Ridge ball hockey player wins gold with Canada at u-18 worlds

Damian Richards will represent B.C. at the u-19 nationals next.

A ball hockey player from Maple Ridge won gold as part of the Canadian under-18 team at the world ball hockey championships in Newfoundand.

Next, Damian Richards will represent B.C. at the u-19 nationals in New Brunswick, later this month.

At the worlds, Canada defeated Switzerland 6-2, then Italy 8-1, the U.S. 6-5, Slovakia 5-0, and the Czech Republic 3-2 in overtime.

In the semi-finals, Canada downed Great Britain, which had to put a player in net after its goalie was injured.

In the final, Canada defeated the Czechs 3-1 to win gold.

Richards played left wing for Canada and said it was the best experience of his ball hockey career.

“I like to play my off-wing,” he said.

It allows him to be on his forehand along the wall and see the floor better, to pass or drive the net.

Playing at the worlds was a challenge, as the pace was faster and more physical than he’s ever played, the athletes, in general, were bigger and faster, and everyone had to backcheck hard. There was little time and space to make plays, he added.

Richards said the Canadian team was littered with players who play junior ice hockey, even one who was an NHL draft pick of the Washington Capitals.

“Our whole team was just insane.”

He said the Czech team was also really good, outshooting Canada in one game.

Richards was the last cut from Team Canada a year ago. He was asked to play for the team this year, though, after a standout performance for B.C. at the 2017 national championships, during which he led his team in scoring during the round-robin portion of the tournament, with 12 points.

B.C. won bronze at the nationals last year.

Richards was proud to make Team Canada and was motivated to prove he belonged.

He has been playing ball hockey since age 6, with the Ridge Meadows Minor Ball Hockey Association. He played for the Ridge Meadows Renegades rep team this past season.

He also played ice hockey with the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association for 13 years, the past two as a member of the midget A1 team.

But Richards won’t pursue ice hockey any further. The Westview secondary grad intends to continue with ball hockey, though, and hopes to play for Canada again in 2020, when the next worlds are held.

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