You can hear the excitement in the voices of Brett Orr and Dean Stewart when they talk about playing for Canada West at the 2015 World Junior A Challenge now underway in Cobourg and Whitby, Ont.
Mind you, pulling on the Canadian jersey has that affect on people. There’s really no greater experience for a hockey player than representing their country on the international stage.
And for the pair of Portage Terrier defenceman, the tournament has been nothing less than a fantastic experience. And to cap this hockey adventure, they may bring home a gold medal.
This was made possible by virtue of an 8-5 win over Canada East Thursday night, Canada West will now play Russia for the gold medal on Saturday.
“The talent level is really good,” says Orr. “Pace of the game was the first thing I noticed and had to adjust to. It’s really quick. Everyone on the ice is very highly skilled. It’s been an adjustment, but I’ve really enjoyed being exposed to this level of hockey.”
Orr, who hails from Elkhorn, was all smiles when he was assigned his favourite number: 4. Of course, in honour of Hall of Famer defenceman Bobby Orr, who donned the same number with Boston Bruins.
“Yeah, I was happy to get my number,” Orr said with a laugh. “
Meanwhile, Stewart, whose hometown is Portage, says the skill level of opponents causes everyone to raise their level of play.
“You don’t want to make too many mistakes out there,” he said. “Teams jump on them pretty quick. There’s so many good players here. They read the play so well, and really anticipate well.”
Canada West players are no slouches, either. In fact, Canada West has a solid, hard-working group. Another familiar face to MJHL fans is behind the bench: Paul Dyck of the Steinbach Pistons. At this tournament, Dyck is an assistant coach, and loving every minute of his role.
This year marks the 10th edition of the World Junior A Challenge – executed as part of a partnership between Hockey Canada and the CJHL. The event visits Ontario for the first time since its inception in 2006. Two Canadian teams and four international squads will form the two groups of three teams.
The gold-medal game is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 19 at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT and will be broadcast by TSN and RDS, the official broadcasters of Hockey Canada – check local listings for details.
Seven of the nine gold-medal games at the World Junior A Challenge have featured at least one Canadian team. Team Canada West won gold at the first two tournaments, in 2006 and 2007, and also took the top prize in 2011. The team also earned silver in 2008, 2009 and 2012, and won bronze in 2013. Team Canada East earned silver medals in 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011, and claimed bronze in 2008.