Picked for Team Pacific
It was a call to the coach’s office Riley Stadel didn’t mind receiving.
The 16 year-old defenceman for the Kelowna Rockets was summoned Thursday morning, just before the Western Hockey League team was boarding a bus for Kennewick, Washington for a two-game series with the Tri-Cities Americans.
Stadel, a Cloverdale native, was informed he had been selected to play for Team Pacific at the World Junior Under-17 Hockey Challenge Dec. 29 to Jan. 4 in Drummondville and Victoriaville, Quebec.
“They (coaching staff) called me into the office and showed me the (Team Pacific) roster,” said Stadel Sunday afternoon from Kelowna, just hours after returning from Kennewick.
“I was not expecting it. But I’ve worked hard and played well this season, so it wasn’t a total surprise.”
Stadel was short listed following a join BC Hockey/Hockey Alberta camp July 25-29 in Kamloops. Stadel was one of 24 defencemen among the 68 players from the two provinces at the camp, which gave Team Pacific coaches a chance to look at prospects for the team. Players continued to be evaluated for the first two months of the current season, with the final team announced last Thursday.
The tournament features five regional teams from Canada – Pacific (B.C. and Alberta), West (Saskatchewan and Manitoba), Ontario, Quebec at Atlantic (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador) – as well as the national under-17 teams of Russia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden and the United States.
Anxious to wear a Hockey Canada uniform for the tournament, Stadel was still waiting to hear what his role will be in Quebec at the end of next month.
“It was hard to talk to the (Team Pacific) coaches because I was in the United States all weekend,” he said. “But I will talk to them a little more in the next couple of days.”
Stadel is in his first season with the Rockets, having played his first two games at the Major Junior level with Kelowna at the end of last year. The only 16-year-old among the nine blueliners on the Rockets roster, he has played in 17 of 22 games this season, scoring once and assisting on six others.
“It’s been pretty good this year,” he said. “I’ve been doing pretty well lately. I thought I’ve played well, been pretty solid defensively.”
Stadel is in his second season in the Okanagan, moving to Penticton prior to the start of last year to join the Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA) following his final season at the Bantam level with the Cloverdale Minor Hockey Association.
“They (OHA) called and asked if I wanted to come,” he said. “My parents and I saw what they had to offer, and I thought I would develop better there than I would in the (B.C. Hockey) Major Midget League.”
Playing one season of Midget hockey at OHA helped him decide to join the Rockets, and playing two games at the end of last season was “huge” in helping him make the jump.
“The speed in The Dub (WHL) is a lot faster than Midget,” he said. “And the players are so much bigger. Those two games gave me a chance to see what I should expect for this season.”
He’s not sure what to expect in Quebec next month, but he knows what the goal will be.
“I don’t know what my own role will be,” he said. “But like any team, we’re going there to win.”