Five Vees get Canada West invite

Demico Hannoun, Tyson Jost, Dante Fabbro, Gabe Bast and Miles Gendron try to earn roster spots with Canada

Demico Hannoun, Tyson Jost, Dante Fabbro, Gabe Bast and Miles Gendron are getting a chance to play for Canada West.

The five Penticton Vees will head to Calgary this weekend for the Canada West camp to earn a spot to play in the World Junior A Challenge in Kindersley, Sask., Dec.14-20.

Hannoun, represented his country in the tournament last year in Yarmouth, N.S., finishing with a goal and two points in four games and earning a bronze medal in a 5-3 win over Switzerland. Hannoun collected an assist as he set up current teammate Steen Cooper.

“It’s always a good opportunity just to represent your country and have the leaf on your jersey,” said Hannoun. “It’s going to be a little difficult to make this year with only five 19- year-olds that are allowed to make the team. Just got to go there and work hard.”

The North Delta product is second in Vees scoring, racking up 16 goals with 12 helpers for 28 points in 27 games, playing with Jost, Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Patrick Newell.

“I think I have been playing all right. Just have to keep on doing what I’m doing,” said Hannoun, who looks forward to playing with the top players in the different leagues. “Hopefully I will make the team.”

Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson said for players in Hannoun’s position “it’s critical for those players to come in and make a statement right away.”

Harbinson said that Hannoun, known as Nooner by his teammates, has been great this season.

“He’s scoring a lot of goals,” said Harbinson. “He’s been pretty darned disciplined for the most part. Done everything we’ve asked of him. He’s been a good teammate, a good person to coach so far.”

When asked about Jost and Fabbro, who recently played in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, if their experience playing for Canada gives them an advantage, Harbinson said maybe since they have played in that tournament setting. However, he said that they will have to perform over the three days just like the other players.

Bast is honoured for the opportunity and didn’t think about it entering the season. He learned of the news during a fly-down to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, which is among a few schools interested in him.

“Growing up in Canada, it’s always been a dream to represent your country,” he said. “This is my first opportunity to. I hope I can crack the squad.”

Bast doesn’t believe he will be nervous and is glad to have his teammates join him as it will be good to have people to know and bounce questions off of. He has been happy with his season, but Bast, who has two goals and 20 points in 27 games, said there is always room to improve.

“I thought I have been pretty solid, pretty consistent,” he said.

Gendron is honoured to join the list of great players attending the camp.

“To be one of the few that got picked, I’m pretty excited,” said Gendron, who was told by Harbinson during practice. “I wasn’t expecting him to say my name.”

Gendroon, who was born in Oakville, Ont., was unsure because of his dual citizenship and didn’t know if he was on their radar. While having a slow start, Gendron, who was drafted by the Ottawa Senators last summer, feels like he is in a groove playing better and better each game. The approach he will take at camp is that he’s “going to make the team.”

“I want to make the team,” said Gendron, who grew up watching the World Junior Championship and still remembers the heroics of Jordan Eberle. “If I don’t, it’s just a good experience. It’s good exposure. Just really looking forward to the camp.”

Harbinson said this is a great opportunity for the players.

“Playing in those high level events, usually the players come back and they are even more prepared, more excited to finish the season,” he said.

Before they head to camp, the focus is on the Trail Smoke Eaters who they host Wednesday night in the South Okanagan Events Centre. The Vees, who slipped from No. 3 to 6 in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings, will be hungry after a disappointing 4-3 loss against the West Kelowna Warriors on Saturday at home.

“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing on Wednesday, we just need to hopefully get some energy in the building,” said Harbinson. “Play with the energy for 60 minutes.”

Gendron said the Smoke Eaters are going to be a good test.

“They are a fast team,” he said. “They are good, they are skilled.”