World Junior Tournament Well-Stocked With Rockets
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The Kelowna Rockets are going to be well represented during the 2012 World Junior Championships this December and January in Calgary and Edmonton.
Not just on the ice, and not just for Team Canada – Brett Bulmer is the only Rockets’ player invited to try out for the home team. Kelowna’s head coach Ryan Huska will backup Don Hay behind Canada’s bench, Rockets’ athletic therapist Jeff Thorburn will be on Canada’s medical staff, and Filip Vasko will be contending for a spot on Slovakia’s national roster.
Coach Huska is just as excited as the players to be representing Canada.
“It’s a thrill,” Huska said. “The players are always excited to put the jersey on and play for Canada, and it’s no different for coaches – I’m honoured to be part of this team again this year. You get a chance to coach some of the best young players in our country and you get a chance to work with and learn from some great coaches. I’m very excited, and looking forward to it.”
Even though Canada’s won the tournament more than any other country (15 times), they haven’t won gold since 2009, and the country has been chomping at the bit to re-take the throne ever since. Huska’s well aware of the pressure to win on home ice that the club will endure.
“Expectations are to win gold,” Huska stated. “Everybody knows that coming in. Canada has a lot of pride in the teams it puts into international competitions, and they expect to win. There are a lot of countries right now that could win instead of us. Our players need to understand that there will be a lot of pressure on them – especially since we are playing at home – but they have to use it in the right way. We’ll need our group to buy in and play as a team as soon as possible. If we can do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win. We all know the expectation is for a gold medal.”
Forty-one of Canada’s top junior players have been invited to take part in Team Canada’s Selection Camp from Dec. 10 to 14 in Calgary. Thirty-six of them are NHL draft picks. Trying to cut another 19 of the country’s best players to get the roster to 22 won’t be any easier than it was to whittle down to the current number.
“Getting down to 41 was a challenge,” explained Huska. “There were probably 15 other guys that were very close to being invited as well. It comes down to putting together the guys that make up the best team. Sometimes that most skilled or most offensive players might not be there in the end, because it’s about having the proper mix of guys that are going to generate offence, but also guys who going to be workers – guys that can kill penalties and bring energy to your team. In a short period of time, you have to find a group of players that are willing to do whatever’s necessary to make this team, and for some that might mean filling different roles than they’re used to. Our job is to find the best 22 guys that can do that.”
Kelowna forward Brett Bulmer is hoping to be one of those final 22 players. Despite being one of only a small handful of other invitees with NHL experience, and playing for Canada’s assistant coach during the season, Bulmer will have to earn his spot just like everyone else.
“The coaches have seen me a lot over the last few years,” said Bulmer. “They know as a big body I can bring a physical element. I want to go in there and be on the body a lot, because I know the European teams probably won’t be able to handle the hitting. I can add offence too though. They have a lot of depth when it comes to scoring – a lot of small, skilled guys – but I can add as much offence as anyone. They’re going to have to cut a lot of great players. I have to show my best at camp and make sure I stand out. I’ll do anything they ask of me – if they tell me to play a certain role, I’ll do it. I can’t go in thinking I have an advantage. I have to work hard, play well and show I deserve to be on the team. I have to make sure I’m ready for it. It’s a huge opportunity for me, and I’m going to make the most of it. I really want to make that team, and I’m excited about my opportunity.
“He needs to be prepared to earn a spot, just the same as the other 40 guys coming to camp. There are no free rides – he’s got to earn a spot just like everyone else. The best way for him to do that will be to use his speed and size. He makes it very difficult for defenceman to handle his size. If he can play to those strengths, he’ll give himself a chance to be on that team. It’s good for me to know him already. I’ve got to know him very well over the last three years. His NHL experience helps too. He’s been in situations in the NHL where he’s played in front of 19,000 people, so he knows every play is important and he can’t have off shifts. It’ll be the same way come Christmas time.”
Rockets’ forward Filip Vasko is excited for his chance to play for his home country of Slovakia as well. Vasko departs on Dec. 15 to join a field of 29 Slovakian players competing to wear their country’s colours on their uniform.
“I think it’s amazing for every guy who gets to play for their nation,” Vasko said. “It’s the same for me. I’m just going to try and play the best I can. I’m very proud.”
The Rockets’ leading scorer Shane McColgan was in contention for Team USA, but was recently announced as being omitted from their roster.
Of the 30 players invited to the American selection camp, 75 per cent were current NCAA players – and only one skater is from the WHL. If players of McColgan’s calibre are not being added to their roster, one has to think Team USA will again be a gold medal contender, and a threat to Canada’s chances.
“It’s a little frustrating for me,” McColgan said. “I’m just going to keep working hard the rest of the season, and try to make that team next year. You can’t really dwell on it though. We have an exciting road trip coming up, and that’s my main focus right now. When I was at the summer evaluation camp, I saw the level of the guys that will be on the final roster. They’re definitely a contender, and I wish them the best of luck. It would have been nice to represent my country, but maybe next year. I hope to be there in the future. It’ll give me time to relax over Christmas, and be fresh for the second half of the season.”
Canada will play intrasquad games on Dec. 11 and 12 and one exhibition game against a CIS all-star team, before finalizing their roster on Dec. 14.
They’ll then play in three exhibition games prior to the tournament, and then open the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship on December 26th against Finland.
***[UPDATE: DEC 14/11]***
For Immediate Release – Dec. 14, 2011
Kelowna Rockets forward Brett Bulmer is heading back to join the Rockets after narrowly missing out on making the Team Canada World Junior Tournament.
Bulmer was among the cuts Wednesday morning as Team Canada named its 22 man roster for the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship in Calgary and Edmonton.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” Bulmer said in a media scrum at the team hotel after hearing the news. “I thought I worked hard, did everything they asked of me at camp so it’s really disappointing. I thought I had a good shot. I worked hard, got on the body and did everything they asked but…”
Bulmer was in the Rockets lineup Wednesday when the team faced Regina.
The Kelowna Rockets defeated the Regina Pats 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday night. Wednesday’s game began with a bang when Brett Bulmer scored just 19 seconds into the game, less than 10 hours after being released from Team Canada’s World Junior program. After getting the news, Bulmer made the trip from Calgary to Regina, joining the Rockets and making an immediate impact. For Bulmer it was his 12th goal of the season.
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