Linaker makes Canada West roster
World Junior A Challenge starts Nov. 8 in Penticton
Wednesday, Oct 27, 2010 06:00 am
Reed Linaker will showcase his skills on the international stage at the fifth annual World Junior A Challenge.
The St. Albert Steel’s all-star centre was among seven Alberta Junior Hockey League players named to the Canada West line-up for the Nov. 8 to 14 tournament in Penticton, B.C.
“It’s a huge honour. I never represented my country before,” an excited Linaker told the Gazette Monday with eyes as big as hockey pucks.
The 22-player roster was made public Monday, but Linaker received the good news the day before from Larry Wintoneak, head coach of Canada West and the Kindersley Klippers in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
“I was ecstatic when I got the phone call. It was a real boost to my weekend.”
Every time Linaker’s cell buzzed, his heart skipped a beat.
“I saw it was a [different] area code so I figured it could be the call and I’m glad it was,” said the Steel’s assistant captain. “The coach congratulated me and said they would be announcing the team later today. He didn’t really get into too much. He just said I earned a spot through my play this year and I would be getting emails throughout the week regarding itineraries.”
Linaker and 10 other AJHL players were selected to attend the two-day tryout session in Penticton last month. Four goalies, 12 defencemen and 25 forwards participated from teams in the Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Superior International junior A leagues. However, the third-year AJHL veteran sat out the evaluation camp because of head issues, when his bell got rung by Devon Kalinski on Sept. 14 in Bonnyville. Kalinski was assessed a match penalty for the hit to the head and suspended by the AJHL for three games.
“Not being able to take part obviously lowered my chances a little. When I was there I talked to the coach and he said I still had a good chance but anytime you can’t show your stuff, you’re a little worried that is going to hurt you in the long run, so I’m glad it didn’t,” said Linaker, who turns 19 on Nov. 4.
Also making the team is Craig Bokenfohr, a defenceman with the Camrose Kodiaks and midget AAA product of the St. Albert Raiders.
One of the assistant coaches is Andrew Milner. The former player and coach for the St. Albert Saints is the bench boss for the Canmore Eagles.
The final collection of two goalies, seven defencemen and 13 forwards also includes eight players from B.C., three from Saskatchewan, three from Manitoba and one from the Superior International league.
Canada West will play in group B, joined by Russia and Switzerland. Canada East, Sweden and the United States comprise group A. The gold medal game will be shown on TSN. Canada West has played for gold every year, and was victorious in 2006 and 2007.
“I’m really excited to go. I can’t wait,” said Linaker.
The second-highest scorer in Steel history (142 points in 118 games) was tied for 10th place in the AJHL points race with 21 after recording one goal and one assist in Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the Brooks Bandits (8-8-0-3) in front of an announced crowd of 300 at Performance Arena. His ninth goal in 11 games opened the scoring 32 seconds into the contest. The Steel held period leads of 3-1 and 4-3 but gave up three in a row in the third before captain Mike Giese (third) made it a one-goal game with 9:24 left in regulation time.
“Our first period was great. We really came out and played one of our better periods of the season,” Linaker said. “In the second and third we kind of tailed off. We had a ton of chances. We could’ve scored 12 goals. I probably could’ve scored four goals. The offence was there but defensively we just dropped off a little.”
The Steel got outshot 18-4 in the middle frame and 33-23 overall. Ryan Berlin (fifth), Tanner Labbe (second) and Taylor Fraser (10th) also scored. Labbe chipped in with two assists on a line with Linaker and Fraser. Backup goalie Chris Sharkey (0-1, 5.74 GAA) went the distance.
The TSN turning point was Jordan Abt’s five-minute major for running the goalie halfway through the game with the Steel in front 4-2. The Bandits went on to score on the power play, and carried that momentum into the third. Abt, 19, was also suspended two games by the AJHL for his actions. The Steel defenceman and the team’s 2010 rookie of the year was playing in only his third game after taking a shot in the face in the pre-season.
“After the match penalty to Abt, things seemed to change tides from there on,” Linaker said. “We had a two goal lead and they got themselves back into it and by cutting it to one going into the third they obviously thought they had a chance to win it. They got two early ones [by the 3:08 mark in the third] and that was really deflating but kudos to them because they worked hard. Obviously it’s a real tough one to lose because it should’ve been a win but we’ve got to learn from that.”
The loss was the third in four games for the Steel (8-7). They are eight points ahead of the Drayton Valley Thunder (3-14-0-2) for the seventh and last playoff spot in the north.
“It’s been an up and down season. We haven’t really strung any wins together and we’ve got to work on that. Good teams are going to win seven, eight, nine in a row. We’re not that good team yet but we think we definitely have the potential to be,” said Linaker, the cousin of Phoenix Coyotes’ defenceman, David Schlemko.
With games in hand on the rest of the division, the Steel host the Sherwood Park Crusaders (9-8-0-2) tonight at 7 p.m. and on Saturday visit the first-place Bonnyville Pontiacs (13-2-0-3) Saturday at 7 p.m.
“Games in hand don’t really mean anything unless you win them. We’ve got two huge games against north division opponents this week so hopefully we can take both of those and go into next week and get a few more wins.”