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Despite Injury, McQueen Relishes Gold Medal Experience at U18s

May 15, 2024 - Western Hockey League (WHL)
Brandon Wheat Kings News Release

*On a personal level, the World Under-18 Championships had some frustrations for Roger McQueen. The big, ultra-talented centre only got to play in two games before an injury cost him the rest of his tournament. But even so, he came home from Finland thrilled with the experience, and with another gold medal to his name.

McQueen was on the initial roster for Hockey Canada at the event, and picked up an assist in his first game before his second game ended by the end of the first period. He's still a gold medalist for the second time, and the second time alongside fellow Wheat King Charlie Elick.

"It was a great feeling to get the call again," McQueen said. "It didn't go as planned. The first game went well other than the kneeing penalty I got, but the experience was awesome. We had such a close team. Even just being there to watch the team go on to win the finals, watching it was a really cool experience and I am really glad I stayed."

After representing Canada at both the World Under-17s and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, McQueen was prepared for the international game to have a faster pace to it. The Under-18s delivered on that front.

"It's always a faster pace with the best of the best from our age from around the world, especially watching the U.S.A game," said McQueen. "That game was crazy. Our goalie played unbelievably well. Playing in those first games against Sweden and Slovakia, there was definitely a different pace. There's so much skill involved in the game."

With 14 players on the roster who'd played together and won gold together at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August of 2023, this was a close-knit team even though they hadn't played together all season. Some of the players on this team, including WHL division rival Ryder Ritchie, have played with McQueen and Elick internationally three times now.

"Our team was as close as I think we could've gotten," McQueen said. "We have so many guys we were hoping for that came after the playoffs. I thought it was the best U18 team we've had. We didn't have a problem with any of the guys, the coaching staff was awesome and brought us together with team building activities that other teams weren't doing that I think really helped us out."

Winning together certainly helps a team bond, and McQueen and his fellow 2006-born stars have done a lot of winning now for Canada. They've won gold medals at back-to-back events, and the most prestigious event for any junior player, the World Junior Championships, has to be next in their crosshairs.

"You try to win every tournament you go to, especially the big tournaments," McQueen said. "That might give you some help later, if you're building up for World Juniors. The experience of playing in those medal games... it really helps you out because World Juniors is a whole different level. That's obviously the goal with Hockey Canada is to play World Juniors and later on men's Worlds."

It's not a stretch to imagine McQueen is on Canada's radar for other tournaments either. Not only has he won two gold medals now, he was the team's number one centre before going down with injury, having clearly won the trust of the brass.

"It's awesome that they have trust in me and want me to play for them," said McQueen. "It's an honour putting on the leaf every time you get a call, no matter what team you're playing for. Playing for your country, thinking of your friends and family you have back home, I really appreciate the trust they have in me."

McQueen added he's going to spend much of the summer making sure he's as close to one hundred percent healthy as he can get, working on mobility and physiotherapy in the offseason.

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