The transition from beloved teammate to bitter rival didn’t take long for defencemen Kale Clague and Jake Bean last week.
Just 48 hours after playing together with Team Canada at the world junior championship final in Montreal, the pair faced off against each other at Westman Place in Western Hockey League action.
Bean, who plays for the Calgary Hitmen, and Clague, a Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman, did have a moment or two to chat during Brandon’s 8-4 victory.
"I had a few words with him out on the ice," Clague said. "He was tired and looking for a break. It’s been a long haul. We didn’t get a Christmas break so it will be nice to put our feet up, relax a bit and then have a great second half."
The two Albertans competed against each other a fair amount growing up and played together in Canada’s national program at the under-17 and U18 level.
But Bean said the world junior experience was unique.
"I’ve done it before with U17 and U18 but this time it’s a little different scale," he said. "Definitely it was the tightest Team Canada team that I’ve ever been on and it’s so soon that we’re back against each other.
"It’s a little different but he (Clague) looked good over there."
Clague knew a number of guys on the team already, including Dante Fabbro, Tyson Jost, Dillon Dube, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Julien Gauthier and Mathew Barzal from his agency and previous national team stints.
In a bittersweet moment, Clague’s role grew when Philippe Myers, who was playing on Canada’s top defensive pairing, was injured in the round-robin loss to the United States.
"Obviously you hate to see a teammate go down but when my name was called I was excited for the opportunity," Clague said. "I enjoyed playing with Thomas Chabot, he’s a great player. It’s a big stage, it’s a huge tournament, and I think it was great for my game to play those big minutes in the medal rounds."
Bean wasn’t surprised that Clague flourished with increased responsibilities.
"I’ve always thought that Kale is a phenomenal player," Bean said. "He sees the ice really well, his instincts offensively are unbelievable. He breaks out pucks really well and skates really well. I’m definitely really happy or him. He got a big opportunity with Myers going out. He really stepped up."
The Wheat Kings honoured Clague at the game on Saturday with a presentation by team owner Kelly McCrimmon. They also took time to recognize Bean’s role on the team, and the 18-year-old from Calgary received a warm ovation from a large Brandon crowd.
"It was a little different but it’s a pretty special occasion so it was nice," Bean said of the moment. "It was a class act."
After their shootout loss in the final to the United States, both Bean and Clague are looking forward to potentially having another crack at world junior gold. They are two of nine players who are eligible to return for next year’s tournament, which will be held in Buffalo, N.Y.
"That was definitely something that was being talked about in the room amongst the 18-year-olds," Bean said.
While Clague was touched by the presentation the team made to him, he says he’ll carry something very tangible with him from the world junior experience.
"Other than losing that shootout, I wouldn’t change a thing," said Clague, who had five assists in seven games. "I learned a lot and I think I’m a better hockey player for it."
ICINGS: Moose Jaw Warriors forward Brayden Burke has been named the Canadian Hockey League’s player of the week. The 20-year-old from Edmonton had five goals and seven assists in four games last week.