Schneider excited to play for Canada at home

Photo Courtesy of Tim Smith/Brandon Sun Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman and Prince Albert native Braden Schneider battles for a loose puck against Moose Jaw Warriors forward Brett Howden during a Western Hockey League game last season.

The waiting game to find out if you made a team can be tough for any athlete.

It can be even tougher if the roster you are trying to crack is one for your national team.

However, for Prince Albert native Braden Schneider, he was able to stay calm Wednesday afternoon before finding out that he would play for Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

“I just took things as they went and was prepared for anything,” Schneider said following a practice in Red Deer Friday.

“I had asked a couple of guys who had been through the process about what things were like and I was ready for any possibility.”

Schneider, who had 22 points in 66 games during his rookie campaign in the Western Hockey League for the Brandon Wheat Kings last season, was able to impress Hockey Canada’s brass during a selection camp in Calgary this week to earn a spot on the team.

“It was a really intense camp,” Schneider said. “Everyone is trying to make the team and is playing their roles in the scrimmages, which made things a lot of fun.

“When I talked with the coaching staff, they said that my defensive zone play was what they liked from me, along with how intense I was in my own end of the ice.”

Schneider is one of 11 players from the WHL that made the team, which opens up their tournament schedule Monday against Switzerland in Edmonton.

“We’ve been focusing on our identity as a group before our tune-up game here in Red Deer against the Czech Republic Saturday,” Schneider said. “The practices have been getting more intense and it’s been going well so far.

“We have a lot of speed and a lot of depth on our team, so I think we can match up well with anyone here. With the defence, there’s a lot of big guys that can move the puck well and make some pretty hard hits, so I think we have a strong group there.”

Canada has been the team to beat at the event, which was previously known as the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, since it started in 1991.

They have won 21 titles, with their most recent coming last August with a 4-1 win over the host Czech Republic.

This year also marks the first time that the tournament has been held in Canada since 1996.

“It’s going to be a really cool experience to try and defend that title at home for the first time,” Schneider said. “I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a lot of family and friends from back home that will be coming out to watch.”

This marks the second time that Schneider has played at an international tournament, as he had two points in six games for Canada White at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge last year.

Following their matchup with Switzerland Monday, Canada will face Slovakia Tuesday before wrapping up their round-robin slate Wednesday against Sweden.

The top two teams in each pool will go to the semifinal round Friday with the gold medal matchup taking place Saturday.

All of Canada’s games will take place in Edmonton and will be broadcast nationally on TSN.