Windsor Spitfires’ goaltender Michael DiPietro isn’t quite done with his hockey season.
After months of showing the OHL what he could do, and with the Spitfires’ 2017-18 season in the rearview mirror, DiPietro now gets a chance to show the world what he can do.
He’s taking his passport and looking to learn from the best during a trip to Europe. The Vancouver Canucks’ prospect will be joining Team Canada during the 2018 Ice Hockey World Championships, which get underway on Friday, May 4 in Denmark.
DiPietro Making Most of Chance
“It was nuts,” DiPietro told Dhaliwal.
“At first, I thought it was a joke. I was awestruck because it’s kind of unheard of for a junior player. I am very honoured to go.”
Tuesday morning, DiPietro told Sportsnet 650’s “The Playbook” that he talked to Spitfires’ general manager Warren Rychel about it. (Full interview available in that link)
“Warren called me earlier this week and asked if I was skating or anything,” DiPietro said.
“He called me last night and kind of sprung the news on me. It kind of had to take him three times to repeat himself for it to finally sink in but it was obviously a great call and it snowballed from there.”
Earlier this season, DiPietro was one of the last cuts from Team Canada prior to the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships in Buffalo, NY. Canada went on to win gold at the tournament.
While disappointed, DiPietro didn’t slouch. Instead, he focused that energy and provided the Spitfires with elite performances, worthy of being nominated among the best goaltenders and most valuable players in the OHL this season. DiPietro told The Playbook it’s “come full circle.”
“I was cheering for Canada, even at the tournament, I was watching over Christmas at home,” he said.
“Definitely a tough pill to swallow. That was a tough point in my hockey career, but to get the opportunity to represent your country again, words can’t describe how happy I am and how excited I am to get started.”
Gaining Experience Step-by-Step
DiPietro is no stranger to great success at the International game, either. He had a 1.75 GAA and .929% for Team Canada Red at the Under-17 Challenge in 2015 and had a .920% in three games for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup for Canada Under-18 in 2016.
He also won gold for Team Ontario at the Canada Winter Games Under-16 tournament in 2015.
While this tournament should be much different from those, he has consistently taken steps up the International ladder, on top of his elite performances for the Spitfires.
Despite the Spitfires’ rebuilding, DiPietro was a key reason the Spitfires even made the playoffs in 2017-18. While the Spitfires lost in six games to the Sarnia Sting, DiPietro’s 2.81 goals against average and save percentage of .934 kept the Spits in every game. The Sting averaged 40.33 shots per game against DiPietro.
During the regular season, DiPietro had a save percentage of .910% and a GAA of 2.79, both of which were among the top-five in the league. He also had a team record for shutouts in a season with seven.
It’s rare that a goaltender succeeds at almost every chance he’s given, regardless of the level. That’s what DiPietro has done, though, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t find success with Team Canada in Denmark.
Levelling Up: From Ang to McDavid
A few weeks ago, DiPietro was facing offensive stars like St. Louis Blues’ prospect Jordan Kyrou and Florida Panthers’ prospect Jonathan Ang, both of whom played for the Sting this season.
Now, DiPietro gets a couple of weeks of facing NHL shooters like Connor McDavid, Josh Bailey and fellow Canuck Bo Horvat. It’s an opportunity that he can’t let go of. While the chances of him playing in a game are slim, even just practicing will be a huge step for both his confidence and his development.
He told The Playbook that it’s going to be a cool experience that he’ll never forget.
“To be able to at least stop a shot from McDavid and hopefully not get embarrassed out there would definitely be pretty cool,” DiPietro said.
The tournament starts on May 4, including Canada’s opener against the United States, and runs through the gold medal game on Sunday, May 20. Canada’s preliminary games are at the Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning, Denmark, which is about 310 KM West of Copenhagen.