Volume 93, Issue 59
Friday, January 14, 2000
Mustangs helped prepare juniors
HEY, WE'RE ALL CANADIAN. TAKE IT EASE. Damon Hardy (14) and six teammates got together to help prepare the Canadian juniors for the world championships. Canada finished third in the December tournament
By Wes Brown
Ontario University Athletics sent their finest hockey players to help prepare the Canadian juniors for the world championships in Sweden a team which included Western's head coach Clarke Singer and seven of his players.
Singer was asked to coach the OUA All-stars, an assembly of players from around the league, against the junior team as a tune-up for the championships.
"[Hockey Canada] wanted a competitive game to help the juniors practice their systems and that's exactly what they got playing against our league," Singer said about the two practice games the juniors played against the collection of university players. "In the one game the score was 5-1, but it was a greater effort than the one-sided score showed."
Co-captain and Mustang forward Damon Hardy was chosen to play for the OUA team, something he said he had also taken part in two years ago.
"This year's team was definitely more skilled than the team I played against two years ago, but not nearly as big," Hardy said. "Both the coaches and players also felt this Canadian team was the most skilled it had been in years."
Hardy also explained the score was not indicative of how the game was really played. He added despite being outshot by 10, the OUAs played up to the juniors throughout the entire game. "We had only been together for one practice, just to get a basic understanding of where everyone was. Our effort really counts a lot considering the amount of time we were together."
Team Canada co-ordinator Nelson White said the OUA All-stars put out a quality product for the juniors to practice against and added the games were used as part of their selection process, cutting players after each game.
"We had reached the point where we needed real game experience as opposed to playing each other. Up until that point we couldn't really work on how the [penalty killing] and [power plays] were developing because we were only playing red and white games," Nelson said.
He added the experience of the older and stronger university players offered the juniors a good challenge which continues to be a valuable means of preparation for the world championships.
As for the disappointing third place finish, Singer said the Canadian team should have been a lot better, however the fact remains that all of the country's top players were just not at the disposal of the juniors.
"It's always tough when around nine players, who were of junior eligibility, were playing in the [National Hockey League] and were not released by their respective clubs," Singer said.
Hardy also sympathized with the team's efforts and said he knows how tough the tournament is for the players. "Sure, these are some of the best players in the country, but they're out there playing scared because they know this can make or break them in terms of their careers."
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