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A new challenge for Canadian women's Olympic hockey team

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There’s intrigue and an element of the unknown involved as the Canadian national women’s team takes on the country’s top under-17 men’s players in the Capital City Challenge tournament at TD Place this weekend.

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The four-team tournament — the men’s players are divided into three squads — kicks off Friday afternoon and runs through to semifinals Tuesday and a championship game Wednesday.

“These young men are trying to showcase themselves,” said Kris Mallette, who will coach Team Red. “At the same time, having an opportunity to help the women’s national team prepare for the Olympics is a great opportunity for them.”

The novel tournament idea came about after the world under-17 championships was cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns. With the national women’s team in town — they dropped a 2-0 Rivalry Series decision to the United States Tuesday in a festive sold out atmosphere at TD Place — Hockey Canada pieced two and two together to come up with the mutually beneficial tournament.

There could be an adjustment process along the way. Technically, there’s no hitting allowed in the women’s game, but that becomes a fine line as intensity and competitiveness takes over.

“You and I have both seen those Canada and U.S. women’s games,” said Mallette, who coaches with Kelowna in the WHL. “Some of the hits in those games are bigger than what we see in the CHL. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like, but it’s going to be a really good battle. For our group, it’s about being as competitive as possible, regardless of the genders.”

Mallette watched the women’s team training when they were out west earlier this year.

“They are extremely structured, a very speedy group,” he said.

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The under-17 rosters are littered with first round selections to OHL, QMJHL and WHL rosters, with plenty of Ottawa area talent on display.

The 67’s are represented by Luca Pinelli and Chris Barlas.

Orleans natives Alexis Daviault (who plays in Sarnia) and Owen Outwater (North Bay) will be playing this weekend. So, too, will be Quinton Burns of Smiths Falls (Kingston) and Gatineau-born Emile Perron (Cape Breton) and Alexis Bourque (Gatineau under-18 Triple-A).

Oliver Bonk, son of former Ottawa Senators centre Radek Bonk, will also be on the ice.

Over on the other side, the women’s national team is looking at the Capital City Challenge as a way to fine-tune its game in advance of the big picture prize.

“I think they’ll be pretty fast, we’re looking forward to it,” Canadian winger Brianne Jenner said following Tuesday’s game against the U.S. “We played against Junior A players a lot this year. It will be fun to play the under-17 boys. You know, there’s a reason it’s in our schedule. It’s going to help us prepare. We’re excited to use this week to get better and develop and keep building towards the Olympics.”

kwarren@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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