Hodge more than ready for a Challenge

John
John Browne
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Kris Hodge says it's "huge" for him to wear a Canadian jersey while representing Team Atlantic at the 2012 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge which opens Thursday in Windsor, Ont.

"There were only three guys out of Newfoundland who were picked for the team, so it's really special for me to go (to the tournament) Christmas time. It's going to be really big," said Hodge.

The 16-year-old from Conception Bay South, who competes for Notre Dame Argos of Wilcox, Sask., will join forwards Cody Donaghey of St. John's (St. John's Maple Leafs of the provincial major midget league) and Jordan Kennedy of Corner Brook (Montreal's Harrington College).

"It was a bit of a surprise at the moment I found out," said Hodge, "but I sort of anticipated it, and I was hoping for it, for sure."

Hodge played with Kennedy at the 2010 Canada Winter Games and against Donaghey coming up through the Newfoundland and Labrador minor system.

"It's a benefit to have guys on the team who you know," said Hodge, who noted there isn't much time to grow team chemistry before the tournament opens.

"It's not going to be that tough because we were together at a tryout camp in the summer, so we do know each other," said Hodge. "But it's only a short time to get ready so the lines will have to click early.

"Everything is going to have to fall into place pretty fast."

Hodge says he expects Team Atlantic to be a well-balanced squad.

The six-foot, 184 pound forward doesn't expect the European teams to be as physical as the North American teams, but he anticipates they will be very skilled and fast.

Hodge, an honours student, is well ahead of his scoring pace from last year when he put up 28 points, including 10 goals.

He already has nine goals with 19 assists in 25 games this season. Hodge was selected 28th overall by the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's June draft, while Kennedy was taken 67th overall by the Gatineau Olympiques.

While Hodge noted his team is in the middle of the pack in the Saskatchewan AAA Midget Hockey League standings, "We've been playing well lately."

His coach Del Pedrick is certainly pleased with his work.

Pedrick said Hodge is a player the Argos can rely on in all situations during a game.

"He can be an energy player who produces offensive scoring chances through hard work, finishing his checks and driving the net. He has a good shot with a quick release when he uses it," said Pedrick.

Pedrick pointed out that Hodge plays in every situation - even strength, penalty kill and power play.

"Kris is a good team player with the ability to buy into a variety of roles on our team," said Pedrick. "We use him as both a winger and centre and his best on-ice characteristic is his ability to be tenacious on the puck or with the puck.

"He can bring energy to our team by owning the puck down low on the cycle and he's good at creating loose pucks off the forecheck."

And, in addition to being an obvious asset on the ice, the Argos coach said Hodge is, "a good team guy with a great sense of humour with the ability to pull our team closer together."

Hodge is home for Christmas, but he leaves to join Team Atlantic in Windsor Boxing Day. The team will hold a couple of practices before taking on Team U.S.A. in an exhibition match on Dec. 28

The 2012 competition features 10 teams including Atlantic, Ontario, Pacific, Quebec and West from Canada, along with the Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Harrington College, Team Atlantic, Maple Leafs North American Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Saskatchewan AAA Midget Hockey League

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's, Canada Windsor Notre Dame Sask. Corner Brook Montreal Ontario Pacific Quebec Czech Republic Germany Russia Sweden United States

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