Bunz tries out for Canada
St. Albert netminder attends national junior team's summer development camp
Saturday, Aug 06, 2011 06:00 am
Auditions are under way for Tyler Bunz to play for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship.
St. Albert netminder Tyler Bunz listens to instructions at the national junior team's summer development camp Thursday at Rexall Place. The Edmonton Oilers' draft pick and Medicine Hat Tigers' standout will play in tonight's red/white game at 7 p.m. at Rexall Place.-->
The St. Albert netminder will be on display at the summer development camp's red/white game tonight at 7 p.m. at Rexall Place and Sunday at 6 p.m. in Fort McMurray.
“It's pretty exciting,” Bunz said with a smile after the team white practice on Thursday morning. “Being able to play in front of the hometown fans is something that I'm looking forward to doing on Saturday.”
Tickets are $12, plus service charge, and are available at Edmonton-area Sport Chek locations, www.ticketmaster.ca or by phone at 1-855-985-5000.
The Edmonton Oilers' draft pick (fifth round, 121st overall in 2010) is approaching the showcase evaluations like any other game.
“I just want to go in there like I did in Medicine Hat with the Tigers during the whole year and just play my game and not be too worried about what people think,” he said. “You don't want to put too much pressure on yourself. Everyone knows there are evaluations going on here. You're fighting for a spot, but if you put that in your mind, you get too tight. You tend to work a little bit too hard than you should and bad things happen and mistakes start to happen.”
Bunz, 19, has kept his emotions in check since the camp started Wednesday.
“You do feel nervous. This is my hometown and friends and family are all pushing for me to make the team. Obviously the media is kind of doing the whole hometown thing with me as well. You just try and throw all that stuff in the back of your mind, and once you step on the ice, all that pressure goes away. You feel like you always do when you step on the ice, whether it's a practice or a game, so it's nice to have that,” he said.
Bunz is challenging Louis Dominique of the Quebec Remparts, Scott Wedgewood of the Plymouth Whalers and national team returnee Mark Visentin of the Niagara IceDogs for a roster spot at worlds, Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Edmonton and Calgary.
“It's something that every hockey kid dreams about, growing up,” Bunz said of playing for Canada. “I want to make the team and give a good first impression with the coaches.”
Bunz was invited to the 47-player evaluation camp in Edmonton after a strong showing at the Hockey Canada goaltenders camp in June in Calgary. Ten goalies participated under the watchful eye of national team goalie coach Ron Tugnutt.
“On the ice, they give you a lot of tips; it's whether you want to use them or not. There are a lot of ingredients that go into being a goaltender but you choose the ones that work for you. If you don't want them, that is fine. You just stick to what you're used to,” Bunz said. “Other than that, they don't really tell you much. At your exit meeting, they just told you that they will call you later on in the week if you made it or not.”
Bunz's heart skipped a beat when the phone rang and Tugnutt was on the other line.
“I was actually out for my dad's birthday dinner and Tugnutt called me and said that I'm getting another opportunity to try out. It was a crazy feeling. You dream of it as a little kid to come out and throw a Canadian jersey on, and for me to be one step closer, it was pretty emotional for me and my family,” Bunz said. “It was kind of fitting I was out for my dad's birthday. We were all together as a family. They were pretty excited for me.”
Leading up to this week's camp, he kept the same training regimen as in previous summers.
“I took the same approach as I would with the Oilers camp or with the Tigers camp. It's the next step in your hockey career and you need to make the best of it,” Bunz said. “There was a little bit more focus to the mental part of the game. There is a lot of pressure being a goalie for Team Canada. You've got to be able to deal with the pressures that come along with it.”
Last month, Bunz attended his second Oilers prospect camp and was more comfortable in his surroundings than the previous year.
“I think it comes with confidence and being more experienced with the feelings and the media and all that stuff that comes with those prospects camps,” he said. “I was a little nervous my first year, but this year, I was used to everything. I felt calm and cool and I thought I had a pretty good camp.”
Bunz ranked among the top goalies in the Western Hockey League after posting a splendid 35-13-4-4 record, 2.47 GAA and .919 save percentage in his third season in Medicine Hat.
“It was my best season that I've had in my whole career. My stats improved by a lot. I felt more comfortable. I finished every game during the season. I never got pulled once. In the playoffs was the first time I got pulled,” said the six-foot-one, 200-pound puck stopper. “I played 56 games, and not to be pulled was a pretty big accomplishment. I felt proud that the coaches can rely on me. Even if I was struggling a bit, they left me in there to battle through it, and that just gives me more confidence as a goaltender and my team as well.
“That season definitely propelled me towards being at the goalie camp in Calgary and then obviously having a good camp there and being named to this team,” he added. “It's been a whirlwind year. It's been fun and I'm looking forward to whatever else this year brings. It will be good, I think.”
Bunz is grateful for the role the St. Albert Minor Hockey Association played in his development.
“I owe SAMHA a lot of thanks as well as all the coaching staffs that I've had. I spent seasons with Kevin Pennington and Trevor Wallin and they really started my career off when I was a young kid. They took me under their wings and just showed me not only on-ice skills but off-ice skills and life itself. They shaped me into the person I am today,” said the former bantam AAA Sabre and midget AAA Raider and Greater St. Albert Sports Academy alumnus. “I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for SAMHA. I've got a lot of appreciation for what they've done for me.”