The Brandon Wheat Kings will be without a pair of their top players for a while after Wednesday’s game, and they couldn’t be more thrilled.
Team captain Ridly Greig and defenceman Vincent Iorio, who are both in their fourth year with the Wheat Kings, leave for the Canadian national junior team camp in Calgary after a road game against the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Hockey Canada camp will be held from Thursday to Sunday in Calgary.
Wheat Kings head coach Don MacGillivray said it’s nice to see.
"It’s awesome for those guys," MacGillivray said. "We’re really happy for them. We’ll deal with what we have to deal with here if they both make the team. I think any time your guys get recognized, that’s a team thing as well. It’s not just an individual thing. They’re good players, and they’ve been good players for us not only this year but previously. They’ve earned it and we wish them all the best."
The national camp includes three goalies, who have already made the team, 11 defencemen including Brandonite Daemon Hunt, and 21 forwards.
Former Wheat Kings captain Braden Schneider played on Canada’s junior team last year.
"I’m very excited," Iorio said of the invitation. "Obviously it’s going to be a challenge but the end goal for Ridly and I is to make team and help the team out as much as we can. We’re really looking forward to it and working hard to be a part of that team."
A year ago, Greig and Hunt were among five players released on Dec. 8 from the selection camp in Red Deer, Alta. At the time, Hockey Canada senior vice-president of national teams, Scott Salmond, said it wasn’t a hockey-related decision but instead based on the health of the players.
Greig had already contracted COVID, and told the Brandon Sun a year ago that for a while, it felt like he was breathing through a straw.
Naturally, he’s excited to have an honest chance at earning a spot this time around.
"It’s really exciting," Greig said. "After last year when I got COVID and the situation I was in, I’m super pumped for this year. I can’t wait to get things going."
The tournament is being held in Red Deer and Edmonton from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.
Greig, who has 153 points in 161 regular season WHL games and is a first-round pick of the National Hockey League’s Ottawa Senators, is also happy to share the experience with his teammate.
"It’s awesome," Greig said. "It’s just another guy you know. You’re more comfortable, it’s easier, you can lean on each other. It should be a lot easier with him there."
Iorio, who turned 19 three weeks ago, has 51 points in 151 regular season WHL games and is a second-round pick of the Washington Capitals.
"It’s a little bit of a fantasy," Iorio said. "You watch the world juniors growing up as a kid and it’s putting on the Maple Leaf sweater you get as a kid. To be able to be part of a camp like this … I’m at a loss for words."
Greig had the same experience.
"You watch it every year," Greig said. "It’s pretty special for Canada and just the atmosphere. It’s going to be pretty amazing to be there."
ICINGS: Brandon won’t lose Belarusian forward Zakhar Polshakov, who isn’t joining his national team after an extended visa process badly delayed his arrival in Canada to start the season. He didn’t play his first WHL game until Oct. 24. Belarus will take part in Group A of the Division 1 tournament, which is being held in Denmark from Dec. 12 to 18.
» Twitter: @PerryBergson