Nick Merkley and Dillon Dube are one step closer to realizing a childhood dream.
The Kelowna Rockets teammates were among 32 players named today to Team Canada’s final selection camp, Dec. 10 to 14 in Blainville, Que., for the IIHF World Junior Championship.
Twenty-two players will make Hockey Canada’s final roster for the 2017 tournament, Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, in Montreal and Toronto.
Merkley, 19, who was a late cut from last year’s camp, has some extra motivation to crack Canada’s roster the second time around.
“It’s a big honour, I’m just excited to get there and get things going,” Merkley said. “I’m looking to do more than I did last year and hopefully I can make that team this time.
“I think the biggest thing for me is just focusing on the next game, not thinking too far ahead about making the team and just being in the moment.”
Dube, 18, who returned to the Rockets’ lineup Nov. 12 after suffering a knee injury in preseason, hopes to make the most of the opportunity.
“It’s an honor to get there,” Dube said. “It’s still a tryout so I think there’s still lots to be done and hopefully I’ll be able to prove myself in that short amount of time and I can get a chance to play.”
Kelowna product Tyson Jost was also among 19 forwards named to the selection camp roster.
The former Okanagan Rockets and Penticton Vees forward, who plays at the University of North Dakota, is a first-round NHL draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche.
Rockets @ Tri-City…
Coming off one of their best efforts of the season, the Rockets will look to carry that momentum stateside Wednesday night when they visit the Tri-City Americans.
Kelowna edged the No. 2 CHL-ranked Regina Pats in overtime on Saturday night at Prospera, a win assistant coach Kris Mallette said the Rockets must build on.
“They have to. They’ve now set the bar,” Mallette said. “We know we can play with one of the best teams in the country. Anything less than that now is not giving ourselves a chance.
“We know that Tri-City is a team that’s rolling pretty hot right now as well so we’ve got our work cut out for us but after last game we really have to make sure we’re ready to go.”
On Friday, the Rockets (14-11-0) will visit the Spokane Chiefs.
Kelowna’s next home action is Saturday against the Brandon Wheat Kings on Teddy Bear Toss night. Face-off at Prospera Place is 7:05 p.m.