CALGARY -- When a team is as deep as Canada's world junior squad, cutting players is never easy.
The talent among the 35 players at the development camp in Calgary was second to none, so it's not surprising some big names didn't make the cut, including Leland Irving, the standout Everett Silvertips netminder who was backup goalie last year when Canada won it's third straight championship.
The Calgary Flames prospect found out the bad news early yesterday morning at the team's hotel, as did Angelo Esposito, the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts star, who was let go for the third straight year.
Irving took the news in stride, acknowledging the competition was very good at camp with Jonathan Bernier of the Lewiston Maineiacs and the London Knights' Steve Mason ultimately getting the two goaltending spots.
"I came into camp and felt like I played like I could play," he said.
"The difference between the three of us is so small. My game is a little more suited to a North American style."
Irving joins a short list of players who were age-eligible to play for Canada a second year and were either released or not invited to try out, including goalies Olivier Michaud (2002), Phillipe Derouville (1993) and Shawn Simpson (1987) and defencemen Richard Jackman (1997) and Bruce Cassidy (1984).
Among the other notables sent back to their junior teams were Calgary Hitmen centre Ryan White, netminder Tyson Sexsmith of the Vancouver Giants, forward Zach Hamill of the Everett Silvertips and defenceman Keaton Ellerby of the Moose Jaw Warriors, who was also cut in 2006.
For Esposito, it was another bitter morning yesterday.
"It's very disappointing," he said.
"I worked hard, I did my best. My first game was really good and my second game was average and I'm happy with the way I played.
"It's part of life. You've just got to live and learn."
Esposito, along with Dan Cleary, are the only players to get cut three times from the junior camp.
Ellerby, a highly touted rearguard, was a little miffed at not being told why he was cut.
"They didn't really give me an explanation -- they just said thanks for coming and that was the extent of the conversation," said Ellerby.