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This article was published 23/12/2011 (3151 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Spending Christmas with Team Canada: It doesn’t get any better than this for Mark Stone.
The Brandon Wheat Kings captain is living the dream, preparing to don Canada’s colours in the world junior hockey championship.
After wrapping up their third pre-tournament game late last night against Sweden, Stone and the Canadians now turn their attention to facing Finland in the world junior opener in Edmonton on Monday (2:30 p.m., TSN).
“Everyone is getting pretty anxious to get the tournament going,” said Stone, via telephone this week from Banff, Alta., where the Canadian team was based.
“We have been really spoiled for the last couple of days, staying up in Banff practising and it couldn’t get much better and I am just pretty honoured and pretty privileged to be here with Team Canada. We’re really getting close to the tournament now and the excitement is definitely rising.”
The 19-year-old Winnipegger is playing right wing on one of Canada’s top two lines with captain Jaden Schwartz and left-winger Freddie Hamilton, a trio that amassed 10 points in two games heading into last night’s pre-tournament finale. Stone scored a goal in his third straight pre-tournament tuneup on Friday night in Edmonton against Sweden, a game that was still in progress at press time. He said hitting the scoresheet has given him a boost of confidence going into the tournament.
“It’s obviously good to get on the board early,” said Stone, who is leading the WHL in scoring with 27 goals and 65 points in 33 games this season. “Obviously I want to score goals and I want to contribute to the team, whether it’s scoring goals or blocking shots, whatever. It’s nice to score, but it’s not the only thing I want to contribute.”
The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Stone, whose parents are going to Edmonton for the Boxing Day opener, has followed former Wheat King teammates Brayden Schenn (2011 and 2010) and Keith Aulie (2009) in representing Canada at the world junior championship.
Like most young Canadian hockey players, Stone grew up watching the tournament, daring to dream of playing in it one day.
“It’s pretty amazing and pretty special,” said Stone, who faced Wheat King teammate Alessio Bertaggia when Canada stomped Switzerland 7-1 in exhibition action on Thursday night in Red Deer, Alta. “There aren’t very many kids that play hockey that get to do this. This is the first time I have been able to do it and it will be a special night on Monday night ...
“When you get into one of these games, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a high-paced game and there are amazing players on every team, so I’m very excited to get going on Boxing Day.”
While some pundits pick the Americans and Russians as the favourites to grab gold, Stone said the Canadians are just focusing on their own preparations.
“We have a lot of confidence in ourselves and we’re just going to play a team game,” said Stone, who signed his first NHL contract with the Ottawa Senators in September. “We’re going to use all 22 guys in the tournament and I think we will be just fine ...
“Obviously playing in the world juniors is a huge tournament on the international stage against the best players from each country and I know there will be a lot of people watching in Brandon, a lot of people watching in Winnipeg and all across Canada. So it’s going to be pretty special.”
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