(Story courtesy Marc Smith, DiscoverMooseJaw.com) The top 1997-born players will be going head to head over the next four days in Calgary as the 2012 Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup gets underway on Thursday afternoon.
There will be two Warriors 2012 Bantam Draft picks among the players on the ice with defenceman Ryan Gardiner on Team Manitoba and goalie Zach Sawchenko will represent Team Alberta.
“I’m very excited to get going with the new team and we’re looking good,” said Gardiner over the phone from Calgary on Wednesday. “We’re just getting used to playing with each other still, but we’re making some good progress in the practices.”
Gardiner, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, was drafted by the Warriors in the third round of this year’s Bantam Draft. He’s off to a great start in his first season with the Winnipeg Thrashers of the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League, picking up six goals and 11 points in 11 games
“It’s been going great. The coaches have helped me out a lot and it’s bringing my skills up a lot,” said Gardiner. “This year there’s been more offence, but I’m usually more of a defensive kind of defenceman. I can set up plays in the offensive zone.
“I’m hoping to bring hard work, getting in front of that puck and making the right plays and just bring leadership to the team.”
Gardiner and Sawchenko will square off on Day 2 of the round robin when Alberta and Manitoba hook up. Gardiner says he’s looking forward to it, “We got to know each other pretty well and I’m pretty excited to play against him.”
There are three Moose Jaw Generals (Regan Nagy, Rykr Cole and Shane Collins) on Team Saskatchewan and that’s who Gardiner and Team Manitoba get first. They hit the ice on Thursday at 3:30pm. Sawchenko and Team Alberta will play Team BC in their opener at 7:00pm.
Thursday, November 1st
Saskatchewan v Manitoba, 3:30pm
British Columbia v Alberta, 7pm
Friday, November 2nd
British Columbia v Saskatchewan, 11:30am
Alberta v Manitoba, 3pm
Saturday, November 3rd
Saskatchewan v Alberta, 11:30am
Manitoba v British Columbia, 7pm
Sunday, November 4th
Bronze Medal Game, 9:30am
Gold Medal Game, 1pm
To see full rosters and for more information on the Western Canada U16 Challenge cup click here