Canada West eyes re­turn

Last year’s fi­nal­ists be­gins their quest for an­other gold-medal game berth on Sun­day against Rus­sia

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - Sports - BY JA­SON SIM­MONDS

SUMMERSIDE — Canada West’s drive to­wards re­gain­ing the 2009 World Ju­nior A Chal­lenge gold medal be­gins against Rus­sia on Sun­day.

The open­ing game of the five-coun­try 2009 event for play­ers 19 and un­der at Credit Union Place is set for 2 p.m.

“It should be ex­cit­ing,” said Canada West for­ward Tan­ner Fritz. “ They are a fun team to play.

“Last year, there were some shenani­gans at the end of the game, so I’m looking for­ward to play­ing them.

“ They are a fast, phys­i­cal team and a lit­tle bit dirty, and that’s what Canada play­ers like to play.”

Canada East, Be­larus, United States and Swe­den round out the six teams that are di­vided into two three-team pools for round-robin play.

“ You want to get off to that good start,” said Canada West head coach Ry­lan Fer­ster, who coaches Sal­mon Arm in the Bri­tish Columbia Hockey League. “It’s such a short tour­na­ment by game stan­dards, and the teams are all good here.

“ You re­ally can’t af­ford to have two or three bad shifts or a bad game and say, ‘ We’ll get ’em to­mor­row’. Each team has put to­gether the best team they feel pos­si­ble from their re­gion, and you have to ex­pect and de­mand things from your­self early on.”

Fritz, the only re­turnee on Canada West, un­der­stands there is lit­tle room for er­ror.

“If you lose one game that could jeop­ar­dize a chance to win a gold medal and that’s every­one’s dream here,” said Fritz, who plays with the Grande Prairie Storm of the Al­berta Ju­nior Hockey League.

“Cer­tainly, we want to be a hard-work­ing team, a team that's ea­ger to sac­ri­fice for each other and will­ing to go to those dirty ar­eas and pay prices to score goals and block shots.”

Af­ter de­feat­ing Canada East in the 2006 and 2007 fi­nals, Canada West lost 7-1 to the United States in the 2008 gold-medal game Cam­rose, Alta.

“Last year, we didn’t re­ally come to­gether as a team and every­one was not re­ally comfortable with each other,” said Fritz. “ The more comfortable you are, the bet­ter you are go­ing to play.”

Transcontinental Me­dia photo by Ja­son Sim­monds

Canada West play­ers skate a hard lap dur­ing a prac­tice at Credit Union Place in prepa­ra­tion for the 2009 World Ju­nior A Chal­lenge in Summerside, Nov. 1-8.

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