‘That’s where we’d like to be,” said Mustangs forward Gibson Pearson, while discussing last week’s World Junior Hockey Championship. “This is the first step to getting to that level of hockey.”
Last weekend Gibson and teammate Brett Roulston travelled to Prince George, BC to try out for the BC Best Ever High Performance Hockey Program. After a couple days of grueling tryouts, the two Mustangs were two of just 12 forwards (plus six defencemen and two goalies) selected from over 60 to attend the elite program, which has such alumni as Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and St. Louis Blues winger Paul Kariya, a member of Team Canada’s 2002 gold winning Olympic squad.
“It was pretty intense,” said Brett. “There were a lot of good hockey players there and good competition.
“(We) just went down to tryout, see what we were up against, see how we rank.”
Designated for those born in 1994, the BC Best Ever program is one of eight in the province and will begin mid-April in Salmon Arm, BC, where the 160 players selected from the BC region will congregate.
“They will have a large jamboree-type tournament where they mix the players together and they will be coached by some of the best coaches in BC and Hockey Canada,” said Bantam Mustangs coach Dave Pearson. “They will be analyzed and evaluated and treated like kings, really.
“It’s the beginning of the Canadian High Performance Program,” said Pearson. “It’s the starting point for Canadian hockey players that have aspirations to play for Team Canada. It’s an identification camp; it’s an avenue for them to be out there and take their hockey to a different level.
“I’m really proud of both of them. It’s really exciting to see both of them make the team.
“Brett could be one of the fastest players in BC; he’s got unbelievable speed and many people comment on it, and Gibson sees the ice so well and he’s got a lethal shot,” said Pearson. “The combination of the two of them is real nice to see.”
According to Pearson, the opening stage of the program coincides with the World Junior Hockey Championship in order to perhaps boost the thrill of possibly taking the first steps towards playing at that level.
“Hockey Canada does it for a reason at that time,” said Pearson. “It was a very cool experience as a coach and as a father to watch that level of play and watch them compete for jobs.”
Patrick Soprovich and Mustangs goalie Matthew Pollard, also made the trip south but unfortunately came up short in the tryouts.
“They weren’t successful making the team, but they did a real good job at the camp,” said Pearson. “In all fairness, there were 13 goalies trying out for two spots and the goalies that were there were big and tall and fast, and it was tough for our guys to compete with that.”
Next weekend Roulston and Pearson, who have been playing on Mustangs teams since they were atoms, will be joining their team at the Western Classic, a bantam tournament being held in Abbotsford, BC.
“We’re really looking for good results there,” said Pearson.
However, there was a downside to the tryouts: the two Mustangs missed some of Team Canada’s games at the World Juniors.
“We missed the semifinal game because we were on the ice,” said Gibson.
“We were stuck in the airport for the gold medal game,” added Brett. “So we watched it in a little café.”
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