Rielly excels at every level

Katie Brickman
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Telus Cup experience helped Leaf defenceman succeed

Morgan Rielly knows what it takes to succeed.

The 20-year-old defenceman with the Toronto Maple Leafs has developed quickly in every aspect in the game of hockey and he is a proven winner.

As a midget player with the Notre Dame Hounds, he helped them win the Telus Cup championship in 2010 in Levis, Que.

The Hounds also won in 2009 and are just one of four organizations in the tournament’s 40-year history to repeat at champions.

“That was a great year. Our team was quite close and we had a great team,” said Rielly. “To have a chance to play in that tournament was a huge honour. At the time, that was the highest quality of hockey you can play. It was fun year for us.”

Since winning the national midget AAA championship in 2010, Reilly has gone on to win on the international stage.

“I was in Grade 10 at the time and playing in that tournament (Telus Cup) was where it all started,” said Rielly. “Playing against some high quality players and top teams from Ontario, Quebec and Alberta ... it was a pretty cool experience for our team.”

He has represented Team Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 2011, where he scored two goals, helping the team win the bronze medal. In that same year, Rielly was part of the gold medal win at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. Rielly also has two fourth place finishes at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship in 2011 and at the 2013 IIHF World Under-20 Championship.

Rielly credits playing elite level hockey with the Hounds to the success he has had in his career. He was a high draft pick for the Moose Jaw Warriors and the fifth overall pick for the Leafs.

Winning the Telus Cup is not an easy task to accomplish Reilly said, as a lot of hard work and everyone believing helped the Hounds.

“At Christmas time, we were in eighth place, I think,” said Rielly. “When it was the playoffs, we were in third place. The team believed that if we played well during the playoffs, we could go far.”

The Hounds were 30-12-2 during that season and finished third overall. They made the push to the playoffs at the right time and had success on the long, difficult road that is the national championship.

“I think we all enjoyed the extra drive to say it was even possible (to repeat),” he said. “It was a lot of fun for us.”

The Hounds won the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League title and went to compete at the west regional tournament. They defeated the Pembina Valley Hawks in the final game to advance to the Telus Cup in Quebec.

“When we got a chance to play in Quebec, it is kind of a blur for me now because we were so pumped and playing our hardest,” said Rielly.

Just getting to Quebec was difficult, but the Hounds continued to play strong and went on to defeat the Mississauga Reps for the ultimate prize.

“When we got to the championship game, it was a close game,” he said. “That is the high of the whole thing – that we won it. It turned out to be a great win for everybody.”

As a young hockey player learning the ropes of the NHL, Rielly also understands the emotions that can take over when playing in an important game.

“I would just say play your hardest because you probably won’t get two cracks at it. Most players only get a chance to play in that tournament if they are pretty lucky,” he stated. “I would try and leave it all out there and try to enjoy the experience. I would just say enjoy it, but it is such a cool experience to win it.”

Rielly was chosen by Hockey Canada to be the event ambassador, which was an easy choice for him. He might make an appearance at Mosaic Place this week, but he has also chosen to represent Canada at the world championship in Belarus, which begins in May.

“I knew that I would want to do that just because I had a great experience when I had a chance to play in that tournament,” said Rielly. “I am happy to help out and it is such a cool tournament to play in. I am happy it is being held in Moose Jaw.”

The Telus Cup gets underway Monday at noon. The host team, the Moose Jaw Generals open the tournament at 7:30 p.m. on Monday with opening ceremonies taking place prior to puck drop.

Follow me on Twitter @katiebrickman.

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