Saskatoon, SK – Three members of the Saskatoon Blades have been named to Canada’s National Team for the upcoming IIHF World U18 Championships. Forwards Chase Wouters and Kirby Dach along with goaltender Nolan Maier earned the call to don the maple leaf at the upcoming tournament taking place in both Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk, Russia.
All three players bring international experience with them after playing in the World U17 Championships. Wouters won a Silver with Team Canada Black at the World U17’s back in November of 2016. Kirby Dach and Nolan Maier played in the same tournament a year later in 2017.
Chase Wouters, who is eligible for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, recently finished his second full season in the WHL with the Blades. The 18-year-old Lloydminster native played in all 72 games posting 18 goals and 51 points to go along with a +7 rating and 39 penalty minutes. Wouters was also named an alternate captain for the Blades midway through the season and took over as the number one center after the departure of Cameron Hebig at the trade deadline.
“My first reaction was surprising,” explained Wouters following the announcement Thursday. “I got off the ice and had a ton of missed calls from my parents. I called them back and then got a call from Hockey Canada and it was good news!” added Wouters. “It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to play with the best players from across Canada and competing at the international level is a feeling like no other.”
Kirby Dach will look to prove his worth as one of seven underage players on the team. After making waves as an underage player in 19 games with the Saskatoon Blades, Dach jumped in to his rookie season with ease this year. Appearing in 52 contests, Dach racked up 46 points to finish 4th in the league rookie scoring race and 2nd in points-per-game at 0.88. The Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta product is one of four 2001 born forwards to crack the roster; Kootenay ICE’s Peyton Krebs is the only other ’01 forward from the WHL.
“I was surprised and very honoured to be able to represent my country again. It’s humbling to selected as one of the younger guys, but it’s a great opportunity for me to show my skill and be a part of a team that can hopefully bring home a gold medal,” said Dach. “Any time you put on the Canadian jersey you’re looking to win a gold medal so I’m excited for the opportunity. I’ve never been to Russia so I’m looking forward to the experience and meeting new people,” added the 17-year-old centre. “These tournaments fly by so I’m just looking forward to soaking it all in and learning as much as I can from the experience.”
The other rookie sensation from the Blades, goaltender Nolan Maier, is one of three goaltenders to get the call and the youngest goalie being the only one with a 2001 birth year.
Maier joined the Blades promptly after a strong showing at the World U17 tournament in November and never looked back. The 17-year-old netminder from Yorkton, Saskatchewan, backstopped the Blades to 23 wins tying Calvin Pickard for most wins by a 16-year-old goaltender in the WHL since 1999-00. In a span from December 6th – January 10th, Maier won 10 consecutive starts. He finished the season as the Blades Rookie of the Year and Team MVP with a stat line of .895SV%, 3.31GAA, 23-17-1-1, and 2 shutouts.
“At the start of the year getting a chance to represent my country was a huge goal of mine and I was able to accomplish that at U17’s. Being able wear the maple leaf for a second time is amazing,” said Maier. “I’m excited to get there and soak in as much information as I can from the coaching staff and be ready for whatever role I’m put into.”
The Blades are the only team in the CHL with three representatives on the U18 National Team; and the only team to have two 2001 born players attending. Blades General Manager Colin Priestner says it’s a testament to the bright future of the organization.
“This is a very proud day for our organization and for these three young men to get an opportunity to represent Canada on the world stage at the highest level,” said Priestner. “It really speaks to the exciting days ahead for our team and we’re thrilled to see the building blocks of our franchise earning the recognition they deserve.”
The team will begin to assemble in Etobicoke, Ont., next week before flying to Russia for two pre-tournament games leading up to the 2018 IIHF U18 World Championship beginning on April 19th. On April 10th, the team will depart for Russia to continue training camp and play two pre-tournament games in Chelyabinsk – April 15th versus Slovakia and April 16th against Finland. Canada will open the tournament on April 19th against the United States; looking to reclaim Gold for the first time since 2013.