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Voodoos’ Vrbetic earns U-17 Hockey Challenge berth

SUDBURY, Ont. – With Hockey Canada announcing Tuesday in 66-player roster selected to represent Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Nov. 3-10 in Saint John and Quispamsis, N.B., a member of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League was among those selected.

Earning a place on one of the three Canadian U-17 squads was Powassan Voodoos goaltender Joe Vrbetic.

Set to turn 16 in just over a week, the Dunvegan, Ont., product is the youngest everyday player in the NOJHL.

In his first seven starts in league play, Vrbetic boasts a 5-2 record along with a 2.83 goals-against average along with a .939 save percentage with the latter being the fourth-best mark among NOJHL netminders.

“I am very honoured to have been selected to represent Canada at the U-17 World Challenge in New Brunswick,” offered Vrbetic upon landing a roster spot.

“I am looking forward to playing with all the other players who have been selected and can’t wait to get things started.”

First-year Voodoos head coach Max Gavin gave his thoughts on his young goalkeeper earning this chance to represent his country on the international stage.

“We are all very proud of Joe for being selected to Team Canada,” stated Gavin.

“It is a special opportunity and we couldn’t think of a more deserving kid and are extremely happy for him and his family. The Voodoos would also like to thank the North Bay Battalion (Stan Butler/Adam Dennis/Scott Wray) for allowing us to be a part of not only Joe’s but all the Battalion prospects development.”

Vrbetic is one of four Canadian Junior Hockey League players that were chosen among the group of 66.

The other three are defenceman Ryan Helliwell (Langley Rivermen, BCHL) along with forwards Josh Barnes (Cornwall Colts, CCHL) and Cole Sheppard (Penticton Vees, BCHL).

“The NOJHL would like to congratulate Joe Vrbetic on his well-deserved spot to participate in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge,” said league commissioner Robert Mazzuca.

“His selection is yet another testament to the exposure the NOJHL continues to receive at multiple levels across the junior hockey ranks,” summarized Mazzuca.

ABOUT THE WORLD UNDER-17 HOCKEY CHALLENGE

The 66 players will be divided into three teams – Team Canada Black, Team Canada Red, and Team Canada White will compete against the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden and the United States in their quest for a gold medal.

In July, 112 players were invited to participate in Canada’s national under-17 development camp and introduced to the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence. The players chosen to represent Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge were selected by Brad McEwen (Whitewood, Sask.), head scout for Hockey Canada, with assistance from U17 POE management group lead Martin Mondou (Grand-Mère, Que./Shawinigan, QMJHL), as well as regional scouts Carl Bouchard (Quebec), Barclay Branch (Ontario), Barclay Parneta (West), Darren Sutherland (Atlantic), and Darrell Woodley (Ontario).

Photo credit: Chis Dawson