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Grizzlies’ rookies Newhook, Alexander to sport the Maple Leaf

MARIO ANNICCHIARICO / TIMES COLONIST
OCTOBER 17, 2017 10:31 PM

It was a rough weekend for the Victoria Grizzlies, who lost all three games on a lengthy road trip, but the team received some positive news on Tuesday as 16-year-olds Jacson Alexander and Alex Newhook were both named to represent Canada.

The two were among 66 players selected to play in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, slated for Nov. 5-11 in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John.

They will leave the club at month’s end to participate in the annual event in which Canada is divided into three teams — Black, Red and White — to compete against the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden and the U.S.

Included in the Canadian group is Victoria Royals second-round bantam draft pick Luke Reid, who currently plays with the Penticton Vees of the B.C. Hockey League.

Alexander and Newhook will be in the lineup tonight as the Grizzlies face the visiting Alberni Valley Bulldogs at 7 at The Q Centre.

“It’s great news. It’s exciting,” said Newhook, who has two goals and 13 assists in his first 13 games for the Grizzlies. “It’s going to be a great tournament and it’s going to be great to represent Canada.”

The Grizzlies’ pair were among 111 players who experienced a weeklong national under-17 development camp held by Hockey Canada. The group was then whittled down to the 66.

More than 1,600 NHL draft picks have competed in this event since 1986, when it was known as the Quebec Esso Cup, including 13 of the last 16 first-overall draft picks such as Ilya Kovalchuk, Rick Nash, Alexander Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nathan MacKinnon, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Newhook. “It’s a world championship so you’ll obviously have the best of the best there. It’s a great opportunity to show what I have and what Canada can bring to that big stage. It’s going to be fun.”

“I got the phone call this morning and it’s pretty cool,” said Alexander. “To play for your country, I’ve always wanted to do it growing up and it’s finally here — the first step.”

The goal for the two Grizzlies after this tournament would be the U-18 Ivan Hlinka tournament, in which Canada is represented by one team.

As for the Grizzlies, the team will attempt to rebound tonight after the three losses and a quick couple of days to prepare.

“It’s a good thing — we can get right back on the horse. Hopefully we can have some success,” said general manager and head coach Craig Didmon, who gave his troops the day off on Monday before they got back on the ice on Tuesday.

One area where Didmon wants to see improvement is special teams. The Grizzlies were 0-for-5 on the power play on Sunday and allowed a man-advantage goal in seven Surrey attempts.

The Grizzlies enter the game at 7-6-0-0 for 14 points, two better than the 5-5-1-1 Bulldogs, who have a game in hand. Victoria has scored nine more goals (41) than Alberni Valley, but also has surrendered seven more (44).

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