Penticton Vees defenceman Griffin Mendel, James Miller and Jonny Tychonick are headed to the Team Canada West camp.
The trio are among 60 players who will gather in Leduc, Alta., Dec. 5 to 8 after receiving invites from Hockey Canada and the Canadian Junior Hockey League in advance of the 2016 World Junior A Challenge.
Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson said all three are really solid defenceman.
“One of our big strengths of our team is our D-core. It shows when three guys get invited to camp,” said Harbinson. “(I’m) really happy for those guys that get an opportunity to compete, to try to make that team. It should be a good experience for them.”
A total of 17 defenceman were invited to camp. Harbinson said they will keep seven. His players just need to show what their strengths are.
“Coaches from all five leagues representing Team Canada West assisted in identifying players which will make for a fast-paced, very competitive selection camp,” said Trevor Alto (White Rock, B.C./B.C. Hockey League), director of operations for Team Canada West. “The focus is on competition for the 22 roster spots; however, the staff is dedicated to providing each invitee every opportunity to not only put their best foot forward, but to also enjoy the opportunity to represent Team Canada West.”
Team Canada West players are selected from among the league’s five western Junior A leagues: the BCHL, Alberta Junior Hockey League, Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, Manitoba Junior Hockey League and Superior International Junior Hockey League. Barry Wolff (Kelowna/Coquitlam, BCHL) returns to Team Canada West, this time as head coach.
Mendel, 17, has played in all 26 Vees’ games this season picking up three assists and is considered one of the BCHL’s top shutdown defencemen. Miller, 18, was acquired earlier this season from the Olds Grizzlys and is the second-highest scoring defenceman on the Vees with two goals and 10 points in 19 games. Tychonick is the Vees youngest blueliner at 16 and is tied with Miller and Joe Leahy with 10 points. Tychonick has already suited up for Canada this season on Team Canada White for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Ontario earlier this month. The three will head to camp on Dec. 4 with the final roster expected to be announced on Dec. 8. The 2016 World Junior A Challenge takes place from Dec.11 to 17 at the R.J. Lalonde Arena, in Bonnyville, Alta.
Chiefs at SOEC
After picking up a 4-1 win in West Kelowna over the Warriors on Tuesday, the Vees are looking to carry that momentum to Saturday when they host the Chilliwack Chiefs (18-6-3) at the South Okanagan Events Centre at 6 p.m.
“It was a real good win. I thought our guys showed a lot of character,” said Harbinson, adding the players went to the Toys for Tots community event in the morning that day. “I thought our third period was our best period. Now we’re going to play a team in Chilliwack that lost a tight game to Wenatchee last (Wednesday) night. They were 10 games without a loss.”
Harbinson said this will probably be their biggest test at home.
“It’s going to be an exciting game to be a part of. I know our guys are looking forward to it,” he said.
The Chiefs are led by Jordan Kawaguchi, a University of North Dakota commit, who has 21 goals and 41 points in 27 games.
“They are a fast-paced team. Same as kind of Wenatchee, but a little bit more size,” said Vees forward Ty Barnstable, who looks forward to the atmosphere of that match.
“We know we’re going to get a big crowd. Our fans are always here to support us. The adrenaline will kick in as soon as the game starts,” he said. “Big time games everyone wants to be a part of.”