The city of Winnipeg and province of Manitoba notched an impressive hat trick yesterday morning. As Hockey Canada trimmed its roster for the World Junior Hockey Championship to 23, the Keystone province had reason to celebrate as goalie Rejean Beauchemin and defenceman Cam Barker joined returnee Nigel Dawes on the squad that is among the favourites to win gold at the elite tournament for players aged 19 and under.
"It's good for our province and Hockey Manitoba and I'm really happy to be one of those guys," said Beauchemin, who plays for the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL. "It's a really big relief to find out. I can finally take a deep breath and take it all in, I'm really going to enjoy myself."
Probably the biggest question in camp revolved around which of the two goaltenders would be chosen for the squad and despite a strong camp, Beauchemin wasn't sure if it would be enough.
"I really didn't know, I was sitting in my room just sweating," said Beauchemin. "It's a huge honour."
Dawes, who had 11 points in last year's world junior tournament, has been looking forward to making this team since suffering the agony of defeat in the gold medal game versus the United States.
"It's exciting again," said Dawes. "This tournament, especially being so close to home is something I really wanted to be a part of and now it's official. A lot (is) similar to last year's team, except we have the experience factor."
There is some uncertainty regarding Barker because of an injury to returnee Brent Seabrook. Team Canada head coach Brent Sutter named eight defencemen to the roster and would like to get down to 22 as soon as possible but said he'd be willing to give Seabrook as much time as he needs in order to get healthy.
Barker, who stars for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL, is probably safe but he was taking nothing for granted yesterday.
"It's not over yet, there's one more cut to go on defence so I'll have to keep my nose to the grindstone here," said Barker, the only 18-year-old to make the team. "I thought I got better as the week went along and that's my plan, to get better every day. I'm not looking at it as an opportunity for me to play bad and have someone take my spot, it's an opportunity for me to play better, turn some heads and earn a position."
Barker said he was nervous about the roster announcement, but slept well anyway because he was exhausted from the camp.
"I didn't end up getting that phone call, so I was pretty fortunate," said Barker.
Two Manitobans weren't quite as fortunate, as Brandon Wheat Kings sniper Eric Fehr of Winkler and Moose Jaw Warriors centre Dustin Boyd of Winnipeg, were returned to their junior teams.
Centre Ryan Stone, a Calgary product who has spent the past four seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings, and goalie Devan Dubnyk, who lived in Winnipeg for six months as a youngster, were also released.