Cain Franson of Sicamous is hoping for a repeat performance in his second season on the USports All-Star team as they gear up for their annual series of games against the Canadian National Junior team.
Franson, a fifth-year University of Calgary student, called playing in the 2017 series against the Canadian junior squad in Niagara Falls a surreal experience.
Victory with the Canadian hockey community watching helped create the surreal feeling as the USports side won both of their games against the juniors.
The 2018 series against the Canadian Junior side will be a three-game event held at the Q Centre, the home of the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies.
Games between the cream of the USports league and the younger players vying for a spot on the World Junior squad will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 12 and 13 and 2 p.m. Dec. 14.
Franson said that, as with last year’s series, there will be little time for the players from various university teams to gel into a cohesive squad before taking on the national team prospects.
In 2017, Franson said the coaching staff of the USports team wasted no time getting the team together the first night they arrived in Niagara Falls for a team dinner and game film session followed by an on-ice practice to start working out the kinks immediately. He said he expects a similar routine this year.
He said an effort is made not to over-complicate things due to the short prep time available to the team and the simple systems set up by the coaching staff paid dividends in last year’s games against the World Junior prospects.
Franson won’t be among strangers on the All-Star team. He will be joined by three other players from the University of Calgary Dinos Hockey Team and the rest of the All-Star roster which will be made up of players he has faced off against in USports league action.
As for the competition he will be facing in the series against the Team Canada prospects, Franson said the fact much of his teammates are older and therefore have had a chance to develop more in size and strength, is an advantage for them. He added that a little more strength and size is no reason to count out the World Junior hopefuls.
“Those are phenomenal hockey players over there, they got chosen to potentially represent Canada. You’ve gotta be doing something right to have that honour and that invitation,” Franson said.
“They’re a great team and it’s three games that are really tough; it’s really fast-paced hockey.”
Franson said both sides know they are facing serious competitors, particularly after the USports All-stars victories last year.
Being selected for the All-Star team has thrown Franson’s academic year a bit of a curve ball as the series falls right in the middle of exam season.
Franson, who will be graduating in the spring with a sociology degree concentrating on criminology, said his professors have been very accommodating.
As the All-Star series will be held in B.C. this year, Franson says he is expecting a cheering section to be in the stands for at least some of the games. He said his parents are thinking about making the trip if they can get the time off work and a few friends from Sicamous and another living in Victoria will be coming to watch him play.
After graduating from university, Franson says he hopes to keep his skates on the ice by playing pro hockey, possibly taking advantage of offers he has received from Danish, Norwegian and French teams before joining the workforce.