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Blades Past and Present Competing in 2021 World Juniors

December 23, 2020 - Western Hockey League (WHL) - Saskatoon Blades News Release

In these times of uncertainty, the hockey world is excited to end the year with some familiarity.

The 2021 World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton, AB is set to begin Christmas Day with the Gold Medal Game on Tuesday, January 5th at Rogers Place.

Two Saskatoon Blades products will be skating for their home nations in this year's rendition.

Former Blades assistant captain and Chicago Blackhawks rising star Kirby Dach will be donning the red and white for Team Canada as the only current member of an NHL team. Dach is expected to be one of the top forwards at the tournament after putting together an impressive stretch with Chicago during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs last summer.

Earlier this week, the St Albert, AB product was given the "C" - making Dach the first Blades alumni to lead Canada as captain onto the World Junior stage.

This is Dach's second international tournament representing Canada. In 2018, Dach teamed up with Blades head coach Mitch Love and struck gold at the Hlinka Gretzky International Tournament, which also featured Blades goaltender Nolan Maier between the pipes.

Saskatoon Blades defenseman Radek Kucerik will be representing his home country of the Czech Republic as an assistant captain at this year's tournament. The 2001-born blueliner was drafted 115th overall by the Blades in the 2019 CHL Import Draft and went on to suit up in 49 games with the Blades last season tallying 3 goals and 10 assists for 13 points.

Kucerik has proven to be an essential piece of the Blades defense core and will certainly be heavily relied on for the Czech's when they kick off their tournament on boxing day against Sweden.

Blades head coach Mitch Love will be making his return to the Team Canada bench as an assistant coach, looking to follow up his remarkable World Junior gold from last winter.

Love's experience with Hockey Canada continues to deepen. He entered the international scope as an assistant coach for Canada White at the 2016 World U-17 Hockey Challenge, and returned to the same tournament one year later as an assistant for Canada Red.

The Quesnel, BC native has two international gold medals to his name, and has coached the Blades to an impressive 79-49-10-1 record since taking the bench to start the 2018-19 campaign.

The fourth member of the Blades representing their country at the tournament is newly hired assistant coach Tyler Dietrich. Dietrich, a former teammate of Love's from his playing days in the WHL, also helped capture gold last year and is returning to his post as the team's lead video coach.

In early November, Dietrich joined Mitch Bach and Les Lazaruk on an episode of Blades Uncut to discuss his excitement about the upcoming season as well as the challenges that come with hosting this year's World Juniors in Canada.

"The bullseye is always on Team Canada, I think," said Dietrich. "We get everybody's best, every time we play anybody it's their biggest game of the tournament and when it's in Canada, on home soil, it means that much more."

Dach, Love, and Dietrich will kick off the tournament against Germany, while Kucerik will join the rest of the Czech Republican squad against Sweden. Both countries begin their quest for gold on Boxing Day.

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