Juniors begin gold quest

The 22 players tasked with re-claiming the gold medal for Canada at the world junior hockey championships were unveiled Wednesday.

Team Canada goalies  Scott Wedgewood

Team Canada goalies Scott Wedgewood

The 22 players tasked with re-claiming the gold medal for Canada at the world junior hockey championships were unveiled Wednesday.

Named to the team were goaltenders Mark Visentin and Scott Wedgewood, with Nathan Beaulieu, Brandon Gormley, Jamie Oleksiak, Dougie Hamilton, Scott Harrington, Ryan Murray and Mark Pysyk all on defence.

Up front, Freddie Hamilton, Quinton Howden, Jonathan Huberdeau, Tanner Pearson, Mark Scheifele, Devante Smith-Pelly, Mark Stone, Ryan Strome, Michael Bournival, Brett Connolly, Brendan Gallagher, Boone Jenner and Jaden Schwartz will play for Canada.

Thirteen players were released from the team Wednesday morning, including Red Deer Rebels defenceman Alex Petrovic.

Petrovic is an Edmonton native and was disappointed to hear his phone ring early in the morning, because it meant he was summoned to meet with the coaches and hear the bad news.

“I was kind of in a deep sleep,” Petrovic said.

“I had a little dream of actually waking up and making the team, but I got the call. Obviously, it’s a heartbreak.”

Edmonton and Calgary will host this year’s world event. Canada opens the tournament Dec. 26 in Edmonton.

After a run of five straight gold, Canada has taken silver the last two years. Canada will play exhibition games in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton next week.

Freddie and Dougie Hamilton will be the first brothers to play for the Canadian team since Randy and Mike Moller 30 years ago. Freddie is 19 and Dougie is 18.

The Hamilton brothers play for the Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara IceDogs, who are well-represented on the team.

In addition to the siblings, Strome and Visentin were the other IceDogs selected.

Canada boasts two NHL forwards in Smith-Pelly of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Connolly of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Saint John Sea Dogs winger Huberdeau and Howden of the Moose Jaw Warriors also made the team despite questionable health. Huberdeau has yet to skate since breaking a bone in his right foot Nov. 7.

Howden took a hard check from Connolly in the second intra-squad game of camp and has an “upper-body injury.”

Both are expected to be important players for Canada. Huberdeau was the Memorial Cup MVP. Howden is one of four returning players from the team that won silver in Buffalo, N.Y., last January. Connolly, Schwartz and Visentin are the other three.

Hockey Canada can recall a released player in the event of an injury, but it’s against policy to keep extra players after the team is named.

The selected players and staff are heading to Banff, Alta., later this week for practices and team building.

The players released were goaltenders Petrovic, Louis Dominigue and Tyler Bunz, defencemen Cody Ceci, Ryan Murphy and Joe Morrow as well as forwards Brett Bulmer, Phil Di Guiseppe, Tyler Toffoli, Christian Thomas, Ty Rattie, Brad Ross and Phillip Danault.

Danault of the Victoria Tigres was the most surprising as he’d scored twice in an exhibition game against university players the previous night.

“I’m cut but I respect their decision,” said Danault, who at 18 will have another chance next year. “If they win the gold medal, I’ll respect it more for sure.”

The defence was particularly deep at camp with half of the 14 blue-liners invited first-round draft picks of NHL teams.

Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers was drafted 12th overall by Carolina this year, but the 18-year-old was released by Canada. He’s an offensive defenceman and tried to show he could play defence too.

“I kind of look back at it and wish that I was playing like myself,” Murphy said. “Maybe I didn’t have to change my game, maybe I just have to be aware of other aspects of my game.”

“It’s pretty difficult,” Murphy said. “Getting woken up at 6 a.m. is not the easiest thing and knowing it’s you and not your roommate is also not an easy thing. I’ll be back next year maybe and hopefully make the team then.”

Murray of the Everett Silvertips isn’t draft eligible until next year, but he was named to the Canadian squad.

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