Dubnyk signs off on a positive note

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 12:20 PM ET

All things being equal, he'd rather be in Kamloops. But Edmonton netminding prospect Devan Dubnyk doesn't mind his little side trip to Lloydminster.

With his Kamloops Blazers out of the Western Hockey League playoffs, yesterday's Centennial Cup Challenge offered one last chance to play a high-profile game before putting the pads away for good.

"I think this thing was a great idea,'' said the six-foot-five backstop. "I didn't realize how big of a deal it was going to be until I got down here. There's TVcameras everywhere, CBC did a great job with everything and the organizers did a good job of getting a good group of players out here.''

The Alberta-vs.-Saskatchewan junior challenge, telecast live on CBC, is just what Dubnyk needed. His last game was a 7-1 loss to Kootenay in the deciding game of their playoff series and he dearly wanted to finish his season on a slightly more positive note.

"I guess everybody here would have lost their last game so we're all in the same situation,'' he chuckled. "It gives us all a chance to get out for one last time before the end of the season.''

The Blazers, some 43 points below Kootenay in the standings, put a major scare into the Ice before finally succumbing in six games.

"I think we knew going in that we had the opportunity and we could do the job if we all came together and just worked hard,'' he said. "We weren't a highly skilled team. The way we had success was everybody coming together as a team. At the end of the season we really pushed for a spot and kept it going into the playoffs. We gave them a good run and came up just a little short.''

It was one of the few blemishes on what's been a tremendous season developmentally. The Calgary native played 71 of the Blazers' 78 games this year, posting a 2.69 GAA and .912 save percentage - fantastic numbers on on a mediocre team.

"It was definitely a good time to have a year like that,'' he said. "I got a lot of chances to face a lot of situations that you might not face on a better team.''

For goaltenders, weaker teams are often the best learning environments - it's better to get a lot of work than to face 16 shots a night on a powerhouse. "You learn to prepare for just about anything,'' he said. "Some nights you face 40 shots-plus, and on other nights it's only 20.''

So did being the youngest player named to the Canadian World Junior selection camp last December. While he didn't make the team, he's definitely on the radar screen and is expected to contend for a spot next year.

"It was obviously disappointing not to end up making it, but it was a good experience,'' he said, adding he knows he has to be even better next season.

"I've been there and had a bit of a chance to show my stuff, but you have to keep playing and focus on your games with your team because that's what they're watching most.

"It's been a really good year, but it made me hungrier for next year. I'm looking forward to next year.''


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