Roman Will Might Have Played For Czech Republic At World Juniors

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Roman Will might have played for Czech Republic at world juniors

Roman Will acknowledges that spending this season in North America may have hurt his chances of playing for the Czech Republic in the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship, which opens on Monday in Calgary and Edmonton.

But the Moncton Wildcats goaltender makes it clear that he has no regrets about his decision to come to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

"The coach (of the Czech national junior team) said it would be better if they could see me in some exhibition games," he said. "But I prefer to spend the whole season in Moncton because it’s important for me.

"I was one of the four goalies at the national junior team’s summer camp. Maybe it would have improved my chances (of making the team) if I stayed in the Czech Republic this season, but I know it was the right decision for me to come to Canada.

"I’m a better goaltender now than when I first came to Moncton for training camp. I feel more comfortable and confident. I have two very good goaltender coaches here and I’m learning lots from them."

Moncton, 17-18-2-0, is fourth in the Maritime Division and 12th overall in the 17-team QMJHL.

The Wildcats will be back in action when they visit the Prince Edward Island Rocket on Wednesday. They will face the Acadie-Bathurst Titan on Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. and the Saint John Sea Dogs on Dec. 31 at 4 p.m. in a pair of games at the Moncton Coliseum.

Will has a 2.85 goals-against average, .904 save percentage, one shutout and 17-14-2-0 record. He’s been in net for all 36 points that the Wildcats have earned. He’s eighth best in the league for goals-against average and sixth best for save percentage.

If you look at the top eight goaltenders in the QMJHL for goals-against average, he’s the leader in games played (34), minutes played (1,913), shots (945) and saves (854). The 19-year-old is making a big impact in his first season in the league.

"Well, you could certainly make a legitimate argument for that," said Wildcats head coach and director of hockey operations Danny Flynn when asked if he thinks Will was the club’s Most Valuable Player in the first half of the season.

"There are some other guys that are very important players on this team as well, but Roman Will has certainly had a tremendous first half and he’s been real important part of any success that we’ve had so far."

Will was asked if he’s tired from the heavy workload.

"No, I’m okay," he said. "I like to play lots of games and have lots of practices. I don’t have a problem with this."

Will was selected in the first round, 29th overall, in the 2011 Canadian Hockey League import draft. The six-foot, 195-pound youngster is the first European goaltender in Moncton franchise history.

He had a 2.24 average and .935 save percentage in 48 games last season in the Czech under-20 league. He played for the Czech under-19 team in the Five Nations Cup and also represented his country in the world under-18 championship and the under-18 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament.

"We knew that we needed to draft a veteran European goaltender and Roman was among a small group that we targeted," said Flynn. "To get him with the No. 29 pick, we’re certainly very happy with that selection.

"He has great work ethic. He’s an outstanding young man and he’s certainly been our most pleasant surprise. The reviews on him were good, but we hadn’t seen him play. He has delivered in spades."

Former Moncton goaltender Nicola Riopel was a 19-year-old when he was selected in the National Hockey League draft. Will is hoping to duplicate that feat.

"Every team has asked about him," said Flynn. "I’m obviously biased, but for my money he’s definitely among the very best goaltenders in this league. A lot of the other best ones have already been drafted. Even though he’s 19, I still think there’s a very strong chance that he’ll be selected."

Will left on Wednesday with his billets for a vacation in Banff, Alta. He will return to Moncton on Boxing Day and his father arrives here from the Czech Republic on Dec. 27.

Will is naturally disappointed that he’s not getting to play for the Czechs in the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship.

"But I’m happy in Moncton and I’m enjoying my season here," he said. "This is the first time that I won’t be at home for Christmas, but it doesn’t really bother me. I’m not 12 years old. This is hockey life. I’m okay with it.

"My father is coming here for a visit and my billets are like another family. My billets are always there to support me and I really appreciate that."

Neil Hodge

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