Pysyk will don Maple Leaf

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

How do you get to the Czech Republic from Edmonton?

Practise, practise, practise.

The hard work paid off for a couple of locals yesterday when Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman Mark Pysyk of Sherwood Park and Edmonton-born defenceman Alexander Petrovic of the Red Deer Rebels both jetted off to the Czech Republic for the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament.

They cracked Canada's national Under-18 team Tuesday night and were on a plane yesterday morning. Yes, it's all been kind of a blur.

"After the last intersquad game they had us sitting in our dorms and they started calling out the guys who got released," said Pysyk. "Then, for the guys who were left, they said 'Congratulations, you made the team.' We had a team dinner Tuesday night and (yesterday) morning we're at the airport."

The travel day won't be a blur -- it's a long haul from Edmonton to the Czech Republic, but this is one commute they're going to treasure.

"This is the first time I've been out of Canada," said Pysyk. "It's cool. I don't really know what to expect, but it'll be a good experience."

Team Canada will stop over in Slovakia for some tune-up games this weekend before continuing to the Czech Republic, where they'll take on Sweden in the first game of the tournament Tuesday.

"I want to congratulate Mark," said Oil Kings GM Bob Green, who envisions a World Junior berth in his future. "Hopefully this tournament can be a stepping stone for him and it will lead to a tryout with the National Junior Team."

Wearing the Maple Leaf in any form is a thrill for all of them, and flying the flag overseas will be the highlights of their career so far.

"That will be incredible," said Pysyk. "It'll be a huge honour."

Well worth what Pysyk describes as a hard, physical selection camp, where they chose 22 from 40 hopefuls. Then again, they don't hand Maple Leafs sweaters out to just anyone.

"It was a lot tougher than I would have thought for a four-day camp, it was both mentally and physically stressing," he said, adding he had no idea what to expect going in.

"I wasn't too sure. I just wanted to have a good camp and give myself the best chance to make it. If I played my best and they didn't want me I guess there's nothing I could do about it. So I wasn't too nervous and I just played my game."

Pysyk is heading into his second year with the Oil Kings. The shutdown defenceman had five goals and 15 assists in 61 regular-season games last year. Petrovic, a six-foot-four, 180 pounder, had 13 points and 70 PIMs in his second season with the Rebels.

Canada won the gold last year, has earned gold four times in the past five years, and 11 times in the past 13 years.


Videos

Photos