Gennaro shoots to score for Team Pacific
St. Albert product and Prince Albert Raiders' centreman to play at World U17 Hockey Challenge
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Dec 21, 2013 06:00 am
Matteo Gennaro will make his debut on the international stage with Team Pacific at the World U17 Hockey Challenge.
The Dec. 29 to Jan. 4 tournament in Cape Breton, N.S. will feature five Canadian regional teams and the Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Sweden and United States.
ďItís a great honour. Itís an international tournament, which is pretty special. Iím super excited and really looking forward to having the opportunity to represent my country,Ē said Gennaro, a 16-year-old centreman from St. Albert. ďItís great hockey and lots of it and itís just what Iíve been looking forward to.Ē
Team Pacific was high on his bucket list.
ďItís always been on my mind,Ē said the Prince Albert Raider in the Western Hockey League. ďThe first goal is to try and make the WHL at 16 and once that happens you just kind of narrow it down and when you have an opportunity to make Team Pacific thatís something you look forward to. Itís another step.Ē
Team Pacific is comprised of 22 WHL players from Alberta and British Columbia.
ďIt says a lot about being selected to a team that elite,Ē Gennaro said. ďThere is more B.C. kids (13) than Alberta kids but Iím pretty familiar with them all.Ē
Team Pacific will compete in group A with Team West, Team Quebec, Sweden and Czech Republic.
Group B includes, Team Ontario, Team Atlantic, Russia, Germany and the United States.
Team Pacific has an exhibition on tap against Russia next Saturday before its first preliminary round contest against Team Quebec the next day.
Visit www.hockeycanada.ca for schedules and results.
This will be the last year the tournament will have five Canadian teams. Next year Canada will be represented by three national teams.
Team Pacific is coming off a fifth-place showing last year.
ďI want to win gold for sure. Thatís what we established as a team. We said weíre going to the tournament to win gold and itís our goal. It would be cool to do that at an international tournament,Ē said Gennaro.
The former bantam AAA Sabre and midget AAA Raider will hook up with Team Pacific after scoring five goals and adding eight assists, while going minus-four with 10 penalty minutes in 32 games in his WHL rookie season with the Raiders.
ďItís been a really good experience. Iím learning a lot. Itís a new league and itís more elite and itís only going to make me better.Ē
Gennaro is gradually earning his ice time with the Raiders, ranked fourth in the eastern conference at 17-16-2.
ďAs a young guy you donít have as much opportunity as the older guys but itís been good so far and I think Iíve been doing pretty good for the opportunity Iíve got,Ē he said. ďI havenít seen too much special teams stuff. Iíve been the third line centre for a little while now. Iíve worked my way up from the fourth line. Iím just ready whenever there is an opportunity when they need me and just try and create energy and offence out there.Ē
Itís been a work in progress for Gennaro after recording nine goals and 12 assists in 30 games as a first-year midget with the Raiders last season.
ďItís a lot faster at this level and the guys are a lot bigger and a lot stronger. Itís really common to have tons of guys on a team that are like six-three, six-four and 220 pounds. Itís a bigger, more mature league so that aspect of the game has been the part that's been tough to keep me at that level,Ē said the six-foot-two, 179-pound skater.
Among the season highlights for Gennaro was his first WHL goal.
ďI remember it pretty vividly. It was against Saskatoon and itís one that I wonít forget for sure,Ē said the Grade 11 student. ďI got the puck, it got chipped off the wall, and it was a one on one. I just poked it past the defenceman and I was kind of on a breakaway. I ended up shooting it and the goalie made the save and I just tapped in the rebound.
ďIt was pretty cool.Ē