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Local OHL players prepare for IIHF World Junior Championship

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The IIHF World Junior Championship is just around the corner - an exciting time for hockey fans across Canada.

The tournament is set to kick off in Gothenburg, Sweden later this month and a number of local players have been chosen to defend their country’s national pride.

For Kitchener Rangers forward Carson Rehkopf, it has been a lifelong dream to play for the Canadian squad.

“One year I was in Toronto and I went to the gold medal game and I went to all those games,” said Rehkopf, who was named to Team Canada’s selection camp. “It was definitely a goal my whole life.”

The 18-year-old is currently the leading scorer within the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and was selected for Team Canada’s primary roster earlier this week.

“Coach called me in and let me know that I made the camp so that was pretty cool,” he recalled.

“It would definitely be a treat to be able to represent my country across Sweden and try to win gold.”

Returning to the tournament for the fourth straight year on an opposing team is Rehkopf’s close friend and roommate, Filip Mesar.

Mesar played for the Slovakian team that lost to Canada in last year’s semi-final matchup, but promised there won’t be any bad blood between the two Rangers teammates.

“On the ice it’s a business, but off the ice we’re going to talk,” said Mesar. “We’re really good friends. I’m super excited for him. Hopefully we can see each other there and we can play against each other.”

One Rangers teammate who won’t be making the trip overseas is defenceman Hunter Brzustewicz.

The Michigan native leads all OHL defencemen with 48 points in only 29 games. Though, when the United States’ preliminary roster was released, his name was left out.

“I love America. It was really sad that I didn’t get picked,” said Brzustewicz.

“Looking at my game compared to everyone else, I think that I definitely deserved a shot but that’s not what they think.”

Adding to Canada’s depth is Guelph Storm defenceman Michael Buchinger.

Now in his third OHL season, Buchinger hopes his two-way game will earn him a spot on the final roster.

“Team Canada is always a team that can push for a medal every single year and push for a gold. So I think [I need] to come in and show what I do best, try to separate myself from the other guys at camp,” he said.

Buchinger will see a familiar face behind the bench in Scott Walker. The Storm’s president of hockey operations was named assistant coach for Team Canada in October.

Brantford Bulldogs defenceman Jorian Donovan has also been named to Canada’s preliminary roster.

Team Canada’s selection camp opens Sunday in Oakville where five players will eventually be cut, and the 25-man roster will be finalized.

Puck drop for the first IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship game is on Boxing Day.

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