Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup Begins TodayOctober 29, 2009 - Western Hockey League (WHL)
The four-team round-robin tournament, which runs from Thursday through Sunday, November 1st, in Blackfalds, will assist the four Western Provincial Hockey Associations - Hockey Alberta, BC Hockey, Hockey Manitoba and the Saskatchewan Hockey Association - in evaluating the top U-16 prospects for future Program of Excellence competitions.
"The WHL is very pleased to partner with the four Western Provincial Hockey Associations in sponsoring the first ever Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup," commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. "This event will serve as an important step in the development process as the top players in this age group prepare to enter the WHL and the next levels of the Program of Excellence."
All four teams were selected by a committee within the four Western Provincial Hockey Associations following evaluation camps held during the summer of 2009.
Of the 80 players set to participate in the tournament, all but two are WHL prospects selected in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft in April.
Here's a look at the four provincial teams who will be competing in the Western Canada U-16 Challenge:
Team Manitoba boasts 19 WHL-drafted players, including defenseman Reid Gow, who was chose in the 1st round (16th overall) by the Spokane Chiefs at the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft.
Gow hails from Killarney, MB, and was a tournament All-Star for the Killarney Raiders of the Westman High School Hockey League last year. The 5'11", 165-lb rearguard is currently a member of the Southwest Cougars of the MMAAAHL, and has tallied one goal and four assists in seven games this season.
"This year's team will be a well balanced, quick moving group with a solid defensive core and a balanced attack up front," said Manitoba head coach Billy Keane. "We will have an opportunity to expose these players to a high level of competition and evaluate each player for future high performance programs."
"We're going to have to use our size to our advantage. We have some big boys and we're going to have to throw some big hits," said forward Cody Nelson, who was listed by his hometown Brandon Wheat Kings following the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft.
Team Saskatchewan boasts an entire roster made up of WHL-drafted players, including five 1st round picks from the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft.
Weyburn, SK, product Derrick Pouliot leads a Saskatchewan defense that boasts three first-round WHL Bantam Draft picks.
Pouliot was the first overall selection at the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft, chosen by the Portland Winterhawks. An offensive-minded defenseman, Pouliot starred for Weyburn in the South Saskatchewan Minor Hockey League last season and even played for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the SMAAAHL at the prestigious Mac's Midget tournament. The 5'11", 170-lb defenseman is currently playing his rookie season for the AAA Warriors, and has racked up three goals and 11 points in just 11 games.
Also on the blue line for Saskatchewan are rearguards Eric Roy (1st rd, Brandon Wheat Kings) and Brady Gaudet (1st rd, Kamloops Blazers ). Forwards Colby Cave (Kootenay Ice) and Chandler Stephenson (Regina Pats) were also chosen in the 1st round of the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft.
Team Saskatchewan also boasts 6'4" netminder Dawson MacAuley of Prince Albert, SK. MacAuley was the first goaltender chosen at the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft when the Medicine Hat Tigers selected him with their second-round pick (36th overall).
Team Alberta features a complete lineup of WHL-drafted players, including four 1st round WHL Bantam Draft picks.
On the blue line, Alberta boasts Matt Dumba of the Calgary Edge School. Dumba was chosen 4th overall by the Red Deer Rebels at the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft, and brings a solid two-way game and strong puck movement to Team Alberta's back end.
"His competitiveness is what sticks out," Red Deer Rebels' head coach Jesse Wallin noted of Dumba's performance at the team's training camp in September. "He doesn't want to be a spectator out there; he wants to make things happen."
Up front is where Team Alberta's strength lies. Dynamic forward Mike Winther of the AMHL's UFA Bisons leads a group that consists of two first-round and four second-round Bantam Draft picks.
Winther, a Trochu, AB, product, was selected sixth overall by the Prince Albert Raiders at the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft, and is a dynamic, highly-skilled forward with great speed, agility and terrific puck-handling skills.
Team B.C boasts 19 WHL-drafted players on its roster. Of those 19 players, six were first-round Bantam Draft picks, with four of those six chosen among the top 10 picks at the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft.
B.C.'s defense promises to be a strength with West Vancouver, B.C., duo Morgan Rielly and Griffin Reinhart patrolling the blue line.
Rielly (2nd overall, Moose Jaw Warriors) and Reinhart (3rd overall, Edmonton Oil Kings) were the two players chosen directly after Saskatchewan's Derrick Pouliot.
Rielly has earned comparisons to Pouliot, due to his outstanding offensive instincts, hockey sense and strong defensive play. Reinhart is the son of former NHLer Paul Reinhart and the brother of current Kootenay Ice forward Max Reinhart , and has already appeared in two games for the Oil Kings this season.
Up front, North Vancouver's Connor Rankin (7th overall, Tri-City Americans) and Delta's Steven Hodges (9th overall, Chilliwack Bruins) lead a talented group of forwards that also includes first-round WHL Bantam Draft picks Ryan Olsen (Vancouver Giants) and Evan Richardson (Swift Current Broncos).
"It was very encouraging walking away from camp and I was thrilled with the overall level of play and speed of the players," said Team BC Head Coach Jim Dinwoodie.
*all games will take place at the Blackfalds Multiplex (5302 Broadway Ave, Blackfalds, Alberta)
Thursday, October 29
Game #1 - Manitoba vs Saskatchewan @ 4:00pm
Game #2 - Alberta vs British Columbia @ 7:00pm
Friday, October 30
Game #3 - British Columbia vs Manitoba @ 4:00pm
Game #4 - Alberta vs Saskatchewan @ 7:00pm
Saturday, October 31
Game #5 - British Columbia vs Saskatchewan @ 12:00noon
Game #6 - Alberta vs Manitoba @ 3:00pm
Sunday, November 1
Game #7 - BRONZE MEDAL GAME (3rd Place vs 4th Place) @ 11:00am
Game #8 - GOLD MEDAL GAME (1st Place vs 2nd Place) @ 2:00pm
Tournament Pass - $30.00 (access to all 8 games)
Day Pass - $10.00 (available day of game at venue)
To purchase tournament passes in advance of the event please contact:
Western Hockey League
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