Sparks eyes Team USA

By Nate Sager, Buzzing the Net

Garret Sparks hopes all roads lead to a role for him with the Toronto Maple Leafs one day. On Friday, the front of his net was as snarled as the roads out of the GTA are at rush hour — which is exactly how the 19-year-old likes it.

From a team perspective, the Guelph Storm prefer it when their workhorse goalie does not have to make 44 saves like he did in the nationally televised 4-1 win over the Oshawa Generals. In the grand scheme, though, facing a torrent of vulcanized rubber isn’t the worst fate for a goalie with world junior tournament aspirations. Playing on a defensively taut team that typically allows only 20 to 25, mostly from the outskirts of the offensive zone, might make it look too easy. Performances such as Friday’s indicate Sparks, when he’s on, could give Team USA an alternative to returning goalie John Gibson next month at the WJC in Ufa, Russia.

So please, clog the crease and keep firing, OHL opponents.

“World juniors is the best of the best and I’ve love to play in it,” Sparks said. “It’s games like these matter, the ones you’re probably not supposed to win.

You look at last year and at that Czech [Republic team] with [Detroit Red Wings prospect] Petr Mrazek, they won games they probably shouldn’t have. This was a good test and the tournament would be another step up.”

It was as if Friday was Sparks’ personal Super showcase. The Elmhurst, Ill., native will be a spectator next Thursday when Guelph hosts Game 3 of the Subway Super Series, with teammates Matt Finn and Zack Mitchell playing for Team OHL. Stoning the Generals and OHL scoring leader Boone Jenner, a potential returnee for Team Canada, provided more than adequate proxy.

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