It is a game many on the team never expected to take part in: the Grande Prairie Storm is gearing up for its upcoming international match against the Czech Republic U-20 national team on December 5th.

“Obviously we don’t have pre-scouts that we would usually have on a team in the AJHL so we are going in a little bit blind, but as far as the on-ice stuff and working on the habits and focusing it stays the same,” says Head Coach and GM Matt Keillor.

Keillor says the last couple of days off the ice have been business as usual. However, as the hours tick down to Thursday night, he continues to remind his players to soak up the moment.

Coach Keillor keeping an eye on the action (Michael Lumsden, mygrandeprairienow.com staff)

“Some of them it’s their first experience in international hockey, and for some of them it will be the only international experience they will ever get, so a lot of the guys were in early [Wednesday] to watch them practice and size up the competition.”

Coach Keillor adds the excitement isn’t just contained to the players and coaching staff, as guests from far and wide to take in the encounter.

“The kids are really really excited and it’s a really big opportunity for them, and we’ve got a lot of families flying in to take in the game and watch their kids play. It’s pretty exciting for us to coach an international game, too. All around I think it’s going to be a great experience.”

For the Czech team, the international friendly is a precursor to the 2019 World Junior A Challenge in Dawson Creek. The agreement came together after a five-year-deal was penned earlier this year between the City of Dawson Creek and Hockey Canada, which includes the hosting rights to the tournament.