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Local players representing Canada in U16 ball hockey championship

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In less than two weeks, 11 local players will dawn the maple leaf and represent Canada at the 2024 International Street and Ball Hockey Federation U16 World Championship in Žilina, Slovakia.

Team Canada selected seven players from last year’s U15 national ball hockey champion Guelph Cyclones, and four players from the national finalist KW Rangers.

“I was ecstatic,” Cyclones defenceman Rowan Reynard told CTV News. “I just couldn’t believe I made the team.”

Each local athlete plays AA and AAA ice hockey during the winter and turns to ball hockey during the offseason.

“It’s just fun for the guys because they get to deke around and fool around a little bit,” said goaltender Brock Schaus.

For many it will be their first trip to Europe and a chance to reconnect with current and former teammates. Reynard and Schaus go back a number of years after playing together on the same ice hockey team.

“They all go their separate ways in the winter and play ice hockey for their respective teams and then they come back to play ball hockey,” said KW Minor Ball Hockey president Dave Leitch. “Together we’ve created a pretty tight group.”

The team departs for Slovakia on June 29th with the tournament kicking off on July 4th. Each squad will open with round robin play with hopes of advancing to the knockout rounds.

When it comes to expectations, the players only have their sights set on the ultimate prize.

“Gold medal or bust,” forward Brody Straus told CTV News. “That’s the plan going into it. Gold or go home.”

Wearing the maple leaf isn’t being taken for granted. Dave Leitch calls playing on the world stage an unforgettable experience, saying “they’re going to be a little bit surprised when they hear their national anthem for the first time.”

Leitch’s son Matthew is another Team Canada selection after helping the KW Rangers to the U15 nationals final. He says the team is bent on defending Canada’s national pride, while forming bonds that will last a lifetime.

“We’re going to be lifeline friends with everyone and we’ll never forget this,” Leitch said. “It’s going to be awesome.”

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