Noel one of three locals on Team Atlantic

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Team Atlantic’s Nathan Noel fires a shot toward the Czech Republic net during exhibition play for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge at Centre 200 in Sydney, N.S. on Saturday night. Noel scored twice and set up two more as Canada won 5-2. The team, which includes defencemen Andrew Picco of Marystown and Adam Holwell of St. John’s, plays its first game today, 6:30 NL time, against Team Ontario.

Joined by Picco, Holwell

Nathan Noel is expected to be a key performer on Team Atlantic in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and the 16-year-old phenom from St. John’s showed he’s up to the task with a four-point night Saturday against the Czech Republic.

Noel had two goals and two assists against the Czechs in exhibition play Saturday night, in advance of the tournament’s opening games Sunday at the Centre 200 in Sydney, N.S.

Team Atlantic, which also features defencemen Adam Holwell of St. John’s and Andrew Picco of Marystown, plays its first game 6:30 p.m. NL time today against Ontario.

Noel made Team Atlantic as a 15-year-old last year, and was used sparingly at the tournament held in Drummondville, Que. But he started in Atlantic’s final game — an 8-2 loss to Finland, which placed Team Atlantic eighth overall — and earned his team’s player of the game award.

Noel was drafted third overall by the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s midget draft last June, and is fourth in team scoring with 11 goals and 13 assists in 35 games.

See ALL THREE, page C2

Like Noel, Holwell and Picco are also rookies in the QMJHL.

Holwell, was drafted in the third round, 44th overall by the Moncton Wildcats, in June and has appeared in 39 of the Wildcats’ 40 games, registering a goal and four assists. Picco, who like Noel attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school in Faribault, Minn., last season, toils for the Rimouski Oceanic, where he has three assists and is plus-nine in 17 games. Drafted in the fifth round, 90th overall in June, Picco missed two months of action due to a concussion.

The World Under-17 Hockey Challenge features 10 teams, divided into two groups. Group A will feature the Czech Republic, Pacific (Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and the Yukon), Quebec, Sweden and West (Manitoba, Nunavut and Saskatchewan), while Atlantic (New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island), Germany, Ontario, Russia and the United States will comprise Group B.

The under-17 program is the first step in Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence, joining the national men’s under-18 team, the national junior team and the national men’s team.

The gold-medal game in Sydney goes Jan. 4.

Organizations: Centre 200, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Wildcats Group B.The

Geographic location: Atlantic, Sydney, Newfoundland and Labrador Marystown Drummondville, Que Finland Faribault, Minn. Czech Republic Pacific Alberta British Columbia Northwest Territories Yukon Quebec Sweden Manitoba Nunavut Saskatchewan New Brunswick Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island Germany Ontario Russia United States

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