The best in the west is suiting up for international duty this week as the Subway Super Series against Russia shifts to the Western Hockey League.
Moose Jaw Warriors Morgan Rielly and Sam Fioretti are taking part in both games, Wednesday November 14th in Vancouver and Thursday November 15th in Victoria.
For Rielly this is a homecoming as he hasn’t played a game in Vancouver for five years. “It’s pretty cool to get the chance to go home and play a game,” he said on the playing in his hometown. “It’s a great opportunity to play with some high end players; hopefully we have a good hometown crowd.”
Last year the Super Series finale was played in Moose Jaw, unfortunately Rielly wasn’t able to compete due to a knee injury sustained a week prior to the game. “I was pretty heartbroken when I wasn’t able to play last year due to the injury; to have the chance to play this year in my hometown is a great feeling.”
The 18 year old is no stranger to international competition, he’s played in the Under 18 previously and earlier this year he represented Canada during a four game series against Russia to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series.
“They’re a high risk team, they have a quick pace. They’re obviously pretty skilled, if you give them a chance on the power play they’re probably going to capitalize,” he said when trying to describe the style of the Russians. “You have to play smart, they’re a high end team and we’re going to have to be at our best.”
The Super Series is traditionally used by Hockey Canada to evaluate players for the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championships in Russia. Even though many are considering Rielly to be a lock to crack that squad, he says he doesn’t view it that way and considers this as another step to potentially realize his dream of playing at the World Juniors.
“I don’t think there’s any player that has a spot on that World Junior team, you have to earn everything. I’m going to go out there in the next two games and play my game,” Rielly said. “Playing at the World Juniors would be a huge honour, I’m going to play my best and hope for the best.”
Not only was Rielly excited about playing for team WHL, but he was thrilled to share this with Fioretti. “It’s a huge bonus that Sam gets the opportunity to travel out there with me. I’m pretty proud of Sam and the opportunity that he’s getting.”
“He was chosen because of who he is as a player; I think he needs to continue to play his game. I don’t think he needs to change any part of his game, he just needs to go out there and play the way Sam does,” said Rielly.
Rielly is a veteran when it comes to playing for Hockey Canada, Fioretti on the other hand is a rookie when it comes to playing against international opponents. “I’m extremely honoured and excited to be playing in the Subway Super Series,” said Fioretti.
“I’ve never been a guy who’s gotten the chance to play in events like this. Certain guys play in a lot more Hockey Canada events than others, I’ve been a guy that hasn’t had the chance so being picked to a team like this is a big honour and I hope to make the most of it,” Fioretti added. “I’ve never expected anything like this to happen. I’ve just been working to help the Warriors win; when I get honoured with something like this I’m pretty excited.”
“I think it’s a feel good story. Sam didn’t get drafted and has had to earn everything, he’s a smaller player who plays the right way,” said Warriors Head Coach Mike Stothers. “He plays with blood and guts and plays hard. It’s not about individual stats for Sam and good hockey people have recognized that. It’s a good opportunity for him to showcase himself.”
Fioretti was originally scheduled to play in the Thursday game only, but due to injury was pencilled in to now play in both games. “There really isn’t anyone that I’m looking forward to playing with, I am however looking forward to see some of Russia’s best players,” said the 19 year old.
“I’ve never been a guy to see other countries best junior players so it’s going to be fun to see what Russia has to offer. I’m going to play to my strengths, I can’t be worrying about who’s on the ice, I can’t be worrying about a guy like (Nail) Yakupov. I have to play my game and stick with it and not change anything because it’s a different game,” said Fioretti.
The Calgary product leads the Warriors in goals (15) and points (27), and is on pace to surpass his point total from last year (47).
“I think it has a little bit of the same feel,” said Fioretti when comparing wearing a team WHL jersey with a Hockey Canada jersey. “It’s an honour to represent the WHL. Obviously it’s an honour for the guys who get to play on the international stage with a Canada jersey; this is going to be pretty cool for myself to put on a WHL jersey.”
The Subway Super Series between the CHL and Russia is currently tied at two; the OHL and QMJHL split both of their games. Everett’s Ryan Murray and Swift Current’s Adam Lowry will serve as captains for the WHL, while Rielly along with Matt Dumba and Griffin Reinhart will serve as alternate captains.