Tips duo may play for Team Canada

A pair of Everett Silvertips were among the 15 Western Hockey League players selected Monday to attend Team Canada’s selection camp for the 2008 World Junior Hockey Championships.

Goaltender Leland Irving and center Zach Hamill will both be headed to Calgary, Alberta, on Dec. 10-14 to participate in the camp, from which Canada will choose its team for World Juniors, which take place Dec. 27-Jan. 5 in the Czech Republic. A total of 37 players were invited to compete for the 22 roster spots.

Both Irving and Hamill are considered strong contenders to make the team. Irving is one of the three returning members from last year’s gold medal-winning team, although as tournament MVP Carey Price’s backup he didn’t appear in a game. And both Irving and Hamill were members of the Canadian team that squared off against the Russians during the Canada-Russia Super Series in August and September, a team considered to be a precursor to Canada’s final World Juniors selection.

However, neither Irving nor Hamill is having a stellar season to this point. Irving, who was a fixture amongst the leaders in the WHL goaltending statistical categories the previous two seasons, currently ranks a pedestrian 17th in the league in goals against average (2.73) and 19th in save percentage (.904). Hamill, the reigning league scoring champion, is currently 26th in the league in scoring with 31 points in 29 games.

The dates of the selection camp mean Irving and Hamill will probably miss Everett’s final four games before the Christmas break. If they make Team Canada they’ll miss at least another seven, a number that would likely increase as players are usually given time off after the tournament,

Irving is one of four goaltenders competing for two spots. Hamill is one of 21 forwards competing for 13 spots. As 19-year-olds, this is Irving’s and Hamill’s final chance to appear at World Juniors.

The other WHL invitees were forwards Zach Boychuk (Lethbridge), Colton Gillies (Saskatoon), Riley Holzapfel (Moose Jaw), Brandon Sutter (Red Deer), Dana Tyrell (Prince George) and Ryan White (Calgary); defensemen Karl Alzner (Calgary), Keaton Ellerby (Moose Jaw), Thomas Hickey (Seattle), Logan Pyett (Regina), Lule Schenn (Kelowna) and Ty Wishart (Prince George); and goaltender Tyson Sexsmith (Vancouver).

Around the WHL: Lethbridge secured stability at the top as general manager Roy Stasiuk and head coach Michael Dyck had their contracts extended through the 2008-09 season. … Vancouver picked up another scoring star from the British Columbia Hockey League, signing 18-year-old center Garry Nunn away from the Merritt Centennials. The Giants signed center Casey Pierro-Zabotel away from the BCHL in November. … Prince George made a number of roster moves. The Cougars signed 16-year-old defenseman Matt Cumming away from the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers, traded 18-year-old defenseman Chris Vanduynhoven to Chilliwack for a fourth-round pick in the 2009 bantam draft and released 18-year-old center Matt Sokol. … Chilliwack made one other deal, sending 18-year-old defenseman Cam Stevens to Lethbridge for a seventh-round pick, the year of the pick being unspecified. … Medicine Hat was also busy, acquiring 18-year-old winger Travis Dunstall from Kamloops for 19-year-old center Scott Wasden and a seventh rounder in 2008, then sending 19-year-old defenseman Zach Sim to Prince Albert for a fifth rounder in 2008. … Chilliwack left wing Mark Santorelli was named the WHL Player of the Week. Santorelli had seven goals and two assists as the Bruins went 3-0.

League leaders: Points — Mark Santorelli (Chilliwack) 54; goals — Oscar Moller (Chilliwack), Drayson Bowman (Spokane) 25; assists — Santorelli 38; penalty minutes — Benn Olson (Seattle) 105; wins — Tyson Sexsmith (Vancouver) 19; goals against average — Dustin Tokarski (Spokane) 1.64; save percentage — Steven Stanford (Prince Albert) .926.

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