WHL PLAYERS CLAIM MEDALS OVER HOLIDAYS

Wed Jan 9

A handful of WHL players came home with medals after competing in international tournaments over the holidays.

Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks came home with a Gold medal from the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship after helping the United States to a 3-1 win over defending champion Sweden in the Gold medal game.

Jones, a product of Plano, Texas, finished the tournament with a goal and seven assists while posting a +8 rating for the U.S. entry.  Considered a contender to go first overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, Jones finished second among all defencemen in tournament scoring.  He also captained the American squad.

Forward Victor Rask of the Calgary Hitmen settled for a Silver medal this year for Sweden after coming home with Gold last year.  Rask, a Carolina Hurricanes prospect, netted two goals and four points in six games at the tournament.

Saskatoon Blades goaltender Andrey Makarov earned a Bronze medal at the World Junior Championship.  Makarov’s Team Russia, the tournament hosts, defeated Canada in overtime in the Bronze medal game, ending Canada’s run of 15 straight tournament earning a medal.

Forward Jonas Knutsen of the Prince Albert Raiders helped Norway win promotion to the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship by helping the team take first place in the Under-20 Division 1 Group A tournament in France in December.  Knutsen finished second on the team with four goals as Norway won all five of its round-robin games in the tournament.

At the Under-17 level, Team Pacific downed Team Ontario in the fifth-place game while Team West defeated Slovakia in the ninth-place game at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Quebec.

Swift Current Broncos’ defenceman Brycen Martin lead Team Pacific in scoring with nine points, including seven assists, while Calgary Hitmen forward Jake Virtanen boasted a team-leading five goals.  Conner Bleackley of the Red Deer Rebels scored the game-winning goal in Pacific’s 7-6 win over Ontario in the fifth-place game.

For Team West, Reid Gardiner of the Prince Albert Raiders finished second with two goals in the tournament while defenceman Jordan Thomson of the Kamloops Blazers posted a team-leading three assists.

International competition over the holidays also marked a busy time for WHL officials, with referees and linesmen from the WHL working both the World Junior Championship and the Under-17 tournament.

Veteran WHL referee Pat Smith had the privilege of working the Gold medal game at the World Junior Championship in Russia, while WHL referee Mike Campbell and linesman Mike Langin worked the Gold medal game of the Under-17 tournament.