junior A Challenge moves
towards its conclusion.
“I lost to the U.S. twice [at U17s, in the preliminary round and
semifinals], and that’s even more motivation,” he says. “When you don’t
have that medal, you really want that medal, so we’ll be working towards