Canada camp big chance for Bull­dogs

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - TERI PECOSKIE

Hear that?

It’s op­por­tu­nity knock­ing for a pair of Hamil­ton Bull­dogs.

Matthew Strome and Macken­zie En­twistle touched down in Cal­gary Fri­day for Canada’s un­der-18 se­lec­tion camp. Up for grabs is a spot on the national team and a trip to the pres­ti­gious Ivan Hlinka Me­mo­rial Cup in the Czech Repub­lic and Slo­vakia next month.

“It’s prob­a­bly the most highly scouted tour­na­ment in all of hockey be­fore they get drafted,” said John Gru­den, the Bull­dogs’ head coach. “It’s pretty special.”

The in­vite isn’t a first for Strome and En­twistle, who are en­ter­ing their sopho­more OHL sea­sons and first years of NHL draft el­i­gi­bil­ity. A year ago, they both made the cut to play for Canada at the World Un­der-17 Hockey Chal­lenge.

It won’t be as easy this time around.

Un­like last year, the two for­wards will now be play­ing for a place on a true national team. At the un­der-17 level, Canada ices three squads — red, white and black — mean­ing the previous pool of suc­cess­ful can­di­dates was three times larger.

This sum­mer, 44 play­ers were in­vited to the un­der-18 try­out from coast to coast com­pared with 111 16year-olds. Just 22 of them will make the team.

Strome and En­twistle, both 17, will prac­tise and scrim­mage with the other hope­fuls from now un­til Tues­day. Af­ter that, the group will be whit­tled down be­fore it heads to Europe for the tour­na­ment later in the week.

Gru­den, who coached the U.S. at the 2013 Hlinka, said a spot on the ros­ter would be a huge boost for Strome and En­twistle. It’s also a boon for the Bull­dogs.

“For the city to start to rec­og­nize these elite ath­letes and the po­ten­tial they have, es­pe­cially with Hamil­ton be­ing new to the OHL, it should re­ally get peo­ple ex­cited about be­ing able to watch these kids de­velop — not only as play­ers but as young men,” he said. And if they don’t make it? “They can use it as mo­ti­va­tion,” Gru­den said. “They have to re­al­ize, hey, I still have work to do and I’m not go­ing to let this bring me down from what my long-term goals are.”

Hay­den Davis, a de­fence­man for the Ni­a­gara IceDogs, is also in Cow­town for the un­der-18 camp. The Hamil­ton na­tive suited up along­side Strome on one of the coun­try’s un­der-17 teams last year.

Canada has won the Hlinka 11 times in the past 12 years, in­clud­ing the last eight con­sec­u­tive tour­na­ments. Strome’s older brother, Dy­lan, won a gold medal at the com­pe­ti­tion in 2014.

Notes: The Bull­dogs are look­ing for bil­let families for the up­com­ing sea­son. For more in­for­ma­tion about the pro­gram, visit hamil­ton­bull­dogs.com/bil­let-fam­ily-pro­gram or email info@hamil­ton­bull­dogs.com … Thou­sands of tick­ets are still avail­able for the Toronto Maple Leafs pre-sea­son game against the Detroit Red Wings at FirstOn­tario Cen­tre on Oct. 7 — the club’s first visit to Hamil­ton in more than a decade. You can buy them on­line at tick­et­mas­ter.ca … Call it an ex­treme makeover. The Bull­dogs dress­ing room was be­ing prepped this week for new car­pet, stalls and a paint job. The re­vamp has also spilled out into the lower floor hall­way, where the club’s old red, white and blue colour scheme is be­ing re­placed with black and gold.

AARON_BELL, AARON BELL/OHL IM­AGES

Matthew Strome (above) and Macken­zie En­twistle are in Cal­gary for Canada’s un­der-18 se­lec­tion camp.

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