Canada, ranked 14th in the world junior rankings, faced elite-level, top-ranked competition at the FIH Men’s Hockey Junior World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Placed in a challenging pool with India (#3), Spain (#6), and Korea (#11), Canada entered the tournament as underdogs. Despite limited training time together due to players representing four provinces—BC, Alberta, Quebec, and Ontario—the team showcased impressive chemistry, building off their silver-medal performance at the 2023 Junior Pan American Championships.
Under the leadership of Head Coach Geoff Matthews and his staff, the Canadians tackled the event as a joint performance and learning experience as well as an opportunity to prove themselves each day on the field against the best in the world. Despite finishing winless, Canada’s performance improved as the tournament went along. In pool play, the Young Bucks held Korea to a tight 4-1 victory, displaying a threatening presence. In consolation, Canada played a 1-1 draw against Egypt, followed by a shootout loss, and a competitive match against Pan Am rival Chile highlighted their resilience. Matthews said the event offered an experience unlike any other in international junior hockey, and Canada intended to make the most of it.
“Participating in a tough Junior World Cup tournament is a priceless experience for a young team, offering a platform for growth, skill development, and team building. The opportunity to play against teams ranked 3, 5 & 6 in the world is something we crave,” Matthews said. “The results did not go our way but the lessons learned and challenges faced become building blocks for the team’s future success, laying the groundwork for a competitive and resilient unit as players progress in their careers.”
The coaching staff emphasized the invaluable experience gained by facing top 10 teams, foreseeing growth for the Canadian men’s junior program. With the Junior Pan American Championships hosted in Surrey, BC, Canada looks ahead, benefitting from a 15-player core returning. The team aims to leverage the experience and chemistry gained from the 2023 Pan American Championships and the Junior World Cup for a strong performance in the World Cup qualifier in Surrey in July 2024.
The Junior Men’s National Team battles at the Junior World Cup in Malaysia. Photos/FIH World Sport Pics.
The continuity of international play between Pan Ams and the Junior World Cup positions Canada uniquely for success at the junior level. According to Matthews, the team will take the learnings from the Junior World Cup and apply them in preparation for the upcoming qualifier and subsequent Junior World Cup.
“We showed a real willingness to learn from the experience. As a team, our main objective was to be competitive and stick to our style of play throughout the tournament. The team showed a lot of character and grit to pick themselves up and take the game to the opposition,” Matthews said. “We will continue to build on the positive aspects of our play and by addressing areas of improvement, the team can position itself for a more successful showing in June. We would like to improve on our silver medal in 2023 and having 15 of the 18 players from the Junior World Cup eligible for our next tournament is a huge positive for us.
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