Defenceman Darby Gula and forward Will Koop have received invitations to participate in the Team Canada West Selection Camp in Calgary for the upcoming World Junior A Challenge.
Gula and Koop both made Team Canada West last season, and say it is an honour to be invited once again.
“It’s great to be invited back and have the opportunity to compete against some of the best talent from Junior A hockey in Western Canada,” Koop said.
“Gaining experience from playing on the team last year makes me even more motivated because I’ve seen how much fun it is to play in the tournament,” Gula added.
Gula has been the driving force for the Pistons’ defence group, leading all MJHL defencemen in points with 28 in 23 games. Koop, a Winnipeg native, is enjoying another solid season with 27 points thus far. At the World Junior A Challenge tournament a year ago, Koop had registered one goal, while Gula registered an assist.
Koop believes the key to success at the tournament is to compete on every shift. “Keep competing at the highest level you can and staying positive (while doing so),” he said. “It’s such a short tournament, so you really just have to make the most of it.”
Pistons’ Head Coach Paul Dyck know a little something about this tournament, because he was an assistant coach with Team Canada West at the 2015 World Junior A Challenge. “It is important to bring a selfless team first attitude and to be adaptable,” Dyck said.. “The roster is filled with top players from Western Canada, so you may be asked to play a role that you are not accustomed to playing. You need to be prepared each day as every game is so critical.”
“You have to buy into your role,” Gula said. “Each player on the team was picked to play a certain way and bring certain assets to the team. You have to be confident in the way you play and do it at 100% effort all the time.”
Dyck has been impressed with both of Gula and Koop’s play this season. “Darby has played with so much more confidence this season, and is seeing the ice very well,” he said of his 3rd year defenceman. “Will has improved his consistency and his experience last year really opened his eyes to what it takes to get to the next level.
Both players complimented the other when asked about what they could potentially bring to Team Canada West. “Koop’s been a work horse for us,” Gula said of his teammate. “His work ethic in the corners is what frees up pucks and allows him to set up linemates. If I was a forward, he’s the type of player I would want on my line.”
“Darbs is having a great season so far; he’s taken his game to another level,” Koop replied. “He can bring a lot of maturity to the back end and add depth to the defence core.”
Gula and Koop will be two of seven players from the MJHL attending the selection camp this year. They join Chase Brakel and James McIsaac of the Portage Terriers, Matt Osadick of the Swan Valley Stampeders, Justin Lee of the Virden Oil Capitals, and Riese Gaber of the Dauphin Kings.
The camp takes place from December 2-5, with the World Junior A Challenge being held in Truro, Nova Scotia from December 10-16.