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Wiercioch chasing hockey dream

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators prospect Patrick Wiercioch is one of 38 hopefuls in Ottawa this weekend hoping to earn the chance to represent Canada at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/Hockey Canada).

Someday, he'd like to make it his full-time hockey home.

But for starters, Patrick Wiercioch will settle for a little holiday hockey at Scotiabank Place, the building in which the Ottawa Senators rolled out the red carpet for him back in June as their second-round selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

"I didn't think it would be this quick before I got back here, to be honest with you," Wiercioch said with a wide grin Friday night after the first of a series and Red and White games that will help Hockey Canada finalize its roster for the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The lanky 18-year-old defenceman from Burnaby, B.C., is one of 38 hopefuls in the capital this weekend for Team Canada's selection camp for the WJC, which runs Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 at Scotiabank Place and the Ottawa Civic Centre. Hockey Canada will announce Monday the final 22-man roster it'll charge with the task of winning a fifth straight world junior gold.

If Wiercioch happens to be among that group, it will fulfill a hockey dream he's had since he watched Finland strike gold on home ice in Helsinki at the 1998 WJC.

"It defines my Christmas," Wiercioch said of the world juniors. "I watched it all the way up to the one in Halifax (in 2005), went to the one in Vancouver (in 2006) and saw the Canada-U.S. game on New Year's Eve in Vancouver.

"I had a couple of really close friends play in it, like Kyle Turris (of the Phoenix Coyotes, who won gold a year ago in the Czech Republic). It's definitely a thrill trying to get your name up there with those guys."

As recently as September, Wiercioch wasn't even on Hockey Canada's radar screen for this event. But when Al Murray, Hockey Canada's head scout, saw the 6-foot-4 freshman at the University of Denver play a few months later, he was impressed enough by Wiercioch's improvement to extend him an invite to the selection camp.

Wiercioch credits the Senators development camp he attended at the beginning of July with putting him on the path that has led to this opportunity.

"It's definitely been a dream of mine since I was younger, to put the (red) maple leaf on, but I didn't think I'd have the opportunity this soon. I'm definitely excited to be here." - Patrick Wiercioch
"The big step for me was coming to development camp here," said Wiercioch. "I thought generally, I was a hard-working, determined athlete on and off the ice. But once I came to development camp, I saw guys like (Nick) Foligno and Cody Bass who were one step away from the NHL and the (Jesse) Winchesters and how hard they work. And they hadn't stuck yet, so it kind of puts your life in perspective.

"The stuff that I learned in camp — on and off the ice — in the nine days I stayed here helped me throughout the summer to try to get that (right) mindset heading off to college."

Still, Wiercioch didn't exactly expect it to lead to this moment this soon.

"It's definitely been a dream of mine since I was younger, to put the (red) maple leaf on, but I didn't think I'd have the opportunity this soon," he said. "Especially going to college and being a freshman, it's tough to stand out early in a season. I'm definitely excited to be here."

The memory of the 2006 WJC in Vancouver still burns brightly in his mind.

"The Canada-U.S. game was sold out and they played at the old Coliseum," said Wiercioch. "I couldn't even describe it in words. When Canada won ...  if you didn't watch the game, you knew they won. Just walking down the street, the flags were everywhere. The hour drive home took 4-1/2 (hours). It was definitely an experience I'll never forget."

But one he'd be thrilled to help recreate in a city and a building he hopes to become extremely familiar with in the years to come.

"I'd love to stay here for the extra two weeks at the end of this camp," said Wiercioch. "But I'm definitely looking forward to becoming a Senator someday. It's a great organization and I'm extremely proud to have been drafted by them."

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