|(above) DU goaltender Sam Brittain has been invited back to Team Canada's prestigious goaltender camp|
bt Scott Cruickshank
Sam Brittain had no complaints last year.
When an injury forced Hockey Canada to hunt down another healthy body for its Program of Excellence summertime goaltending camp, Brittain answered the emergency call with joy.
He went. He enjoyed.
Now, a year later, Brittain is no fill-in.
The Calgary netminder, after a sparkling freshman campaign at the University of Denver, belongs on the original list of invitees. Which makes it even more special.
“It’s exciting,” said Brittain, who joins 15 others at the sixth annual camp next week at Norma Bush Arena. “I learned a lot last year. I’ll be able to use that to make sure I’m ready to go for this camp. It’s a tough weekend. I mean, skating twice a day and different things on the go, but it’s definitely fun. A great environment — guys from all over Canada, coaches from all over Canada.
“There’s going to be a lot of great goalies there. And it’ll be great to get some of the world-class instruction, and to be able to show them what I got.”
Which is quite a bit, if his single season of U.S. college toil is any indication.
Brittain, the second-youngest player at Denver, ranked first among NCAA rookies with 19 wins (19-9-5) and third in goals-against-average and save percentage (2.28, .921) and was named to nearly every all-rookie team imaginable.
On top of that, he earned the Keith Magnuson Memorial Award as the school’s top defensive player.
“I got some lucky breaks and I was able to get quite a few starts and did very well,” said the six foot three, 220-pounder.
“Going in there, it was tough to make goals and expectations because I’d never experienced it. It’s not like going off to the Western Hockey League — I hadn’t grown up watching a lot of college hockey.
“But it was definitely what I had expected from myself — and definitely a lot more.”
Of course, this camp is part of the lead-up to the world junior championship, hosted by Edmonton and Calgary.
Has he allowed himself to think about what it would be like to be part of that tournament — in his home town yet?
“I’ve definitely thought about it,” said Brittain, who, out of the AJHL Canmore Eagles program, was drafted by the Florida Panthers a year ago.
“It’s never an easy road to get (on Team Canada). But it would be an incredible experience to wear that maple leaf. And playing right here in Alberta would be very special.”
Selections for the elite showcase were made by Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast.