MONTREAL — Karel St-Laurent, a goaltender with the McGill University Redmen, received an early Christmas present on Monday night — he was asked to participate in a morning pre-game skate with the Canadian national men’s junior team, prior to the Canada-Switzerland exhibition game on Tuesday.
He was the second McGill goalie in the past week to get a surprise skating session at the Bell Centre. Teammate Jacob Gervais-Chouinard was invited to practice with the Montreal Canadiens last Friday.
Also with the national junior team is assistant coach Martin Raymond, the McGill Sports Hall of Fame left-winger who was head coach at McGill from 1995 to 2009, winning the OUA championship in 2006 and 2008 and earning CIS coach of the year honours in 2005-06. Raymond is working alongside head coach Benoit Groulx, and assistant coaches Dave Lowry and Scott Walker.
St-Laurent, who turns 24 on Dec. 30, is a 6-foot-4, 193-pound native of Ste. Catherine, Que., who joined the Redmen last year after a pro stint with the Providence Bruins, Boston’s American Hockey League farm team. He was filling in for Team Canada star Eric Comrie, a 2013 draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets, who was given a rest day to recover from being sick.
It was the first practice in more than a week for the second-year student majoring in economics and finance, who has been focussed on other more pressing matters during the December exam break at McGill.
“I’m not young anymore and they made me feel really old,” St-Laurent joked with the media afterwards. “After the first drill, I needed to catch my breath.”
It wasn’t the first-ever skate on the Montreal Canadiens home ice for St-Laurent, who is having a stellar campaign between the pipes with the Redmen, posting a 6-1-0 regular-season record in seven starts. He ranks third among CIS netminders with a stingy 1.86 goals-against average and is sixth with a .931 save percentage.
“It’s been a long time…,” said the well-travelled goalie, who also had playing stints in the QMJHL (Saint John), as well as ECHL (Eeading), LNAH (Jonquière) and the BCHL (Surrey). “When I was young, I was a member of the Canadiens fan club and had a chance to be selected as one of the two kids to skate with the team flag when they stepped on the ice. I did it for a playoff game against Tampa Bay.”
The IIHF world junior championship tournament opens on Boxing Day with Canada confronting Slovakia at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
McGill, which leads the OUA East with a 13-3-0 record, resumes their schedule when they host second-place UQTR (11-2-2) on Sunday, Jan. 4 in a 4 p.m. puck drop at McConnell Arena, which is also serving as one of two practice arenas for the world junior tourney.
McGill Sports Info Office