By GREG MEACHEM
Advocate sports editor
Mathew Dumba can keep a secret.
“It’s pretty exciting. I found out last night and was told to keep quiet,” the Red Deer Rebels 17-year-old defenceman said on Monday, in reference to his invitation to the Canadian junior team selection camp Dec. 10 to 14 in Calgary.
“With the official announcement (from Hockey Canada) this morning, it’s a big day for me.”
Rebels veteran rearguard Alex Petrovic will also attend the selection camp. As a 19-year-old, he’s already higher on the Team Canada depth chart than his younger teammate.
Dumba, despite having served as captain of the national under-18 team last summer and filling the same role with Team Pacific in the most recent World Under 17 Challenge, admitted to being somewhat surprised that he’s among the 41 players — including 16 from the WHL — invited to the selection camp.
“Yeah, I guess, knowing that I’m the only ’94 (1994-born player) on the roster and basically two years under age,” he said. “It’s a pretty big deal for me. I set out to make this one of my goals at the start of the season and I’m happy that I’ve reached it.”
The reigning WHL rookie of the year is an explosive, risk-reward player who doesn’t lack in confidence. In fact, his inner trust may help him excel at the selection camp.
“There’s always that anxiety and those nerves that you’re going to face at such an event like this,” he said. “But I think you have to go out there and just play as hard as you can and compete and do what you do best. You have to believe in yourself and have that confidence and swagger that you can go out there and perform at your best with some of the best in the world.”
His international experience may also give Dumba a head start at camp.
“I think it could help in preparing me for this,” he said. “Not every guy has come up the same way I have, getting the opportunities to play for those (national) teams and having the opportunities to face international competition,” he said. “But I know this is even one step higher and that I’ll have to bring my game up one step higher as well. I’ll have to kick it up a notch but I’m sure I’ll be prepared to do that.”
Having Rebels teammate Petrovic at the final selection camp will be a comfort of sorts for Dumba.
“‘Petch’ is kind of like a big brother to me. I kind of lean on him and look to him for wisdom all the time, so having him there will be nice,” said Dumba.
The inclusion of Petrovic on the selection camp invitation list is a no-brainer, but the six-foot-four blueliner is keeping his emotions in check.
“Obviously it’s a big accomplishment for myself and I have to thank my teammates and coaches for helping me get there,” he said. “It’s one step to get invited to the camp, but once you’re there you have to prove yourself in order to make the team. If I make the team, then I think I’ll be really happy.”
Petrovic and Dumba are two of six WHL blueliners set to attend the selection camp, the others being Brenden Kichton of the Spokane Chiefs, Joe Morrow of the Portland Winterhawks, Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips and Mark Pysyk of the Edmonton Oil Kings. The OHL will have five defencemen in camp and the QMJHL will be represented by three candidates.
“There’s a lot of really talented guys, some really great defencemen on the list,” said Petrovic. “I just have to go in there and play my game, play simple defensive hockey and just hit guys and move the puck to the skilled forwards. As long as I do my job, hopefully the coaches will take that into account.”
Petrovic will have words of advice for Dumba as they head into the selection camp.
“Just go out and not try to do too much, just do what you do best and show what you bring to the table,” said the Florida Panthers prospect. “Just keep things simple and get better as the camp goes on.”
The 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship is set for Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Calgary and Edmonton.