TRURO, N.S. - They were Canada West throughout the tournament but make no mistake, they were Team Canada on Saturday.
A thunderous capacity crowd at the Rath-Eastlink Community Centre went home happy after cheering Canada West on to the gold medal, with a 5-1 victory over Team USA at the 2017 World Junior A Challenge.
“There’s nothing like it, we’re just ecstatic right now,” said team captain Carter Turnbull, a veteran of three Challenges, just after the final buzzer. “We just kept it simple – all the guys were rolling, all the guys were getting shots on goal. It was awesome to see, and we really deserved it today.”
Turnbull, who’s from Nanaimo, B.C., and plays for Powell River in the BCHL, took the trophy for a celebratory lap around the rink after accepting it from Hockey Canada board of directors member Michael Brind’Amour and CJHL president Brent Ladds. Turnbull’s medal pairs up with the one he won as a member of Canada West in 2015.
Zach Rose, from Paradise, N.L., and netminder for Victoria of the BCHL, began the tournament as a back-up goaltender and came in about midway through Canada West’s opening game, a 5-2 loss to Czech Republic. He played the remainder of the tournament and was on top of his game Saturday, stopping 35 of 36 shots. The performance earned him Most Valuable Player honours and he was also named to the tournament All-Star Team.
“My team called upon me, and you just gotta step up,” said Rose moments after the celebratory team photo at centre ice. “I honestly couldn’t have done that without my team – they were just outstanding. This feeling that I have right now, wearing the Maple Leaf and winning gold for Canada, it’s just unbelievable.”
Rose could well have faced a dozen or so more shots in the game, were it not for his teammates throwing themselves in front of the puck, much to the crowd’s appreciation.
A short-handed goal at 9:06 of the opening frame sent fans into a frenzy. Brendan Budy split the American defence at centre ice and took a perfect pass from Levi Kleiboer to go in alone and beat U.S. netminder Jake Kucharski for a 1-0 lead.
The second goal for Team Canada had Angus Crookshank and Ethan de Jong working the give-and-go to perfection. Crookshank passed off from the left and stormed the net to take a return pass from de Jong and roof it for a 2-0 lead.
Corey Andonoski added a third goal midway through the second before Jack Drury scored from a scramble in front of the Canadians’ net about two minutes later to make it 3-1.
Goals by Ross Armour and Dylan Holloway sealed the deal in the third for Canada West, and rounded out the 5-1 final.
The Canadians had 19 shots on net against Kucharski and Ryan Bischel, who came in after Canada’s third goal.
“Character, lots of character, and a lot of heart,” was Team Canada West head coach Mike Reagan’s response when asked about what made the difference for his team. “’The Western Way.’ That’s what we preached, and the Canadian Way, and I’m just so proud of these guys. Three days ago we were sitting at 0-2, but we believed in this group.”
Joining Rose on the All-Star Team were defencemen Alexander Romanov on Team Russia and Team Canada West’s Jonny Tychonick (Penticton, B.C./Penticton, BCHL); as well as forwards Ross Armour (Rossland, B.C./Trail, BCHL) from Team Canada West; Colton Kalezic (Toronto/Toronto, OJHL) from Team Canada East; and American Tyler Madden.
This marked Canada West’s fifth championship in the history of the tournament, with the United States capturing the other seven.
– WITH HOCKEY CANADA FILES