Pressure's mounting

Paul Friesen -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

The time has come. The end of the line, for some. Probably beginning later today and continuing tomorrow, 10 teenagers wanting desperately to play for their country will be told, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Mere days after their dream week began, it'll end. They'll leave the national spotlight and return to the grind and relative anonymity of their junior teams.

Some might get another chance next year. Others will never wear the Maple Leaf.

"It's starting to get a little more tense," goaltender Jeff Glass of Calgary was saying yesterday. "You can tell around the dressing room. Everybody wants their spot."

Glass is one of the few players at this world junior selection camp who's never played for Canada -- not at a world junior, a World Under-18 Championship or even an Under-17 event.

He never even attended the summer evaluation camp, making him the only one of 32 hopefuls with a blank Team Canada resume.

As a 19-year-old, he won't get another shot, either.

Think he wants a spot?

"Pretty bad," Glass said. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't. I've been looking forward to this my whole life. It's something I'd love to play for. If I keep working hard, I have a chance."

Glass figures he was never on Hockey Canada's radar until now simply because he got lost in the shuffle of a deep crop of Alberta talent.

All the while he was watching goalies like Roberto Luongo and Marc Denis guard the nation's glory, and wondering, what if?

"When I was a little kid I remember waking up early in the morning to watch the overseas games," Glass said. "It was just a dream that seemed so far away. But now that I'm here, there's nothing I want more than to make that team."

Forward Andrew Ladd of Maple Ridge, B.C., is in the same boat, staring at his last chance for a first chance.

Ladd broke an ankle when he was 16, and "never got back in the loop." Until now.

In the last year and a half he's gone from playing Junior A hockey to being a first-round, NHL draft pick last summer (fourth overall, Carolina Hurricanes).

And now this.

"It's the ultimate goal ... something you've always looked forward to," Ladd said. "One of those things you look up to, and say one day you want to be there. Up until this year I didn't really think I'd get the chance.

"Every time you're watching, you're thinking it would be awesome being in an event like that, and being on a pedestal in front of the country. It would be pretty amazing."

And how devastating would it be to get this close, only to have the door closed in your face?

Should make for a sleepless night or two this week, I'd guess.

"A little nerve-wracking," is how Ladd described it. "But once you're on the ice, you settle down and it's easy to play."

You want to see teenage desperation, check out the final intrasquad game with the U of M Bisons tonight. It'll be the last Team Canada memory some of these guys have.

Not exactly a gold-medal final before a flag-waving crowd of Canuck and Yankee crazies, is it?

Just 22 of the 32 will keep that dream alive.

To make things even more interesting, Glass is going head-to-head with a friend he grew up with in Calgary, goalie Devan Dubnyk.

As an 18-year-old, Dubnyk might have another year, a luxury Glass and Ladd don't have.

"Everyone wants it pretty bad," Glass said. "When you get on the ice, it's all business. But when you get off the ice, we can sit around and joke about it."

Somebody won't be laughing when the decisions come down this week.

For them, the world junior won't be about fond memories, at all.


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