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Opportunity knocks for Stone

Two Manitobans, top Jets' prospect earn spots with Canada's juniors

Forward Mark Stone of Winnipeg heard the best-ever knock at his hotel-room door on Wednesday morning in Calgary at Canada's national junior hockey team's selection camp.

Stone and forwards Quinton Howden of Oakbank and Mark Scheifele, the Winnipeg Jets top draft pick in 2011, were named to Team Canada's roster and will represent Canada at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship later this month in Edmonton and Calgary.

Team Canada's Ryan Strome (top) pretends to choke teammate Mark Scheifele at a photo session in Calgary on Wednesday.


Team Canada's Ryan Strome (top) pretends to choke teammate Mark Scheifele at a photo session in Calgary on Wednesday.

Mark Stone


Mark Stone

The three players were among 22 players announced on Wednesday as the final selections for Canada's entry in the tournament set for Dec. 26, 2011-Jan. 5, 2012. There were also 13 players released on Wednesday morning after phone calls asking them to meet with head coach Don Hay.

"I was pretty nervous in that hotel room. I was rooming with Scheifele and we were both pretty nervous last night," the 19-year-old Stone said in a telephone interview.

"We both fortunately got pretty good sleeps and woke up to the knock on the door. We're both really excited to play for our country starting on Boxing Day.

"We've been talking about the Jets quite a bit, with him drafted by them and I'm from there so it was nice to room with him all camp."

Stone, the captain of the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings, is the WHL's scoring leader with 27 goals and 65 points. He will play for Canada for the first time in his career. He was a member of a Canadian regional team with Team West at the 2009 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

"This is the first time I'll be representing my nation. Words can't describe how I feel right now and there's 21 other guys that feel the same way as I do," said Stone, a sixth-round draft pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2010. "We're excited to get to know everyone and hopefully we can jell together as a team real fast."

Howden, the captain of the Moose Jaw Warriors, made the team despite suffering an upper-body injury. TSN had reported that Howden was treated for concussion-like symptoms last Monday after he was checked into the boards by Brett Connolly during an intra-squad game. Howden did not play in Tuesday's exhibition game against a CIS all-star squad.

Howden, goaltender Mark Visentin and forwards Connolly and Jaden Schwartz are the only returning players from the 2011 team which won silver.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Stone was considered a long shot coming into last summer's evaluation camp but has worked for a month in the summer with Ottawa Senators' power-skating specialist Mark Power. At each level of the Team Canada selection process, Stone performed consistently and continued to impress Team Canada staff.

"There's a lot of steps to get here in this process and I felt I did the best that I could in most of them. I'm thrilled to be here. It's one of the best experiences I'll ever have in my life," Stone said.

"People have showed a lot of confidence in me from Day 1 and I've always been told not to give up," Stone said. "I've always wanted to play in the world juniors so this is going to be the best opportunity I'll ever have, maybe in my whole, entire hockey career."

Other players named to the team include: goaltender Scott Wedgewood, defencemen Nathan Beaulieu, Brandon Gormley, Jamie Oleksiak, Dougie Hamilton, Scott Harrington, Ryan Murray and Mark Pysyk and forwards Freddie Hamilton, Jonathan Huberdeau, Tanner Pearson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Ryan Strome, Michael Bournival, Brendan Gallagher and Boone Jenner.

Team Canada will practise in Calgary today and then move to Banff where the team will be based until Dec. 22.

The Canadian team will open the tournament on Boxing Day against Finland.

Canada has won silver at the world juniors the past two years after winning five straight gold medals.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 15, 2011 C2

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