The Westside Warriors may have won three of the four games that Grayson Downing missed while the sniper was playing in the World Junior A Challenge, but you can bet they welcomed the third year player back with open arms this week.
Downing returned to the Warriors after hitting the ice with Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge in Penticton.
“We’re excited to have him back,” said Warriors coach Darren Yopyk. “I thought he played well. He had a good experience and gained some confidence. Anytime you can add a player of his calibre back into your lineup it helps your team.”
Following the World Junior A Challenge Downing was back in West Kelowna early in the week. He had Monday off from practise before stepping back into the regular routine.
Speaking just days after losing in a semi final game and then dropping the bronze medal game, the 18-year-old forward said his team’s final two losses still stung.
“Personally I’m really disappointed that we didn’t make the gold medal game and then losing the bronze medal game was more disappointing,” said Downing. “But there is nothing we can do about it. The best thing you can do is learn from it.”
Downing, who was named the Team Canada West’s player of the game during a 4-2 win over Russia in a preliminary round game, said the tournament gave him a shot of confidence in his game.
“I learned a lot about my game,” he said. “I was able to play against the top teams at a high skill level. I think if I can share my experiences with my teammates it can translate into having some more success in the second half of the season.”
A native of Abbotsford, Downing is in his third season with the Warriors. Despite missing the team’s past four games he is still the club’s second leading scorer with 26 points in 19 games. During the five World Junior A Challenge games, Downing had four points, tied for second on Team Canada West. Despite not being able to claim a medal, Downing said it was a great experience.
“It’s always a good experience when you are playing at that high level,” he said. “It opens your eyes about how good it is. I enjoyed it. We didn’t get the results we wanted but I know all the guys competed really hard.”
Pulling on the Team Canada jersey isn’t an experience that every hockey player gets during his career.
For Downing, who will head off to the University of New Hampshire next season, he said playing for Canada was amazing.
“It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to put on that jersey,” he said. “It’s something that you will never forget, whether you won or lost. It was a lot of fun being able to play for your country.”