Jesse Jenks' decision to play for the Prince George Spruce Kings this season is expanding his own horizons.
He'll be getting a chance to see Canada's East Coast now that it's official the 18-year-old from Crofton has cracked the roster for Team Canada West in the World Junior A Hockey Challenge, which starts next week in Yarmouth, N.S.
"Jesse came in here this season as an unproven rookie guy and has earned every bit of the attention he's received," said Spruce Kings general manager Mike Hawes. "I'm totally not surprised he went to the camp and was one of the better goalies and was able to earn a spot on that team.
As a BCHL rookie, Jenks sports a 4-3-1 record with a 2.46 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. He's also got impressive numbers on his academic record and he's attracting the interest of NCAA recruiters.
The Spruce Kings first noticed Jenks last season when he was playing for the South Island Royals in the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League playoffs at the Coliseum against the Cariboo Cougars. He was outstanding in that series and at the Spruce Kings' spring camp and the team signed him over the summer.
"He's got great size [six-foot-two, 180 pounds), he's extremely athletic and he's technically strong," said Hawes. "He comes across the crease very well and he has quick hands and can cover the top of the net. He's everything you're looking for in a good goaltender."
Since the inception of the World Junior A Challenge in 2006, the Spruce Kings have consistently placed players on the Team Canada West roster, starting with defenceman Ryan de Vries, who won gold in the 2006. That list includes Jeff Forsythe (2007, gold), goaltender Kevin Genoe (2008, silver), defenceman Wes McLeod (2009, silver) and Jujhar Khaira (2011, gold). Canada West has been to the final every year of the tournament except 2010.
Jenks and Tommy Nixon of the Sherwood Park (Alta.) Crusaders will be the Canada West goalies. Defenceman Dane Birks of Williams Lake, who plays for the Merritt Centennials, also made the team. Other BCHL players on Canada West are: defencemen -- Adam Plant (West Kelowna) and Viktor Dombrovskiy (Langley); forwards -- Steen Cooper (Cowichan Valley), Damico Hannoun (Vernon), Alex Gillies (Salmon Arm), Jeff Wight (Merritt), and Kurt Keats (Powell River).
Jenks will remain with the Canada West team in Calgary for practices today and will head to Nova Scotia Friday to prepare for a Saturday exhibition game in Digby against the United States. Canada West will be in Yarmouth, N.S., to take on Switzerland on Monday and will face the Czech Republic in a Tuesday game. The playoff round starts Thursday and the gold-medal game is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 10.
n The second-place Spruce Kings (10-7-1-1) are on the road this weekend. They play the Surrey Eagles (7-10-1-0) of Friday, then face the Mainland Division-leading Langley Rivermen (11-5-1-1) on Saturday.
The Kings will be without captain and top-line centre Bryant Christian, gone for six to eight weeks with a broken jaw. Christian was hit in the face by the puck on a dump-in during Saturday's game at the Coliseum against Cowichan Valley. Winger Jake LeBrun (concussion) has been able to exercise symptom-free for the past few days and the team hopes he'll resume skating without contact next week. He's at least two weeks away from returning to the lineup. Forward Mitch Barker will miss the trip with a sprained ankle.
Twenty-year-old Alex Murray is expected to start both games in goal for Prince George, backed by 18-year-old Aldergrove junior B callup Tate Sproxton. Murray (6-5-0, 2.53 GAA, .903 save percentage) has been solid as well as Jenks in the Kings nets.
"I would bet our goaltending tandem has been the best in the league to this point," said Hawes. "I know Dave [head coach Dupas] and the coaches have been really happy with either goalie they put in there. "