Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Culligan Named Captain Of Team Canada

(Ottawa, Ont.) – Chris Culligan, a forward from the reigning CIS champion University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds, has been named captain of the Canadian men's hockey team for the 26th Winter Universiade, a few hours before the start of the biennial tournament in Trentino, Italy.

Canada heads into the competition as reigning bronze medallist thanks to a 3-1 win over Kazakhstan in the third-place match of the 2011 tourney in Erzurum, Turkey. The Canucks had previously dropped a 4-2 decision to defending two-time champion Russia in the semifinals.

An all-star team comprised entirely of players from the Atlantic University Sport conference will wear the maple leaf jersey on their chests in Trentino. Since 1997, Canada has been represented at the Games in men's hockey by each of the three CIS leagues on a rotating basis and AUS standouts have been successful in each of their two previous trips to the event, returning home with silver in 2001 (Zakopane, Poland) and gold in 2007 (Turin, Italy).

Culligan's alternate captains in Italy will be defenceman Matthew Maione from UPEI and forwards Liam Heelis of Acadia, Robert Slaney from St. Francis Xavier and Cory Tanaka of Saint Mary's. All five are either captain or alternate on their AUS team.

Canada opens the Universiade tournament against Japan Tuesday at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. EST).

"We are very fortunate to have a number of top notch leaders with our group and we believe leadership is a responsibility shared by all," said Team Canada head coach Gardiner MacDougall, who has led UNB to four CIS titles in the past seven years and who was an assistant coach with the Universiade gold medal-winning team in 2007. "However, these selected players will have the honour and privilege of captaining a national team in a world championship event and we are confident that these special athletes will do an amazing job representing not only our team but our country both on and off the ice."

Culligan, who hails from Howie Centre, N.S., is the current captain of the Varsity Reds and also wore the C in his final season with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, with whom he spent his entire five-year QMJHL career. In his fifth and final university campaign, the 6-foot, 195-pound senior leads the reigning national champs in goals (10) and points (16) at the halfway mark of the 28-game schedule. He helped UNB claim the University Cup in 2011 and 2013 and is the all-time scoring leader among active AUS players with 147 points (47-100-147) in 105 conference matches.

Maione currently ranks second among AUS defencemen with 12 points in as many contests. The fourth-year rearguard from Toronto played his major junior hockey with Niagara and Guelph in the OHL.

Heelis leads the AUS in scoring at the December break with a 13-9-22 mark in 14 games. The third-year forward from Georgetown, Ont., is also a veteran of the OHL, with Peterborough and Owen Sound.

Slaney was a four-year teammate of Culligan with Cape Breton in the QMJHL and spent three seasons in the AHL with Toronto, Milwaukee and Hamilton before making his university debut with StFX this fall. The native of Portugal Cove, Nfld., is the X-Men's top scorer this season with 14 points in 13 outings.

Tanaka led Saint Mary's to the first University Cup title in program history in his rookie campaign in 2009-10 and currently has 11 points in 14 contests in his fifth and final season with the team. The product of Stouffville, Ont., played five years in the OHL with Plymouth and Belleville.

In 13 all-time appearances at the Universiade tournament, Canada has tallied an impressive 12 medals, including three gold, three silver and six bronze. In addition to the title won by AUS all-stars in 2007, the red and white was crowned in 1991 in Sapporo, Japan, while represented by the senior national squad, and in 1981 in Jaca, Spain, when the University of Alberta Golden Bears wore the maple leaf uniform.

Twelve teams will compete for FISU gold in Trentino, including Canada, Japan Ukraine and Kazakhstan in Pool A, Russia, Great Britain, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in Pool B, as well as Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the United States in Pool C. The top two squads from each group and the top two third-place finishers advance to the quarter-finals.

Following their opener against Japan on Tuesday night, the Canadians will wrap up the preliminary round versus Ukraine on Friday and Kazakhstan Sunday. The quarterfinals are set for Dec. 18, the semis for Dec. 20 and the gold-medal final for Dec. 21.