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Team West politically incorrect

But much stronger heading into World Under-17 Challenge tourney

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Politics are out, at least temporarily, and having the best team on the ice will be the priority when Team West and head coach Don MacGillivray skate in two practices today in Drummondville, Que.

 

Their World Under-17 Challenge tournament schedule begins with an exhibition game Friday against Slovakia and then Saturday for real against Sweden.

MacGillivray, the head coach of the MJHL's Winnipeg Blues, and assistant coaches David Anning of the Brandon Wheat Kings and Malcolm Cameron of the Regina Pats will be free of a past handicap as they prepare.

This year's Team West includes 14 players from Saskatchewan and just eight from Manitoba, a break from the automatic past of 11 from each province.

A Hockey Canada initiative went into play this year with the conducting of a combined summer evaluation camp of 60 players eligible for Team West in Wilcox, Sask.

"This is the first year the branch has been allowed to go with what may be considered the best players or the best fit for the tournament," MacGillivray said before departing for the tournament on Wednesday. "I think it's the first time we've been able to have everybody eligible to participate on the ice at the same time.

"This is a much more seamless process and I think it helps with the players getting to know each other right from the beginning."

It will be difficult to argue against the change in preparations based on Team West's last couple of U17 tournaments.

It's a combined 2-8 in the last two events, including 0-5 in Ontario last year. Team West's last medals were a bronze in 2008 and gold in 2005.

"This could still be different from year to year," MacGillivray said. "A lot of this year's makeup has to do with the age group. There are eight players on our team who played for the Telus Cup-winning team (from Saskatoon) as midget players. There are some chemistry matters there already."

MacGillivray said he's been an eager participant as Team West attempts to improve on its recent showing.

"This year, one of the things we've tried to do is get some fits in terms of who can be hard to play against, who can play on the power play or penalty kill, and try to identify those roles as early as we possible can," he said. "We're going to try to start from a position where we don't have to identify what the players are good at. We'll try to get them into those spots right from the get-go."

As an assistant coach with last year's Team West, MacGillivray was effusive about the experience, record aside.

"It was still terrific," he said. "I enjoyed working with the other coaches and seeing the other teams. It was my first real taste of international competition, a real neat experience.

"I really wanted to get involved this year again and I'm fortunate to be getting the opportunity."

What also appears to be an "on-paper" improvement for Team West, which is among the five Canadian teams with the smallest talent pool, is that its roster this season will include 15 players from the WHL.

"Typically that's a help," MacGillivray said. "They're obviously playing and practising against players who are older, players who potentially are going to be in the NHL next year.

"That's a higher number than in the past few years. That should help us be more game-ready from the start."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

Super eight

 

Manitoba members of Team West

 

G Ty Edmonds, Winnipeg (Virden, MJHL)

D Reid Zalitach, Narol (Vancouver, WHL)

D Jordan Thomson, Wawanesa (Kamloops, WHL)

D Justin Baudry, LaBroquerie (Steinbach, MJHL)

D Travis Sanheim, Elkhorn (Yellowhead, MMAAAHL)

F Jayce Hawryluk, Roblin (Brandon, WHL)

F Adam Brooks, Winnipeg, (Regina, WHL)

F Ryley Lindgren, East St. Paul (Winnipeg MMAAAHL)

Head coach: Don MacGillivray, Winnipeg (Winnipeg, MJHL)

Assistant coach: David Anning, Winnipeg (Brandon, WHL)

Director of operations: Bernie Reichardt, Winnipeg

 

Schedule

 

PRELIMINARY ROUND

 

Saturday, Dec. 29

At Drummondville, Que.

Sweden vs. Western Canada, 12:30 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 30

At Drummondville, Que.

Russia vs. W. Canada, 6:30 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 31

At Drummondville, Que.

W. Canada vs. Finland, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 2

At Victoriaville, Que.

W. Canada vs. Pacific, 6:30 p.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 27, 2012 D1

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