With 20 points in just 15 games, junior Mike Cammalleri has led the way offensively for the Michigan hockey team. But on Dec. 10, he will try out for a chance to lead his country”s team to a gold medal.
Cammalleri, along with 35 other players, was invited by the Canadian Hockey Association to Team Canada”s selection camp for the 2002 International Hockey Federation World Junior Championships. The camp, which will be held in North York, Ontario, is scheduled to open up on Dec. 10 and will last one week. Cammalleri, who was a member of last year”s team, will be competing for one of the 22 open spots.
Because of the tryouts, Cammalleri will miss Michigan”s game against Harvard on Dec. 15. If Cammalleri makes the team, he will miss the annual Great Lakes Invitational tournament that is held at the end of December, and would likely be out for the Notre Dame series on Jan. 4 and 5.
“It sucks having to leave your team, but this is the kind of experience that I wouldn”t give up for the world,” Cammalleri said. “I had the best time of my life last year playing in this thing.”
In seven tournament games last year, Cammalleri recorded four goals and two assists and helped Canada win the bronze medal. He is one of five returning forwards, and one of just two college hockey players invited this season (Duncan Keith from Michigan State is the other).
Cammalleri says that the members of Team Canada whom he watched growing up were his heroes, and he hopes to help his team win the gold this season.
“It”s a dream come true for me,” he said. “In Canada, making this team is such a huge deal, it”s magnified to the degree that people in the U.S. don”t understand.”
The week-long camp will feature two intrasquad games and two exhibition games. Without much time to showcase their talents, Cammalleri says that the players must really be on their game.
“It”s tough,” Cammalleri said. “Basically you do whatever you can to prove to the coaches that you can help Canada win a gold medal.”
Although it”s difficult without his best players on the ice, Michigan coach Red Berenson has always been supportive of his players” individual opportunities. Last season, Cammalleri, Andy Hilbert and Mike Komisarek all went to Moscow for the tournament, and Michigan was swept in the GLI for the first time ever.
“As much as it does take away from our team, I think it”s important that (Cammalleri) gets this chance,” Berenson said. “If he plays the way he”s playing now, he should be selected. In Canada, it”s such a huge honor to make that team, and I think it”s good that we support his opportunity to play on a team like that.”
Cammalleri might also get an opportunity to play against some of his current teammates who could be named to the U.S team. Last season, he played against Hilbert and Komisarek, who both played on the U.S. team. This season, it is likely that Komisarek will be named again, and freshmen Eric Nystrom, Jason Ryznar and Dwight Helminen all have a good chance of being selected.
The official announcement for U.S. team tryouts will be made tomorrow.
“We”re in different pools, so we usually play against each other in the playoffs,” Cammalleri said. “But it”s such a huge deal to play against them. I can”t lose to them, I”d never hear the end of it.”