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Canada makes final cuts for WJC team

by Aaron Vickers /


GOALIES -- Mark Visentin, Niagara, OHL (Phoenix); Scott Wedgewood, Plymouth, OHL (New Jersey).
DEFENSEMEN -- Nathan Beaulieu, Saint John, QMJHL (Montreal); Brandon Gormley, Moncton, QMJHL (Phoenix); Dougie Hamilton, Niagara, OHL (Boston); Scott Harrington, London, OHL (Pittsburgh); Ryan Murray, Everett, WHL (2012 draft eligible); Jamie Oleksiak, Saginaw, OHL (Dallas); Mark Pysyk, Edmonton, WHL (Buffalo).
FORWARDS -- Michael Bournival, Shawinigan, QMJHL (Montreal); Brendan Gallagher, Vancouver, WHL (Montreal); Freddie Hamilton, Niagara, OHL (San Jose); Quinton Howden, Moose Jaw, WHL (Florida); Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John, QMJHL (Florida); Boone Jenner, Oshawa, OHL (Columbus); Tanner Pearson, Barrie, OHL (2012 draft eligible); Mark Scheifele, Barrie, OHL (Winnipeg); Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College, WCHA (St. Louis); Mark Stone, Brandon, WHL (Ottawa); Devante Smith-Pelly, Anaheim, NHL; Ryan Strome, Niagara, OHL (N.Y. Islanders); Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay, NHL.
Canada's entry into the 2012 World Junior Championship this month in Alberta has taken form.

Twenty-two of the country's most promising junior-age players have been selected in what coach Don Hay hopes will be a gold medal-winning hockey club.

"Everything is 'gold or nothing' here right now," Hay said. "That's the way Canada thinks. There is no rule we deserve gold every year. We want to win gold medals, but we don't have a lock on gold medals."

Canada hasn't won gold since their five-year win streak was snapped by the U.S. in 2010. They've won the silver medal the last two years.

Four players from last year's team are back to try to end the golden drought -- forwards Brett Connolly of Tampa Bay Lightning, Quinton Howden of the Moose Jaw Warriors and Colorado College's  Jaden Schwartz, along with goaltender Mark Visentin of the Niagara IceDogs.

Schwartz played just two games last year, suffering a fractured ankle while blocking a shot in a game against the Czech Republic. Another opportunity at a WJC championship has him excited.

"It's kind of like it's another dream come true to make this team and play in this tournament," Schwartz said. "I've been looking forward to this ever since last year, so it's exciting. I'm trying to control it all, but the emotions are pretty high right now."

Sixteen NHL teams will have at least one prospect on the team, topped by three members of the Montreal Canadiens -- defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, and forwards Michal Bournival and Brendan Gallagher. The Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers will have two prospects each on the team.

There are 12 players on the roster taken in the first round of the 2010 or 2011 Entry Draft, including five of the top 14 players taken in June in Minnesota -- forwards Jonathan Huberdeau (No. 3, Florida), Ryan Strome (No. 5, N.Y. Islanders) and Mark Scheifele (No. 7, Winnipeg), and defensemen Dougie Hamilton (No. 8, Boston) and Jamie Oleksiak (No. 14, Dallas).

Visentin will be joined on the team by three Niagara teammates -- forwards Ryan Strome and Freddie Hamilton, and Dougie Hamilton. Saint John Sea Dogs teammates Huberdeau and Beaulieu also made the team.

"I'm really pumped. It's always great to have close teammates on your team here," Visentin said. "To watch those three here work so hard over the years, it's nice to see them get credit here to make the team. They're all great players."

The Hamiltons are the first brother combination to play in the WJC for Canada since Randy and Mike Moeller in 1982.

Sharing the goaltending duties with Visentin is Scott Wedgewood of the Plymouth Whalers. Wedgewood edged out Medicine Hat's Tyler Bunz and Louis Domingue of the Quebec Remparts for the backup spot to Visentin.

"You spend 19 years of your life for this moment and it comes down to 90 minutes of hockey," said Bunz. "It's frustrating that I wasn't able to play my best and secure a spot."

The players who were let go received the news at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning.

"Me and Bunz both woke up around the same time and we started talking," said Wedgewood, Bunz's roommate during camp. "The phone call came and we were both a little nervous to answer the call. Tyler picked it up and unfortunately it was bad news for him but good news for me."

In front of Canada's goalies, Beaulieu and Dougie Hamilton are joined by Brandon Gormley of the Moncton Wildcats, Scott Harrington of the London Knights, top 2012 NHL Draft prospect Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, Jamie Oleksiak of the Saginaw Spirit and Mark Pysyk of the Edmonton Oil Kings.

"It was very nerve-wracking, waiting for the phone to ring or a knock on the door," Beaulieu said. "I didn't know what it was going to be. Fortunately it was a knock."

Defensemen released from the team were Alex Petrovic of the Red Deer Rebels, Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers, 2012 NHL Draft prospect Cody Ceci of the Ottawa 67’s and Joseph Morrow of the Portland Winterhawks.

"I had a little dream of waking up and making the team," said Petrovic, whose Rebels teammate Mathew Dumba, was cut Tuesday. "I got the call and obviously it's a heartbreak. I'll leave it at that."

Up front, Gallagher, Huberdeau, Phillips, Strome and Freddie Hamilton will be joined by Michael Bournival of the Shawinigan Cataractes, Oshawa Generals forward Boone Jenner, Mark Stone of the Brandon Wheat Kings, Gallagher of the Vancouver Giants, Barrie Colts teammates Tanner Pearson and Mark Scheifele, and Devante Smith-Pelly, on loan from the Anaheim Ducks.

"This is what I wanted and I'm glad I came here and getting a chance to represent my country," Smith-Pelly said. "The new goal is that gold medal. That's what we're all here for. That's all we want. We know that's the goal."

Gallagher, who is coached by Hay in Vancouver, echoed Smith-Pelly's sentiments.

"It's a chance to represent your country and the only real expectation is a gold medal, and as players that's what you want so we're looking forward to that," Gallagher said.

Forwards released from the team were Brad Ross and Ty Rattie of the Winterhawks, Brett Bulmer of the Kelowna Rockets, Tyler Toffoli of the 67’s, Phillip Danault of the Shawinigan Cataractes, Christian Thomas of the Oshawa Generals and Phillip Di Giuseppe of the University of Michigan.

"I thought there was a good chance all three of us could make it, but having none of us make it stings," Ross said of himself, Rattie and Morrow. "You could ask any one of them, they would just want one of us to make it."

With injury questions surrounding Howden and Huberdeau, it is possible one of the players cut Wednesday could be called back prior to the tournament starting Dec. 26.

Howden is out with concussion-like symptoms, and Huberdeau is day-to-day with a foot injury.

Wednesday's cuts follow Tuesday's release of seven players -- defensemen Dumba, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc of the Rimouski Oceanic and Brenden Kichton of the Spokane Chiefs, and forwards Max Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice, the Brandon Wheat Kings' Michael Ferland, Mark McNeill of the Prince Albert Raiders and Zack Phillips of the Saint John Sea Dogs.

The next step for the 22 players that will represent Canada is to become a team, Hay said.

"Guys are all individuals right now, but we want to make them come together as a team," he said. "It's a process you go through. Every day you want to have some good practices where you become a little bit better in your work ethic and get to know each other a little bit."

CANADA WJC schedule

Canada will play in Group B at the 2012 World Junior Championship, along with the U.S., Denmark, Finland and the Czech Republic. Its preliminary-round games will be played at Rexall Place in Edmonton, with the medal round shifting to the Scotiabank Saddledome Calgary.
Dec. 26 - Canada vs. Finland
Dec. 28 - Canada vs. Czech Republic
Dec. 29 - Canada vs. Denmark
Dec. 31 - Canada vs. U.S.
Jan. 2 - Quarterfinals
Jan. 3 - Semifinals
Jan. 5 - Gold medal/Bronze medal games

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