Monday night’s matchup between the U Sports All-Stars and the Canadian National U-20 junior team marks the 17th meeting between Team Canada and a team representing CIS/U Sports athletics. Now for the second year in a row, U Sports has opted to send an all-star team comprised of their brightest stars from across the league.
The OHL is well represented with eight OHL products on the U Sport All-Stars set to partake in the two game mini-series against Team Canada. Spencer Abraham (Brampton/Erie), Tim Campbell (Guelph), Nathan Chiarlitti (Sarnia/Owen Sound), and Geoff Schemitsch (Owen Sound/Oshawa) are all featured on the back-end for the U Sports team this year. Up front, Michael Fine (Sault Ste. Marie/Kingston/Saginaw), Holden Cook (Owen Sound), and Brett Welychka (London/Belleville) will all look to make an impact after great starts to their 2016-17 campaigns. Finally, Kevin Bailie (Oshawa/London) returns to the U Sports crease a year after backstopping the CIS Selects to a 5-4 shootout victory over Team Canada in game one of last year’s series.
Although the focus of the series is on the World Junior hopefuls attempting to make the cut for Team Canada, the games serve a purpose for the U Sports All-Stars as well, who look to perform in front of a larger crowd than normal.
“I don’t want to think too much about it or put too much pressure on myself,” says Michael Fine, “I just want to enjoy the experience, have fun, and play hard.”
Kevin Bailie, Tim Campbell, and Spencer Abraham all return from last year’s all-star team, and having beaten team Canada already once, they believe they can do it again this year.
“I think we’re all really skilled players, and we all think the game the same way, so the chemistry comes pretty quick,” says Spencer Abraham. “The further we get into the game, the better we’re going to get.”
The games provide a great test for the U Sports All-Stars who look forward to the high competition, but the games also represent a break from school, which is especially welcome during exam season.
“I was lucky enough to get an exam moved back a few days,” says Fine, who relishes the chance to take a break from his school schedule. “You come here, you meet new guys, you play with great players, and we have fun together.”
For now, Fine will focus on getting the job done against Team Canada, but come Friday, he’ll have to be just as focused for his Philosophy of Law exam. All in a week’s work for a student athlete.