PHOTO: Canada’s Under-21 celebrate a goal at the 2016 Junior Men’s Pan American Championship in Toronto earlier this year (By Yan Huckendubler)
With the 2016 Men’s Junior World Cup less than three months away, Canada’s Junior Development Squad is back training together in Vancouver. But preparation for the biggest tournament in the Junior cycle has been underway for much longer.
Last year’s Junior Pan American Championship in Toronto, where Canada qualified for the 2016 Junior World Cup, was the perfect primer for what is now the home stretch of World Cup prep.
Eighteen of the Under-21 men named to a 48-man Junior World Cup training squad earlier this summer were at the qualifier in Toronto, and the majority of the rest were involved in the lead-up, making the group vastly more experience than it was just six months ago.
“I feel like the chemistry is definitely there,” says Ottawa’s Rohan Chopra, who competed at the Junior Pan Ams in May and is one of a handful of athletes who have made the trip from Eastern Canada to Vancouver for the lead-up to the World Cup. “For me, I think I have more of a role on the squad, having experience gone to Pan Ams, and just brining it back to the team.”
Canada’s men are now centralized in Vancouver training as a group, not only training together but competing with each other for a coveted spot on the Junior World Cup team.
That has made the first week back together demanding.
“It’s gone pretty well,” says Brandon Pereira, a native of Surrey, British Columbia, who captained Canada at the 2016 Junior Pan Ams. “Pretty hard and intense training sessions, but we’ve got to do it before we go to the World Cup.”
Pereira knows the value of this period and the value of training as a team for an extended period of time, something that not all Junior teams the luxury of doing.
As one of two players on the squad – the other is Balraj Panesar – who is aiming to competing in his second Junior World Cup, he knows the qualification for the tournament was only the beginning.
“We have a lot to work on, he says. “We’ve got to be consistent. And we’ve got to work on playing more as a team.”
Team play is important and the players’ ability to work well within the team structure will likely have a large impact on the final selections Junior coach Indy Sehmbi makes.
But so will individual performance, which makes each training session from now until selection a little bit more intense.
“It’s competitive,” Chopra says. “I love how everyone is pushing each other, making sure everyone is working hard. For myself, it’s just pushing myself to that next level, that World Cup standard.”
With many of the athletes set to take part in the Senior Men’s National Program Carding and Identification camp at the beginning on October, Canada’s 2016 Men’s Junior World Cup team will be named shortly after.
The 2016 Men’s Hockey Junior World Cup takes place in Lucknow, India form December 8-18. Canada features 16 of the world’s best junior men’s teams including Argentina; Australia; Austria; Belgium; Canada; Egypt; England; Germany; India; Japan; Korea; Netherlands; South Africa; New Zealand; Pakistan and Spain.