Bragg Creek’s Dylan Holloway played a key role in Team Canada’s gold-medal victory at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in Edmonton Aug. 6 to 11.
The 16-year-old forward – who plays for the Okotoks Oilers in the Alberta Junior Hockey League – tallied one goal and two assists in five games, en route to Canada’s third straight Hlinka Cup triumph.
“[It was] so much fun to play with all the best players in Canada, and being around them every day was unbelievable,” Holloway said. “Playing against other kids your age from all around the world was pretty awesome.”
The Hlinka-Gretzky Cup pits the top U18 national hockey teams against each other. Historically, Canada has dominated the annual tourney, winning 10 of the last 11 cups and 22 of the first 28 instalments.
From the opening game at Edmonton’s Rogers Place Aug. 6, it was clear Canada was looking to continue that tradition on home ice. The home team blew past Switzerland with a 10-0 blanking, and Holloway picked up an assist.
Canada then overcame Slovakia 4-2 the next day. Holloway notched a goal in the second period that brought the score to 2-0.
Coming onto the ice from a shift change, Holloway ghosted into the slot, where a rebounded effort from Josh Williams fell to his stick.
“I was skating through the middle, grabbed the rebound. Goalie was sliding, so I just slid it five-hole,” he said.
The home team then beat Sweden 4-3 in its final round-robin game, securing a semi-final matchup with the United States.
The battle against the U.S. provided the most drama of the tournament. The Americans led 5-4 late in the third, before a controversial equalizer by Canada’s Dylan Cozens in the final second. Replays showed the puck had crossed the line milliseconds after the buzzer had blown, but officials did not have video review for the tournament and the goal stood.
“Being a part of that game was incredible,” Holloway said. “That game and the gold-medal game were probably the two most fun games I’ve ever played in my life.
“There was some controversy with that goal, but it worked out in our favour.”
Having squeaked into overtime, Canada defeated its continental rival with a quick goal from Williams to book a place in the final.
Sweden was Canada’s opponent in the gold-medal game. Despite trailing 2-0 early on, Canada rallied back to win, comfortably, 6-2. Holloway picked up his third point of the tourney with an assist in the second period, firing a shot off teammate Sasha Mutala’s helmet and into Sweden’s net.
Holloway – who is committed to the University of Wisconsin Badgers after he graduates – was the only Junior A player on Team Canada’s roster. The rest of the squad played in the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League or the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Though he plies his trade a level below, Holloway said he felt comfortable with his teammates throughout the tournament.
“Being the only college guy was different in the sense that I wasn’t really doing what they’re doing,” he said. “I’m not paid or anything, and I don’t have access to everything they have access to, just because I’m playing Junior A right now. But I didn’t feel left out, or anything.”
The Hlinka-Gretzky Cup was not Holloway’s first rendezvous at an international tournament – he also lined up for the Canada Red team at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Dawson Creek in November 2017, and the Canada West squad at the World Junior A Challenge in December 2017.
But it was an earlier snub by Canada for the national U17 development camp in summer 2017 that fueled his motivation to make the team for the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup.
“When camp was going on for U17 and I wasn’t a part of it, I was kind of upset about that. But I just turned that into motivation and kept working,” he said.
The work clearly helped, and the Bragg Creek forward – who is NHL draft-eligible in 2020 – finally had the chance to strut his stuff in front of dozens of NHL scouts and thousands of fans in Edmonton.