One by one the five players who were cut from Team Canada came up the winding staircase at the Sheraton Laval hotel.
They were just told that they were cut from the team, maybe even for the first time in their lives. Then they had to answer a few questions from the media and then get ready to go back home.
Montreal Canadiens prospect Michael McNiven was the first player to make his way to the media. The goaltender was battling for the backup spot with Connor Ingram, and the two of them split a shut out against the Czech Republic a few hours earlier.
Both goaltenders had identical .889 save percentages (Ingram stopped 40/45 shots while McNiven stopped 48/54) and McNiven, who had to probably beat out Ingram, was the one to be cut.
“I was the underdog,” said McNiven. “Other than the first game I was pretty impressed with myself so it is how it is and I just hope all the boys have a good time and they bring home gold.”
That first game is when he came off of the bench cold and allowed three goals in six minutes of play after several defensive zone breakdowns. He did eventually shut the door the rest of the way. The next day, he allowed three goals in a 3-0 loss as the goaltender for the U Sports all-stars against Canada.
But for McNiven, just being invited to this camp was a huge step and shows the improvements he has made in his game. He was signed by the Canadiens as an undrafted free agent after he was unclaimed in the 2015 NHL Draft. To put it in perspective, presumptive starter Carter Hart was a second round pick, and Ingram was selected in the third round in the most recent NHL Draft.
From there, he was not one of the four goaltenders invited to the summer showcase, and it was only his strong start with the Owen Sound Attack that put him on Hockey Canada’s radar.
This was his last chance to make the World Junior team, but he says he took a lot from the experience.
“Being on the ice a couple of times with [Canadian goaltending consultant Fred Brathwaite] was amazing and just being around all of those talented hockey players it was really nice to see and [to] see the international side of sports,” he said.
McNiven is 15-7-1 in 23 games in the Ontario Hockey League with a 2.41 goals against average and .914 save percentage.
The other players cut on Wednesday night were defencemen Samuel Girard and Guillaume Brisebois and forwards Sam Steel and Zach Senyshyn.
Canada’s next game will be an exhibition game December 19 at the Bell Centre against the defending gold medal winners, Finland.