HALIFAX - Sixteen-year-old Mason McDonald knew he was in for it facing the Halifax Mooseheads‚Äô first line of Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Martin Frk.
Mason McDonald is the only Maritimer invited to Canada‚Äôs under-18 team selection camp, from Thursday to Monday in Toronto. Photo courtesy of QMJHL
Only months out of playing major midget last season, there the Halifax native was between the pipes for the Bathurst Titan with the daunting task of shutting down the top line in the Canadian Hockey League.
Then, Frk unleashed his trademark rocket from the point that smashed against McDonald‚Äôs mask, leaving a deep dent behind for good measure.
‚ÄúThat was a big highlight for me last year, playing the Mooseheads,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúYou just have to be prepared, they‚Äôre going to come to you so much faster. The game becomes so much faster, the shots are so much harder with them on the ice.‚ÄĚ
Cracking a major junior lineup at 16 is a feat in itself, but the now 17-year-old, six-foot-three netminder appeared in a respectable 26 games with a record of 6-8-3 on a team that finished the season nine games below .500.
Besides adjusting to a dramatically higher pace of hockey, he‚Äôs quick to admit he battled a bit of homesickness in Year 1.
Thanks to a supportive billet family and frequent family visits, he was able to make the adjustment in due time.
Now McDonald is among only four goalies as well as 38 forwards and defencemen invited to Canada‚Äôs Under-18 team selection camp, from Thursday to Monday in Toronto. He‚Äôs also the only Maritimer of the lot.
A few days after the invite the team‚Äôs assistant coach and Mooseheads bench boss Dominique Ducharme gave the teenager a congratulatory call.
‚ÄúIt was short and sweet,‚ÄĚ said McDonald.
The roster will be whittled down to 22 players and he expects to be among them.
He‚Äôs been preparing for the opportunity all summer, working out everyday along with weeks of intensive technical training.
‚ÄúI know I have to work on everything, to have a bigger presence in net and showing my glove more.‚ÄĚ
Known for his athleticism, McDonald‚Äôs aim is to simply be better in his coming draft eligible year.
A good start would be representing Canada at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Slovakia and the Czech Republic next month.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs pressure, but I‚Äôd shake it off,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre representing the country for a reason.‚ÄĚ