TORONTO, ON – Canada’s men’s hockey team has never found the success at the FISU Games as it has in other international competition. Yet, when the team heads to Lake Placid for next month’s FISU Winter University Games, they can dream of a gold medal.
Maybe, just maybe, Canada can paint their own masterpiece at the Olympic Centre in Lake Placid, the canvas that saw Team USA’s 1980 Miracle on Ice
It’s been 10 years since Canada stood atop the podium at the FISU Games, winning gold at Trentino 2013, after beating Kazakhstan 6-2 in front of 2600 fans. UPEI’s Matthew Maione scored the third, and eventual winning goal that day for a team of AUS All-Stars.
Since then, an OUA All-star team claimed bronze at the Almaty 2017 Games, and a U SPORTS All-Star team did the same at Krasnoyarsk 2019
For Lake Placid, as it was for Krasnoyarsk, Team Canada consists of players from all three U SPORTS conferences, with many of the best players in the nation earning a spot on the 23-player roster.
However, several student-athletes initially selected were unable to go, either limited by their athletics programs or themselves wanting to stay for the first few weeks of the second half, injury or financial reasons. Every student-athlete pays their own way to the FISU Games.
Yet, even with the caveats, Canada’s roster for Lake Placid 2023 features most of U SPORTS’ best, and will have a legitimate shot at a gold medal with the defending champion Russians barred from competing.
Canada begins their tournament on Jan. 12 against Ukraine, and will play a group with Ukraine, Sweden, Japan, Latvia, and Czechia, looking to advance to the semifinal on Jan. 21, and the gold medal game on Jan. 23
Coaches and roster construction
Leading the team will be UNB Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall, with assistants Clarke Singer (Western), Patrick Grandmaître (Ottawa), and Brett Gibson (Queen’s). Ryan Medel (Toronto), Ryan Sweeney (UNB) and Cord Ivanco (Sask.), will serve as Video Coach, Athletic Therapist and Equipment Manager, respectively.
Calgary Dinos head coach Mark Howell joins as the GM, and led the way in selecting the roster, with MacDougall and the coaching staff.
“It’s always exciting, you get to represent Team Canada and go to a world class event like the FISU Games is a spectacular opportunity,” Howell told 49 Sports. “I was fortuante to go once before, and I’m looking forward to see what we can do this year.”
While no players return from Krasnoyarsk 2019, there is some holdover from the roster named for the canceled Lucerne 2021 Games, with six players returning in UPEI’s Kyle Maskimovich, Queen’s Jonathan Yantsis, UNB’s Austen Keating, StFX’s Liam Hawel and Matt Struthers, and Saskatchewan’s Jared Dmytriw.
There are eight OUA players, 12 AUS and four from Canada West.
Liam Hawel leads Canada’s key forwards
With NHL preseason experience under his belt, Liam Hawel will be one of the players looking to lead Canada in northern New York. After winning U SPORTS and AUS rookie of the year in 2021-22, and being the only U SPORTS first-team all-star on the roster, Hawel could be Canada’s golden catalyst.
After spending a few weeks with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, the Kanata, Ont. native got off to a quick start, leading U SPORTS with 12 goals and 15 assists for 27 points in just 18 games.
It won’t be the first time that Hawel has represented Team Canada, having played for Team Black at a U17 Hockey Canada camp in 2015, and the National U18 team in 2017 at a tournament in Poprad, Slovakia. With his skillset and international experience, he will be the team’s leading offensive force at Lake Placid 2023.
Tied with Hawel on points, and also an exciting talent is Kyle Bollers of the TMU Bold, who hasn’t slowed down after impressing in his rookie season where he played a significant role in TMU’s run to the U CUP semifinal.
His ferocious play on the wing, combined with a quick release on his snapshot and wrist shot make him a versatile scorer, who can also play on the penalty kill, as he does with TMU.
Bollers leads the OUA in goals and assists with 12 and 15, the same as Hawel, yet in two fewer games. As well, he delivers in bunches, scoring over a point in eight of the 11 games that he has been on the scoresheet.
While those two lead the offensive charge, other key forwards will include the UNB duo of Austen Keating and Brady Gilmour, in addition to the two reigning champions from the UQTR Patriotes, Simon LaFrance, and Zachary Lavigne. Also keep an eye out for UPEI’s Makimovich, and Saskatchewan ‘s Dmyrtiw, who bring a veteran presence and defensive awareness to the team.
Overall, Canada is bringing many of the best forwards in U SPORTS, and will be an offensive threat in every game.
King and McPherson anchor the blueline
There is no holdover on Canada’s defence from the Lucerne 2021 roster, yet it is still a position of strength.
SMU’s Justin MacPherson has shown to be strong on the blueline, not only defensively but offensively, leading all AUS defenseman in scoring, with three goals and 20 assists. He will no doubt be relied upon to play important minutes in Lake Placid.
Meanwhile UQTR’s Justin Bergeron was critical in UQTR’s 2022 U CUP and Queen’s Cup success, and has 15 assists, yet no goals this season.
From Howell’s Calgary Dinos is Noah King, who has been stable throughout this season and has played significant minutes in Calgary’s current 13-game win streak, and played in the AHL with the Stockton Heat and Manitoba Moose. UNB’s Adam McCormick and UPEI’s Matt Brassard recently impressed for the AUS all-stars against Team Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp, and are two defensive responsible blueliners who can suffocate opponents attacks.
Also joining the roster on defence are OUA defenders Scott Walford of the McGill Redbirds, and former NHL Draft Pick of the Nashville Predators, Jacob Paquette of the Queen’s Gaels.
Canada’s defence is incredibly strong, and will have to be against some talented forwards from Europe and Asia.
Former ECHLer Kai Edmonds leads the crease
The most peculiar position for Canada is goaltending, as none of the top four goaltenders in terms of save percentage are on the roster. TMU’s Kai Edmonds, who has settled in quickly and thrived at the U SPORTS level in his rookie season will lead the way, looking to bring his .927 save percentage to the international stage.
Edmonds took over the starters role in the Bold’s crease this season, outplaying veteran Garett Forest, who backstopped TMU to OUA bronze last season. A native of Ottawa, Ont. Edmonds head to the FISU Games with some professional experience, having played an AHL game with the Toronto Marlies, in addition to a season in the ECHL.
Battling for the backup role are Saskatchewan’s Roddy Ross and SMU’s Matt Welsh, who will represent Canada for a second time after playing at the 2017 World Hockey Challenge, alongside then and now Team Canada teammate Austen Keatng. Welsh currently holds a .899 save percentage in the AUS.
Ross, the 169th pick of the 2019 NHL Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, has a .901 save percentage with the Saskatchewan Huskies in his second U SPORTS season, good for seventh in Canada West.
Notable omissions: Alberta, MRU, Brock, UBC
While Canada goes to Lake Placid 2023 with a strong roster, there are clear omissions from the team, with four teams from the 2022 U CUP not represented, leaving out players such as Brock’s Jacob Roach, and MRU’s Nolan Yaremko and Riley Sawchuk. Windsor’s Mason Kohn, a U SPORTS first-team all-star from last season is also not on the roster.
As well, there are no Alberta Golden Bears on the team, with a team representative telling 49 Sports that the players that had a chance to go chose to focus on the second half and their studies, rather than leaving for Lake Placid.
Team Canada will meet in Ottawa the week before their first game, before heading down to northern New York, ahead of their tournament opener against Ukraine at Maxcy Hall in Potsdam, NY.
- Kyle Bollers – TMU
- Andrew Coxhead – SMU
- Brett Davis – Manitoba
- Jared Dmytriw – Saskatchewan
- Brady Gilmour – UNB
- Liam Hawel – StFX
- Austen Keating – UNB
- Simon LaFrance – UQTR
- Zachary Lavigne – UQTR
- TJ Shea – UPEI
- Matt Struthers – StFX
- Jonathan Yantsis – Queen’s
- Justin Bergeron – UQTR
- Matt Brassard – UPEI
- Noah King – Calgary
- Justin MacPherson – SMU
- Adam McCormick – UNB
- Jacob Paquette – Queen’s
- Scott Walford – McGill
- Kai Edmonds – TMU
- Matt Welsh – SMU
- Roddy Ross – Saskatchewan
TEAM CANADA SCHEDULE (all times EST)
- Jan. 12 (1:00 pm): Canada vs. Ukraine
- Jan. 13 (1:00 pm): Canada vs. Sweden
- Jan. 15 (9:30 am): Canada vs. Japan
- Jan. 17 (1:00 pm): Canada vs. Latvia
- Jan. 18 (4:30 pm): Canada vs. Czechia
- Jan. 21: Semi-finals
- Jan. 22: Finals