Pride is what Mike Reilly will feel when he slips the American jersey over his head.
The Penticton Vees rookie, along with teammate Mario Lucia, have been chosen to play for three-time defending champion Team USA during the 2011 World Junior A Challenge in Langley, Nov. 7 to 13.
“It’s going to be fun to put on the jersey for the first time,” said Reilly, who was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets, 54th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. “I’m really looking forward to an event like this.”
Reilly has had impressive start to his junior A career with nine goals and 18 points in 13 games. The Chanhassen, Minn., native leads BCHL defenceman in scoring. He said his selection is a result of hard work.
Reilly has dreamed of making the U.S. Olympic team and said playing in the WJAC will be a really good experience for him.
Reilly looks forward to facing Canada and potentially against some of his teammates Troy Stecher, Travis St. Denis and Curtis Loik, who will attend the Canada West evaluation camp.
“I realize that I could be playing against a few,” said Reilly, who has embarrassed goalies with his bullet slapshot. “I guess I can’t take it easy on them or else I won’t be contributing to the team. It’s going to be a fun battle. I know some of the things they like to do so I’m ready to use it to my advantage.”
Representing the U.S. was a goal for Lucia, who knew if he continued to play like he has he would stand a good chance of making the team.
“I was excited but I can’t think about it too much,” said Lucia, a Minnesota Wild draft pick, who has 10 goals and 26 points in 13 games. “We still have four games left with Penticton and we want to win all those. Hopefully they will continue their success without me, Mikey and the rest of the Canadian guys that are leaving.”
It won’t be the first time for Lucia to represent his country. He did so with an under-18 team that played Sweden, Finland and Switzerland playing on a larger ice surface.
“There is nothing better than putting on your countries sweater and playing for your country,” said Lucia. “Especially when playing in Canada. You’re the rival and the fans aren’t going to be behind you. That just makes it that much more fun.”
Lucia looks forward to helping the Americans attempt a four-peat of the WJAC.
“Mario and Mike are exceptional hockey players, who have been recognized for their hard work and dedication to their game,” said Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson. “Both have had great starts for us and I’m certain they will translate that success to their national team. I know they will represent USA Hockey and the Penticton Vees Hockey Club proudly.”
Mario and Mike become the 12th and 13th players from the Penticton Vees to play in the WJAC since its inception in 2006.