Fort St. John’s own Tristen Nielsen is about to get his second shot at international competition.
The five-foot-nine, 182- pound forward, who has spent most of this season with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen was named to Canada’s World Under-17 Hockey Challenge roster on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
“I was a little scared because one of my buddies had texted me who was [at camp in July] said he had made it and they didn’t call me until three and a half hours later because they had to go down the roster. I was a little terrified,” Nielsen recalled about when he got the news on Monday, Oct. 10.
Nielsen was named one of Canada’s 66 best 2000 born players that will be split up into three teams for the best-on-best tournament set to take place in Sault St. Marie, Ont. this month.
“I was stunned,” Nielsen said.
“My mom came down from Fort St. John. It was the first time she was with me when I experienced something big in hockey, so she was crying and my dad was pretty much crying. Pretty much tears of joy. Called my grandparents and my sister.”
Nielsen was named to Team White, and will play with Joe Veleno, the only player who played in the 2016 World U17 Hockey Challenge in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek.
111 players participated in a seven-day development camp in July and from there, the final 66 players were chosen.
“These are the 66 best players in the country who are, by-and-large, making their first appearance in international competition as part of Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence. They have been selected not only based on their current ability, but also on their potential to represent Canada at under-18 and junior competition in the coming years,” said Shawn Bullock, senior manager of hockey operations and men’s national teams for Hockey Canada in a press release.
“This is a skilled group of high-performers with long-term international potential, and we look forward to working with them at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and in the future.”
Nielsen’s last opportunity on the international stage came in the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, last Feb. where Canada took home silver after a 5-2 loss in the final against the U.S.A. Nielsen had one point in five games at the tournament. Fourteen of Nielsen’s teammates at that event were also named to the U17 roster on Wednesday.
“I kind of know the level of play and what (Hockey) Canada expects,” he said of the past experience with Hockey Canada.
“They call it the Canadian Way, so I have a little bit experience under my belt. It’s a new tournament and everybody is improving and everybody has worked their way here. Everybody has earned it. It’s going to come down to who worked the hardest.”
In five WHL games this season with the Hitmen, Nielsen has one assist.
“Playing with the Hitmen is amazing. It’s that next level that every 16-year-old wants to play in. It’s not easy to get to, but once you’re there it’s a hell of a lot of fun,” he said.
Exhibition action for the tournament begins Oct. 27, with the official puck drop set for Oct. 30.