Team Canada East and Team Canada West have selected their final rosters ahead of the 2018 World Junior A Challenge, and 44 players are set to wear the Maple Leaf in Bonnyville, Alta., beginning this weekend.
The 22 players selected to represent Team Canada East participated in a three-day selection camp at the MasterCard Centre in Etobicoke, Ont., where they competed in a series of games and practices, including a match-up against an OJHL all-star team. The players were selected from the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s five eastern leagues – the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL), Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL), Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL), Ligue de hockey junior AAA du Québec (LHJAAAQ) and Maritime Hockey League (MHL).
“Our 40 selection camp invites had a competitive camp, and having the opportunity to play a skilled OJHL all-star team was important to our evaluation process,” said Chris Vanstone, director of operations for Team Canada East. “We believe we have assembled a strong team that will prove to be competitive at the World Junior A Challenge, and we look forward to getting our tournament started this weekend in Bonnyville.”
In Calgary, Team Canada West gathered at the Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park for a three-day selection camp that included three intrasquad games. The final 22 players were selected from the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s five western leagues – the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL), Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) and Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL).
“After months of preparation and identifying players, it was great to gather in Calgary and allow the players to compete for a spot on Team Canada West,” said Kevin Saurette, director of operations for Team Canada West. “Whenever you gather the best players from five Junior A leagues, there are bound to be difficult decisions. We believe we have a strong group of talented players, and we look forward to the challenge of competing for a gold medal.”
On Team Canada East, two players (Derek Dicaire and Cade Townend) will return to the line-up after participating in the 2017 World Junior A Challenge in Truro, N.S., while Team Canada West will have three returning players (Harrison Blaisdell, Dylan Holloway and T.J. Lloyd) who won gold at last year’s event.
The 2018 World Junior A Challenge represents a partnership between Hockey Canada, the AJHL and the CJHL, as well as NHL Central Scouting.
Bonnyville set to host World Junior A Challenge
The World Junior A Challenge officially returns to Bonnyville for the second time in three years on Sunday, as the town will welcome the top Junior A talent from four countries.
From Dec. 9-16, the teams – Team Canada East, Team Canada West, the Czech Republic, Russia and the United States – will compete in 14 games over eight days at the 1,800-seat R.J. Lalonde Arena.
“Our community has been working hard for months in preparation for the 2018 World Junior A Challenge, and we could not be more excited to welcome the teams and Junior A hockey fans back to Bonnyville,” said Robb Hunter, co-chair of the local host organizing committee. “We look forward to putting on a world-class event, and ensuring everyone involved enjoys a memorable and successful tournament.”
Team Canada East will kick off the tournament against Russia on Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. MT, followed by Team Canada West opening its quest for a second-straight gold medal against the United States at 7 p.m. MT.
Prior to the start of competition, the teams will play pre-tournament games in Bonnyville and surrounding communities on Friday, Dec. 7. Frog Lake, Alta., will host Russia and Team Canada West at 5 p.m. MT at the New Horizons Centre, marking the first time a World Junior A Challenge pre-tournament game will be played in a First Nations community. The Bonnyville Pontiacs of the AJHL will take on the Czech Republic at the R.J. Lalonde Arena at 6 p.m. MT, and Team Canada East will match up against the United States at the Energy Centre in Cold Lake, Alta., at 7 p.m. MT.