CALGARY, Alta. – Fresh off a pair of Central Canada Hockey League championships, a pair of Fred Page Eastern titles and two consecutive appearances at the Canadian National Jr. A Championship, Martin Dagenais is looking forward to another challenge in leading Canada East behind the bench at the upcoming World Junior A Challenge this December in Dawson Creek, B.C.
The head coach and general manager of the Ottawa Jr. A Senators (CCHL) was recently named head coach of Canada East that will compete at the 2019 WJAC, Dec. 7-15.
This will mark his third coaching stint with Team Canada East, having previously served as an assistant at the 2016 and 2017 events, which included winning a silver medal back in 2017.
Taking some time out of his off-season schedule, Dagenais offered some of his views and insight on representing Canada on the international stage once again.
CJHL: Give us your thoughts on being named head coach of Canada East.
MARTIN DAGENAIS: It’s a great honour to be able to represent my country on the national stage. I’m a proud Canadian and I know how important hockey is here. It will be a superb experience for me, and I’m excited about it.
CJHL: Is there anything from your previous WJAC experiences that you feel will help as you prepare for the event?
MD: My first year as an assistant coach was in 2016. I was working under Jason Clarke which was kind of a unique situation. Most people in the CCHL see him as my nemesis because of the intense rivalry between our two teams, but at the end of the day, it was a great experience. I learned a lot from Jason and the other coaches and I thought our staff did a superb job preparing the team for the tournament. We surprised many people that year by winning a silver medal. The year after, under Patrice Bosch, we played our best game of the tournament in the quarters against Canada West and ended up losing in overtime, so we did not make it to the medal round. However, it was still a fun experience. For hockey coaches, events like that are great because we all learn from each other, and because of it, we’re all better coaches when we go back home and coach our respective teams.
CJHL: How will it be working again with coaches from within the CJHL as you as a staff prepare for the World Jr. A Challenge?
MD: I love the staff that we have assembled. I had the privilege to work with Corey Beer and Dan Sauve in the past, so I know there won’t be chemistry issues here. Both of them are young coaches with a bright future. As for Greg Leland, he’ll be the veteran guy on the staff. He’s a proven winner, and we feel his experience will be a huge asset for our group.
CJHL: What do you expect to see at the Canada East identification camp in Cornwall in
MD: Our director of hockey operations Mark Grady has been working on finding the right players for more than two months now and we know how much work he has put into this. A lot of good players deserve to be there, but we do understand that some good players will be left out. That being said, the first three months of the season will be very important for the players in consideration, but also for us as a staff. We will have to watch as many games as possible to make sure we select the 22 players that will give us a chance to win a medal.
CJHL: With having success the past few seasons with Ottawa, in winning league and Fred Page Cup titles the previous two years, as well as competing in the national Jr. A championship, how will you look to carry that over to WJAC success in Dawson Creek in December?
MD: I think players in the CJHL are now familiar with our program in Ottawa and that’s only a good thing. They know expectations will be high and that’s alright. We obviously want to do well, but at the same time, Canada East has never won a gold medal at this event, so we don’t feel any pressure. We know we’ll be coming in as underdogs and we love that. We have absolutely nothing to lose.
CJHL: What traits and skills do you look for in players as you evaluate them as a staff in helping formulate your rosters both with Canada East as well as with Ottawa as you head into the 2019-20 season.
MD: At this level, the players have to be able to skate. If they can’t keep up, they won’t make the team. The play is much faster than your normal regular season CJHL game and the players have to adjust to that. We definitely want to have size, but sometimes that’s out of our control. Above all, we need players that are accountable in all three zones. If you can’t defend, you can’t play. We want to play fast, but still be structured.
The 2019 World Junior A Challenge goes Dec. 7-15 at the Encana Events Centre in Dawson Creek, B.C.
This event represents a partnership between Hockey Canada, the CJHL, B.C. Hockey, NHL Central Scouting and the local host committee.
This international showcase will feature two Canadian teams – Team Canada East and Team Canada West – along with the Czech Republic, Russia and the United States.
For more information on the World Junior A Challenge, please visit HockeyCanada.ca/WJAC, or follow through social media on Facebook and Twitter.