Dylan Walchuk hates to miss games with the Vernon Vipers. He is prepared to make an exception when he skates with Canada West at the 2010 World Junior A Challenge, Nov. 8-14 in Penticton.
“It’s a huge honour to put on that jersey. To play that calibre of hockey is great,” Walchuk told The Morning Star during a phone call shortly after the team was announced Monday.
He is the lone Viper on Canada West, but Walchuk is already familiar with some of his teammates. He grew up playing hockey with Mark MacMillan (Penticton Vees) and he skated with Brendan O’Donnell (Vees), Joey Laleggia (Vees) and Grayson Downing (Westside Warriors) at the CJHL Top Prospects Game last December in Winkler, Man.
Other BCHLers on the roster include forwards Travis St. Denis (Trail Smoke Eaters), Madison Dias (Victoria Grizzlies) and Sam Mellor (Trail). RBC Cup host Camrose Kodiaks of the AJHL have five players on Canada West, the most from any one team.
Walchuk, a McBride product who leads the Vipers in scoring (10-9-19 in 18 games), plans to draw on his experience from the prospects game to elevate his play at the WJAC.
“The level of play got me used to playing at this stage. That kind of experience is what brought me here,” said Walchuk.
He also picked up on some pointers from twins Connor and Kellen Jones, who played in the tourney last year.
“I got to see them in the gold-medal game last year, which was cool,” said the 18-year-old.
“How they present themselves and how they do things on the ice was big for me.”
Canada West has appeared in the championship game at all four previous tourneys, winning gold in Yorkton, Sask. in 2006, and Trail in 2007, before settling for silver at the last two events, in Camrose, in 2008 and Summerside, P.E.I. in 2009.
Canada West will play in Group B of the WJAC, joined by Russia and Switzerland. Canada East, Sweden and U.S. will comprise Group A.
The western crew will prepare for the event with an exhibition game against Canada East, Friday, Nov. 5 at Wesbild Centre.
Round-robin play will run until Wednesday, Nov. 10. The gold-medal game, which will be shown nationally on TSN, is set for Sunday, Nov. 14.
All preliminary games, quarterfinals, semifinals and the bronze-medal game can be seen live via webcast at hockeycanada.fasthockey.com for $7 per game. Tickets are available online at www.valleyfirsttix.com or via phone at 1-877-763-2849.