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Ogopogo
09-06-2005, 06:45 PM
Source: http://www.canada.com/saskatoon/starphoenix/news/sports/blades/story.html?id=983bdc61-f2a7-4df2-919a-32833e4468cd

Corey Wolfe
The StarPhoenix

September 1, 2005

Saskatoon Blades centre Justin McCrae is soft-spoken and polite. His shoes are always polished. He takes his music with a twang.
But he doesn't take any guff.

When the Prince Albert Raiders parlayed physical dominance into a four-game sweep of Saskatoon last spring, several of the Blades were quite obviously psyched out.

McCrae wasn't one of them.

"I just want to win a championship," McCrae said after Game 2 of that series. "And not being intimidated is the only way that's going to get you there. You have to take everything that's thrown at you and counter it."

The Blades' playoff run turned sour, but McCrae persisted and earned a championship two weeks ago. He helped Canada's under-18 team win the Junior World Cup in Piestany, Slovakia.

"Once you go over there and get a chance to feel what it's like to win, it's crazy . . . unbelieveable," McCrae said Wednesday on the eve of the Blades' rookie camp in Martensville.

"Coming back here, I'm ready to get going. We have a great team. We can go a long way and hopefully we'll bring home a championship."

McCrae was the Blades' top rookie as a 16-year-old and in all likelihood, he'll fill the second-line centre spot this season. The experience of playing against elite international competition is invaluable, said Blades coach-GM Lorne Molleken.

"If you go back a year ago with Devin Setoguchi (who won gold at the 2004 Junior World Cup), that played a part in his quick start and we're anticipating the same with Justin."

Unofficially, McCrae registered a goal and four assists in five tournament games.

"When you're over there, you have to come together in a pretty short period of time," said the product of Cochrane, Alta. "If you can take that experience, but expand it to come together quickly and then stay close the entire year, we should be a pretty tight group."

McCrae's leadership qualities have been brewing for a while. Last January, he captained Team Pacific to a silver medal at the under-17 World Hockey Challenge in Lethbridge.

"He was looked upon as one of the leaders on that team and he played much the same role this time around," said Molleken. "To be put with that group of elite athletes and be one of the players who is looked up to as a leader, that's something that will filter throughout our dressing room."

McCrae's tenacious style has already earned him the respect of his teammates. When Molleken discussed leadership with his veterans at season's end, "Justin was only 16 but his name came to the forefront all the time," said Molleken.

The coach makes no bones about demanding more from McCrae this season because he believes the sophomore can handle it. McCrae registered 19 points in 68 games as a rookie and played in all situations. His role will only expand.

"After being in the league for a year, I expect more from myself as well," said McCrae. "I should be able to put up better numbers and I should able to compete harder. I'm bigger and stronger."

Standing just a shade over six-feet and carrying 180 pounds, McCrae isn't the biggest body on blades. However, his influence is immeasurable, said Molleken.

"A strong commitment and work ethic is contagious and we'll lean on Justin very heavily this year even though he's only 17 years old."