Tears of joy for Canadians in overtime; 'Our Legs Were Done'; Junior thriller give Canada 4th straight gold
07.01.2008. Panzeri, Allen. National Post
PARDUBICE, Czech Republic - When it was all over, Claude Giroux cried.
He didn't intend to. The emotion just washed over him and he couldn't help it.
But he wasn't embarrassed about it.
"I wasn't the only one, either," he said.
They had plenty of reason to seek relief in tears, this Team Canada
squad. They had just closed a roller-coaster of a world junior
championship, one they seemed determined to give away. Only narrowly
did they escape, defeating Sweden 3-2 in overtime on Saturday after
blowing a two-goal, third-period lead. To the horror of the 7,480 fans,
most of them Canadian, they allowed the tying goal with just 38 seconds
left in regulation.
When they went into the dressing room after the third period, the
Swedes were bouncing down the corridor. The Canadians, said Guelph
Storm defenceman Drew Doughty, were "heartbroken."
But 3:36 into overtime, Matt Halischuk of the Kitchener Rangers scored
a goal he didn't even see go in, and the celebration started. "All I
saw was the referee's arm signal a goal," he said.
That was enough.
Against what seemed like long odds only a week ago when Canada coughed
up another 2-0 lead and lost 4-3 to the Swedes in the round robin, it
won its fourth straight gold medal and 14th overall.
Next year in Ottawa, Canada will be going for five to match the run from 1993 to 1997.
"I didn't think I was going to cry, but the emotion was so high," said
Giroux, who plays for the Gatineau Olympiques and who got one of
Canada's three goals. "To win, and to win in overtime, just made it
more special. I just can't even believe it anymore."
He said the Canadians were just hanging on at the end of the third.
"Our legs were just done," he said. "We had worked so hard for the
whole game that when they scored with 30 seconds left, it was like the
worst day of my life."
Fortunately, it lasted only as long as it Halischuk to score.
Brad Marchand also scored for Canada before Sweden got a third- period
power-play goal from Jonathan Carlsson and then Tomas Larsson's killer
with Swedish goalie Jhonas Enroth off for an extra attacker.
Doughty was named to the tournament's all-star team, Marchand was
Canada's player of the game, and Steve Mason of the Kitchener Rangers,
who won five of Canada's seven games, was named the tournament's most
valuable player as well as the all-star goalie.
For him, it was vindication after a round of second-guessing whether
coach Craig Harts-burg was right in choosing Mason over Jonathan
Bernier of the Lewiston Maineiacs.
"This is the greatest day of my life," said Mason, who faced 28 shots. "I've never experienced anything like it."
He said the team was "devastated" and "heartbroken" when the Swedes
tied the game, but said the players had confidence in each other.
"Right from day one we had a lot of character guys on the team," he said. "That's what made us bond so quickly.
"For us to bounce back after losing a two-goal lead and get an early
goal in overtime shows a lot about our character. That's Canadian
hockey and I think everyone back at home can be proud of us."
However, they might not have reached the podium had they not lost to the Swedes in the round robin.
That showed them they were vulnerable. Hartsburg said it was a lesson they needed to learn.
"You can say that at this point," he said. "The core group of kids went
through that summer program [last year] without a real challenge.
"You could tell them -- but they have to experience it -- that there
are some good teams in this thing, probably better teams than last
summer. Lot better teams, really.
"But they'd kind of look at you like 'Well, yeah, we'll see.' But once
we played the Swedes, then they figured out: 'You know what: We've got
to raise our game to another level.' "
Hartsburg wouldn't say whether he'll throw his hat in for a third year behind the bench, but it doesn't sound like it.
"I'm not going to make a total answer right now, but that's a big
commitment three years in a row, with your family and all that stuff.
It's the greatest experience I've ever been involved in."
It doesn't matter who's behind the bench, though. The program will stay
strong because of the players and the status this tournament has
achieved in Canada, he said.
"These kids have all grown up watching this on TV," he said. "They take
the pride in it. They have the passion for it. When you're talking to
them individually, besides the Stanley Cup, this is probably the
biggest dream of a Canadian kid, to win this gold medal."
And they did it again.