How the WHL Cup helped paved the way for Sebastian Cossa

Photo Credits: Nicolas Carrillo/Grand Rapids Griffins

To say Sebastian Cossa has been part of some big games would be an understatement.

Cossa, who is now suiting up for the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins, was part of the 2022 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship Gold Medal Game where Team Canada defeated Team Finland 3-2 in overtime.

He also played in multiple Western Hockey League playoff series during his final junior season which concluded with Cossa and his Edmonton Oil Kings teammates hoisting the Ed Chynoweth Cup after defeating the Seattle Thunderbirds in six games. He then played every minute for the Oil Kings that same spring when Edmonton went to the 2022 Memorial Cup in Saint John, NB.

But before he was backstopping his team to WHL glory or part of the group that helped return the gold medal to Canada, before he was drafted with the 15th overall selection in the 2021 NHL draft by the Detroit Red Wings, Cossa was part of the goaltending tandem for Team Alberta at the 2017 WHL Cup.

“Ah, the high stick goal that got us a silver medal,” said Cossa, when asked about what he remembers from that tournament.

Team Alberta went undefeated through the round robin, with Cossa splitting the netminding duties with Washington Capitals prospect Garin Bjorklund. Team Alberta earned a spot in the gold medal final against Team British Columbia, but lost 4-3 when BC’s Ben King deflected a high shot past Cossa. Team Alberta immediately called for the goal to be disallowed due to a high stick, but there wasn’t a review process so the call on the ice stood.

While the result of the tournament didn’t fall in the favour of Cossa and his teammates, it was an unbelievable experience.

“It was really fun and really competitive,” Cossa said. “Obviously the best players from BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta all gathering at Winsport in Calgary. I have a lot of good memories from that tournament.”

“We had a strong round robin, fell a little bit short there in overtime against BC, but looking back at the rosters, there’s a lot of guys on both teams that are now playing professional hockey. That tournament overall over the years has had a lot of players get drafted to the NHL, a lot of first-round picks as well so playing with and against a lot of those guys was really good for me and my development.”

Cossa, who was originally born in Hamilton, ON, moved to Alberta at a young age. He played his minor hockey with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons as well as the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers, where he helped the U15 AAA Rangers win the provincial title in the 2016-17 season.

He said playing in the WHL Cup with so many other elite prospects really gave him the confidence that he could compete at the Western Hockey League level.

“That’s the highest level of competition I had played at to that date. It’s the best of the best from each province and there’s a couple of steps you have to go through in order to make Team Alberta,” Cossa said.

Cossa also had accolades for the volunteer coaches and Hockey Alberta staff for creating a solid program that ensures a positive experience for the participants.

“They’ve been doing it for a long time and have had a lot of players go through their program and make the NHL. They know what they’re doing, and it was a lot of fun to go through that process,” said Cossa.

The 2023 edition of the WHL Cup is set to get underway on Wednesday, October 18 when Team Alberta takes on Team Manitoba. Alberta will then take on Saskatchewan on Thursday and British Columbia on Friday. Semi-finals are Saturday, with the finals on Sunday.