ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — Goalie Michael DiPietro gave some parting advice to the Canadian junior national team after learning he’d been cut: go win it all.
A visibly upset DiPietro spoke to media on Friday minutes after learning he was one of five players being released from Canada’s junior selection camp as Hockey Canada finalized its 22-man roster for the upcoming world championship.
“Not something you expect coming into camp but I respect their decision,” said DiPietro, a Vancouver Canucks prospect, with tears in his eyes. “I wish them all the best. I told them they’re going to win gold. They don’t look good with silver around their necks anyway.”
Forwards Tanner Kaspick and Nick Suzuki were also released, as were defencemen Josh Mahura and Mario Ferraro.
DiPietro was a favourite to make the team entering camp after winning the Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires last season. He has a 2.67 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage through 26 games this season.
Carter Hart (Everett) is the presumptive starting goaltender after helping Canada’s junior team to a silver medal last year. Colton Point (Colgate University) will be the other goalie.
DiPietro, who is 18, will be eligible again next year and hopes to learn from the disappointment of being cut.
“This is something I’m not really used to,” said DiPietro in the lobby of the team’s hotel. “I’ll definitely learn from it and hopefully use it as motivation next year.”
Head coach Dominique Ducharme says that cutting players — especially the final five cuts — is the hardest part of his job.
“Always difficult. Always difficult,” said Ducharme. “But it’s part of the job and we’re going to build the best possible team.”
Hart is one of seven players returning from last year’s team. He’s joined by defencemen Jake Bean (Calgary), Kale Clague (Brandon) and Dante Fabbro (Boston University) and forwards Dillon Dube (Kelowna), Michael McLeod (Mississauga) and Taylor Raddysh (Erie).
Defenceman Victor Mete, who was loaned to Hockey Canada for the world juniors by the Montreal Canadiens on Monday, joins Bean, Clague and Fabbro on the blue line. Cal Foote (Kelowna), Cale Makar (University of Massachusetts) and Conor Timmins (Sault Ste. Marie) round out the defence.
Also making the team at forward are OHL-leading scorer Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia), last year’s WHL player of the year Sam Steel (Regina), Tyler Steenbergen (Swift Current), Alex Formenton (London), Jonah Gadjovich (Owen Sound; also a Canucks prospect), Brett Howden (Moose Jaw), Boris Katchouk (Sault Ste. Marie), Robert Thomas (London), Drake Batherson (Cape Breton) and Maxime Comtois (Victoriaville).
Canada will play exhibition games against Czech Republic on Wednesday in London, Ont., and Switzerland on Dec. 22 in Hamilton.
The Canadians’ final roster must be submitted to the International Ice Hockey Federation by Dec. 25. Their first game is in Buffalo, N.Y., on Dec. 26.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press