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Shortened camp puts pressure on Canadian team ahead of world juniors

Time is suddenly tight for the Canadian junior men’s hockey team.

What seemed a luxurious amount of preparation and evaluation at the start of a planned 26-day selection camp is now whittled down to a couple of intrasquad games for 41 players in Red Deer, Alta.

A two-week, mid-camp quarantine after two players tested positive for the COVID-19 virus cut a sizable chunk out of the process.

Exhibition games versus university players, which would have told head coach Andre Tourigny a lot about who belongs on Canada’s 25-player roster, did not happen.

The host country still needs to shed 16 players and select a team for the world junior hockey championship, which run from Dec. 25 to Jan. 5 in Edmonton. Canada and nine other countries are programmed to enter Edmonton’s “bubble” on Sunday.

Canadian hopefuls, back on the ice Tuesday after 14 days isolating in hotel rooms, get intrasquad matches Wednesday and Thursday to lock down their membership on the 2021 junior team.

“We lost two weeks in quarantine, but I feel like everyone’s in the same boat right now and we all have only two games to show ourselves,” said forward Hendrix Lapierre from Chicoutimi, Que.

Complicating the selection process is the lack of scouting data available from the players’ respective major junior leagues.

The Western and Ontario hockey leagues won’t start their seasons until 2021. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has endured several interruptions because of the pandemic.

Hockey Canada released five players before Tuesday’s resumption for health, not hockey, reasons. The organization stopped short of saying COVID-19 was the reason because of privacy considerations.

Canada is planned to face Sweden and Russia in pre-tournament games Dec. 21 and Dec. 23 respectively, before opening the tournament Christmas Day against Germany.

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