Team Canada’s final cuts came late Friday night as four players – three forwards and one defenceman – were shuttled out of the team hotel and back home.
Cut from the world junior team were forwards Michael Dal Colle of the Oshawa Generals, Rourke Chartier of the Kelowna Rockets and Jason Dickinson of the Guelph Storm. Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels was the single cut on the blueline to bring Canada down to 22 players for the start of the tournament on Dec. 26 against Slovakia.
On Wednesday the Ottawa Senators released rookie forward Curtis Lazar, 19, to play for Canada meaning one less spot for the 25 players who had been in camp prior to his arrival.
"We've been talking about this for the last couple of days," said Canada's head coach Benoit Groulx. "We came to the conclusion that it was time to get our team together with the addition of Curtis yesterday. We feel that we're all set to announce our team so that's why we decided to make our decision tonight."
The cuts were made around 11 p.m., after Canada returned to their hotel after they lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Russians in an exhibition game at the Air Canada Centre. Canada outshot the Russians 53-20.
Goaltender Zach Fucale made 18 saves and had what Groulx deemed an "okay" game. The 19-year-old netminder had been traded earlier in the day from the Quebec league's Halifax Mooseheads to the Quebec Remparts. The deal had been rumoured about for weeks, but could not be finalized until the league's trade window opened on Friday.
"Sometimes days like that happen," said Fucale of his performance. "You’ve just got to zone everything out and make sure you’re ready to play."
Defenceman Josh Morrissey was the lone scorer for the Canadian side who will play Sweden in another exhibition game on Sunday in Ottawa.
In hindsight, after being cut, Chartier said he could tell things weren't going his way during the game.
"I didn't play too much tonight so I knew there was a chance," said Chartier, one of the top scorers in the Western Hockey League. "There are a lot of good players here so I guess that's the way it goes.
Like Chartier, Dal Colle is also one of the top players in his league. The 18-year-old was the fifth-overall pick of the New York Islanders in June. He leads the Generals - the top team in the Ontario Hockey League - with 21 goals and 46 points in 23 games.
"There's a lot of depth up front on this team," said Dal Colle in the lobby of the hotel. "I wish them the best. I think I've been having a pretty good year, but I'm happy to go back to Oshawa."
Groulx said these final four decisions were difficult to make.
"They're all good players," said Groulx. "To be honest it was a tough decision for us tonight - many tough decisions. It came down to who fits where and who has more experience, speed and the balance we look for in terms of speed, skill, size and strength."