CORNWALL, Ont. – As Team Canada East gears up to commence play Sunday afternoon at the World Junior A Challenge in Cornwall, the players will learn that they are in good stead with their coaching staff, led by head coach Billy McGuigan.
The veteran bench boss of the Maritime Hockey League’s (MHL) Summerside Western Capitals, who along with team director of operations Chris Vanstone (OJHL) as well as assistant coaches Mark Jooris (Burlington Cougars/OJHL), Kyle Markaric (Ottawa Jr. Senators/CCHL) and Derek Smith (Wellington Dukes/OJHL), chose the 22 players that will compete as Canada East in the WJAC, following a three-day selection camp, held earlier this week.
An alumnus of the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL), as part of his playing days in junior, McGuigan is now in his 14th season behind the bench in the MHL, and ninth in his hometown of Summerside.
With the respective seasons among each of the nine leagues that make up the CJHL still currently underway, the Canada East skipper knew there was precious time to make decisions in formulating the roster that will take part in the WJAC, which runs December 11-18 in the eastern Ontario community of Cornwall.
“Despite a very short window, the selection camp was very competitive,” offered McGuigan. “I believe all the players that took part represented themselves very well,” he added.
“With such a short camp and a very competitive group, it made our decisions extremely difficult.”
Guiding his Western Capitals to a MHL championship last season and an eventual playoff berth at the 2022 Centennial Cup in Estevan, Sask., McGuigan knows a thing or two on what it takes to win.
The affable, yet driven, coach feels his any potential achievements his club may attain over the next eight days will need to be provided by everyone involved with the squad.
“We believe any success that we might have will need to come as a whole and have the team show a willingness to compete at a high level.”
Named the 2019-20 recipient of the Darcy Haugan/Mark Cross Memorial Award, emblematic of CJHL Coach of the Year, presented in conjunction with the National Hockey League Coaches’ Association, McGuigan and his staff maintain certain expectations heading into the international event that also features Canada West, the United States, Sweden and Latvia.
“Our goal here is like everyone else with Canada East, and that’s to put on the Canadian jersey and be the best that we can be.”
A two-time champion and top coach recipient in the MHL while having led the Western Capitals to a pair of national Jr. A championship appearances in his coaching career, including a silver medal finish in 2013, McGuigan relishes these opportunities, such as being associated with the World Junior A Challenge.
“It’s a great honour to represent Canada and the CJHL, for not only myself, but for our players and entire staff as well.”
McGuigan and Canada East open up the 2022 World Junior A Challenge Sunday at 1 p.m., in Cornwall, as they take on Latvia.
To follow the WJAC, click on the WORLD JR. A CHALLENGE website link.
With files from Jacob Wolfenden, Coordinator, Communications (Hockey Canada)
Photo credit: Summerside Western Capitals / MHL