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University all-stars ready to challenge Canada juniors in exhibition games

TORONTO — Kevin Bailie wants to give Canada's world junior team an experience they won't soon forget.

Bailie is one of three goaltenders on a team of university all-stars that will be playing Canada's selection camp roster in a pair of exhibition games this weekend to help Hockey Canada makes its final cuts ahead of the world junior hockey championship.

The Queen's University arts student sees the scrimmages not just as a tool for Hockey Canada to narrow down its final roster, but also to toughen up its young players mentally before the international tournament in Helsinki, Finland, begins Dec. 26.

"I know at the tournament typically they have maybe two or three games that are routs that they run away with and they can form some bad habits," said Bailie in a phone interview with The Canadian Press. "Hopefully right off the bat we can give them a good game that puts them in a pressure situation or a close scenario and hopefully, long term, down the road, they can fall back on that."

Bailie, a former Canadian Interuniversity Sport rookie of the year who played five Ontario Hockey League seasons with the Oshawa Generals and London Knights, leads all varsity players nationwide in goals against average (1.79) and save percentage (.946) in nine conference games with the Queen's Gaels.

He's one of 20 former Canadian Hockey League players on the CIS team coached by Shawn Camp, who is regularly behind the bench for the University of Guelph Gryphons.

"We definitely want to beat the world junior team. We really want to be as competitive as possible," said Camp. "The reason for that is in our partnership with Hockey Canada, the more competitive that we can be the more meaningful their evaluation will be in selecting their team.

"We want to make sure that we give them a real good test so that their evaluations are very meaningful for them."

Mitch Marner, a prospect for the Toronto Maple Leafs, co-captain of the OHL's London Knights and one of the key players on Canada's junior team, knows that the CIS all-stars should not be underestimated.

"Should be a skilled team," said Marner on Friday morning after Canada's practice. "It's CIS all-stars so a lot of these people have played in the CHL and have had a great career. It should be a lot of good hockey players this weekend, good competition."

Both Bailie and Camp see the exhibitions on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon as an opportunity to promote their own league, which they feel is underestimated.

"We feel that we have a very strong brand," said Camp. "Most of our players played in the CHL before coming to school as student-athletes and most of them have taken advantage of the terrific school packages that are provided by major junior hockey."

Bailie is also excited to contribute to a team he always wanted to be a part of.

"You always dream about playing on the team we're about to play against," said Bailie. "I think as a Canadian hockey player it's something that you always wanted to do, so being involved in any facet of this team is cool. (...) Hopefully we help them out, hopefully we give them some good games and get them prepared.

"Soon as this weekend's over I get to go back to being a fan and cheering them on."


Follow @jchidleyhill on Twitter

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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