CANADA RED Lloydminster’s Rhett Rhinehart helped Team Canada Red win a silver medal at the World U17 Hockey Challenge in British Columbia last week. MATTHEW MURNAGHAN/HOCKEY CANADA IMAGES
The Border City’s Rhett Rhinehart is having a hockey season to remember.
Rhinehart, 15, helped lead Team Canada Red to a silver medal at the World U17 Hockey Challenge in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, B.C., last week.
The Prince Albert Raiders’ rookie defenceman recorded one assist in six games for the national squad, which was one of three Canadian clubs participating in the annual eight-team tournament.
“I was doing everything,” said Rhinehart, who checked in as the third youngest player among Canada’s 66-man group. “I was playing power play, penalty kill and shutdown in the last minute, which is exactly where I wanted to be.”
Canada Red started slow at the U17 World Challenge going 1-2 in the preliminary round with their sole win coming Nov. 6 in a 7-2 trouncing of Sweden at Fort St. John’s North Peace Arena. The team bounced back in the playoff quarter-finals beating Canada Black 4-3 at Dawson Creek’s Encana Events Centre on Nov. 9.
“We knew that it was do-or-die and that was our only chance to keep going forward,” said Rhinehart. “You could tell there was a little bit of hatred. Technically, I guess we’re not going up against a rival team, but that was a fun game to play.”
Rhinehart noted the victory earned them a shot at a semifinal game against the Czech Republic at the North Peace Arena the next evening. He said the Czechs had a tough start to the tournament finishing fourth in their pool, but the team picked it up in the playoffs beating the undefeated Russians in the quarter-finals.
“They were a good team,” he said. “It was tied 2-2 going into the last two-and-a-half minutes and they ended up taking a penalty. We were fortunate enough to capitalize on the power play and that helped us to the win.”
A flat first period dogged Canada Red in the U17 World Challenge final against the United States with the Americans out-shooting their northern neighbours 21-4 on way to a 4-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes. The Canadians battled back in the second and third, but they never could make up for the early hole losing 6-4.
“It was an unreal experience,” said Rhinehart. “You grow up watching the world juniors and that’s one of the first steps towards that. I’m just honoured to represent my country and play for Canada.”
Rhinehart didn’t get a chance to savour the silver medal finish as the six-foot-three and 196-pound defenceman hit the road to Grande Prairie immediately following Canada Red’s game against the United States.
He caught a flight from there to Portland, Ore., only to arrive just a bit late to make it into the Raiders’ lineup for their Sunday afternoon contest against the Portland Winterhawks.
“We’re a pretty good team,” said Rhinehart, who has suited up in 12 games for the Raiders this season as the WHL’s youngest regular player.
“We’re competing against lots of the top teams and beating them as well. There are a couple of games where things just didn’t go our way, but otherwise our team is doing pretty good.”