Four goaltenders will vie for the right to be named Canada's starter at the 2012 World Junior Championship.
And leading up to Canada's National Junior Team Sport Chek Selection Camp, there is no clear-cut favorite to tend the twine in Alberta starting Dec. 26.
of the Medicine Hat Tigers, Louis Domingue
of the Quebec Remparts and Scott Wedgewood
of the Plymouth Whalers will all battle returning goalie Mark Visentin
for time in the crease when Canada opens its camp Dec. 10.
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Goaltending might just serve as the most interesting position as Canada decides its roster for the tournament. With no one goaltender head and shoulders above the others, who will start between the pipes is cause to pause for Kevin Prendergast, Hockey Canada's head scout of the men's Program of Excellence.
"I think goaltending is always a concern regardless of if they stand out or not," Prendergast said.
While Visentin is the only returning goaltender in camp after being the starter for Canada a year ago, he is no lock to backstop the team again. Visentin has flourished at times and struggled at others, posting a 2.92 goals-against average and .894 save percentage with the Niagara IceDogs.
The Waterdown, Ont., native was also the goaltender on record in Canada's third-period collapse against the Russians in the gold medal game in last year's championship. Visentin allowed five goals, all in the final period, as Russia mounted a stunning 5-3 come-from-behind victory over Canada en route to capturing its first gold medal since 2003.
"Obviously Vis is coming back as the incumbent from last year, but it's still a job he has to win," Prendergast said.
That leaves the door open for one of Bunz, Domingue or Wedgewood to earn a spot on the club as Canada shoots for its first gold since 2009. The trio, along with Visentin, participated in Canada's NJT Sport Chek Summer Development Camp.
"We'll give all an opportunity," Prendergast said. "(Goaltending coach) Ronny Tugnutt is very comfortable with the four we're bringing in. They have to be at their best for the two weeks of the tournament."
With no clear-cut standout, Hockey Canada looked at a lot of options in net. What wasn't an option for the club was bringing in more than the four goalies, though.
"There were a lot of goaltenders that we looked at," Prendergast said. "We just felt that at this point that the four goaltenders we're bringing into camp, probably they've been around a little bit longer, they've played a little more games."
Of those four, Prendergast said he only needed two to step up in camp.
"We thought four, we only need two out of four," he said. "It's a short tournament and we'll take the two best goaltenders."
Which two, though, will be decided by Hockey Canada on Dec. 14 when the dust clears in a very intriguing crease crash in camp.