Shirley returns from U17 tournament

Young Kootenay Ice rookie back in the lineup after representing Team West at World Hockey Challenge.

Collin Shirley is back.

The 16-year-old rookie rejoined the Ice for practice on Monday in a return to his home WHL club after competing in the U17 World Hockey Challenge in Quebec over the Christmas break.

His squad, coached by Don MacGillivray of the Winnipeg Blues in the MJHL, had a tough go, finishing in 9th place, losing four games, while getting a lone win against Slovakia.

Despite the outcome, Shirley said he had a blast.

“It was good,” said Shirley. “It was quite a treat to go over to Quebec—never been there before.”

Shirley, who hails from Saskatoon, SK, was named to Team West in November in the 10-team tournament, which pits five Canadian squads against competition from Europe and the U.S.

“In a short-term tournament, you kind of got to come together quick as a team and just play in roles, whatever the coach tells you to do, you got to accept that and just be ready to go,” Shirley said, on what he took away from the experience.

Shirley followed in the footsteps of Jon Martin, Sam Reinhart and Jaedon Descheneau, as all three represented the Ice while competing in the tournament last year for Team West and Team Pacific.

It’s always special to play in international competition and develop further as a player, Shirley added.

“You gotta take a role that the coach gives you and I think that’s going to help down the road—wherever they need you to play, you can play it,” said Shirley.

MacGillivray had Shirley on the second and third line, instructing the young Kootenay forward to take advantage of scoring opportunities while playing with some grit.

It’s a role he’s pretty familiar with anyways.

Shirley has six goals and four assists so far with the Ice and the rookie is excited to return to a hot team that has won five games in a row.

Kootenay head coach Ryan McGill added that he’s happy Shirley is back as well, noting that his presence bumps up the forward count to 13, which will foster some healthy competition for lineup spots.

“This is now a competition and that’s a good thing,” said McGill. “He’s a good young player that we need to develop and now it just becomes a development process and a healthy, healthy competition between the other 12 forwards in the lineup, knowing that he has an opportunity to take somebody’s position.”