Each year, the top 16-year-old players from across the world face off in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Eight teams, including three teams from Canada, battle for the gold medal in one of the premiere events on the international hockey schedule. This year, 66 players were selected by Hockey Canada to don the red and white and go for Under-17 gold in Medicine Hat, Alberta and Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
Charlottetown Islanders rookies Jacob Goobie and Oscar Plandowski were two of those players selected for international duty. For the duo from Halifax, the experience was special.
“It was awesome. You learn so much just playing with the top players from your age group,” said Goobie. “You get to see what kind of development they’ve been going through and learn how they play.”
“It was a great experience,” added Plandowski. “Any time you can throw on that Canada jersey it’s a huge honour. You’re playing against some of the top players in your age group from around the world. It’s such a cool experience to see the talent that’s out there and compare yourself to them.”
Goobie was placed on Team Canada Red while Plandowski played for Team Canada White. Regardless of the team they represented, the logo on the front remained the same. For both players, it was their first time pulling on the Hockey Canada uniform.
“It was such an honour,” said Goobie. “Everyone says it but it truly is. You hear it said all the time but when you throw that jersey on you get a certain feeling that’s indescribable.”
Plandowski shared a similar sentiment.
“Growing up watching the World Juniors and other Hockey Canada events, being able to wear that same jersey that some of the best players in the world have worn is a huge honour,” said Plandowksi. “It’s something that I don’t take for granted.”
The Hockey Canada locker rooms featured many names that household fans will soon come to learn; players such as Shane Wright, the most recent player granted Exceptional Status by the CHL, Matthew Savoie, and Saint John Sea Dogs forward Joshua Roy took centre stage in the tournament. Goobie said that watching these players, especially with the fanfare they’ve received, was a great learning tool.
“You can take away so much from how they hold themselves off the ice and on it. Their preparation, how they eat, everything like that. You learn so much just by watching how they hold themselves.” Goobie explained.
The 16-year-old netminder worked primarily with goaltending consultant Charlie McTavish in Swift Current. Goobie said that McTavish and head coach Martin Laperriere helped reinforce the importance of hard, yet simplified work.
“We had such high-intensity practices. [McTavish] said to just play how you know how to play and don’t overcomplicate things. You’ve played your style of game your entire life, you don’t want to change things too much. They just make tweaks here and there, things that will help you.”
Goobie had a stellar tournament, making two starts for Canada Red and finishing the tournament with the top goals against average (2.52) and second-best save percentage (.919). He added that performance gave him a confidence boost head back to Charlottetown.
“Playing with those guys, you learn so much that you can take back to your club team. I was fortunate enough to learn some things and implement them [in Charlottetown],” explained Goobie. “When you play against guys from across the country you see different styles of play.”
Plandowski, meanwhile, had a familiar face behind the bench with him as Halifax Mooseheads assistant coach Sylvain Favreau was the man in charge of Canada White. Favreau emphasized the importance of battling through adversity, instilling a motto that rung deep with Plandowski: “Love the Grind”.
“[Favreau] was great in stressing how we’re gonna go through some tough times, but as a team we have to get through it and enjoy that process.” said Plandowski
The process was kind to Plandowski; the 6’1 defender finished the tournament with 4 assists in 6 games, being a key cog in Favreau’s offense and quarterbacking Canada White’s top powerplay unit.
“I was fortunate enough to be put in some good situations with my team,” said Plandowski. “Being in those situations helped me enhance my offensive game. I found it helpful being leaned on to shoot the puck more; being a go-to guy on the powerplay and in key situations was helpful and a definite confidence boost. It’s something I can bring back here and build off of.”
The 2020 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge will be played next year in Charlottetown and Summerside, Prince Edward Island. Plandowski, who calls Charlottetown home during the hockey season, was able to see first-hand what it would be like to play in front a familiar crowd – one of his teammates in Medicine Hat was Cole Sillinger, a product of the Medicine Hat Tigers.
“Everytime he scored a goal the place erupted,” said Plandowski of the support for Sillinger “I was kind of jealous of Cole. If I could have been in his shoes, it would have been unbelievable to play [at the Eastlink Centre]. The crowd was right behind him and they really cheered him hard.”
“There was one point we were watching the game before ours and the announcer said ‘watch Cole Sillinger take on Team USA next’ and the place erupted while the other game was taking place. They really got behind him and really supported him. Whoever the lucky Islander is that hopefully makes the Under 17’s would be in a great situation.”
Living the experience from the player’s point of view, Goobie and Plandowski both are keen to see the tournament in Prince Edward Island.
“These are the top 16 year-olds from across the world,” said Goobie. “You’ll see these names come up in the big leagues in the future. You’ll be watching one day and be able to say ‘I remember watching him’. Some of the biggest names in hockey right now have come through this tournament. Sidney Crosby played in this tournament; you could be lucky enough to see someone like that.”
“As a player, you don’t really get to appreciate it right now, but in the future you’ll be able to say ‘I played those guys'” added Plandowksi. “There has been so many great players that have gone through this tournament. It’s an unbelievable experience, fans are going to love it.”
The 2020 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge takes place in Charlottetown and Summerside beginning October 31st, 2020. Stay tuned for more details on ticket packages.