Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Canada does it again!

Another year, another gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships!

Oh, how I would have loved to be in the crowd when Canada took on Sweden in the gold medal game, a 5-1 win for the good guys.

In a rematch of last year’s finals, Canada cranked it up a notch, obviously learning after the Russia game that there is no time to be mediocre in a tournament like this. The way they came out on Monday, there was no doubt what the outcome would be.

And it was fitting too that Angelo Esposito, a guy who made the team after being cut the previous three years, scored the game-winning goal -- and what a goal it was!

Canada started the tournie with three easy games (outscoring the opposition 28-2), but after that we were treated to three instant classics.

It started with the 7-4 come-from-behind win against the USA, Canada’s first true test. The boys were down 3-0 almost right away, but they battled hard and battled back, led by John Tavares who scored two of his three goals in under a minute to get his team going.

Then there was that back-and-forth game with Russia where Canada didn't look great and gave up a late goal in 4-4 tie. It looked like it was all over. With less than two minutes to go, hockey fans across the country sat there in front of TV's, radios and computers thinking "this can't be how it ends..."

With almost no time left, John Tavares floated a harmless looking backhander towards the net -- this is it, I thought. One last shot, and it's a fluttery backhander. But the puck ended up on the stick of Edmonton Oilers prospect Jordan Eberle, who slotted it home with 5.4 seconds on the clock, tying the game.

Overtime decided nothing, and Eberle and Tavares scored in the shootout, while Dustin Tokarski stopped both Russian shots, and that was that -- another Canadian triumph.

When it mattered most, Team Canada rose to whatever challenge they faced and as a team, came out on top. Grab a tissue – this is what it’s all about:

I love this tournament. Win or lose, I live and die by it every year.

When I think back to all the years I've watched the World Juniors, I see the now-primitive TSN graphics, I hear Paul Romanuk’s call of the games and I remember being a little guy that dreamed of suiting up for my country.

Congratulations to Team Canada, and let the countdown begin to next year's tournament!

A "Coast to Coast Christmas" for the Pickard family

Over the holidays, on one end of the country Chet Pickard was stopping shots for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships; on the other end, his younger brother Calvin was doing the same for Canada West at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

The Winnipeg brothers both play their hockey in the US Division of the WHL – 19-year-old Chet in his fourth season with the Tri-City Americans and 16-year-old Calvin in his first with the Seattle Thunderbirds – but both got to wear the Maple Leaf this winter.

Chet played Canada’s first two games at the World Juniors, an 8-1 win over the Czech Republic and a 15-0 win over Kazakhstan, before Dustin Tokarski took over between the pipes.

While the elder Pickard only faced 33 shots in two blowouts, his younger brother saw a lot more action in a rollercoaster ride with Canada West.

Calvin’s tournament started with a 3-0 record and with first place on the line, he watched from the bench as his team closed out the preliminary round with a 7-0 loss to Team USA.

Pickard was yanked after two periods in a 7-4 semi final loss to Ontario, the eventual winners of the tournament.

Things went from bad to worse when Canada West failed to repeat as bronze medal winners, losing 4-2 in a rematch with the Americans despite a 33-save performance by Pickard.

But you win some and you lose some, right? Good on both of these boys for living the dream!

As for bragging rights, Chet’s Tri-City Americans are 4-0 against Calvin’s Seattle Thunderbirds so far this season, but the brothers have only gone head-to-head once – a 5-4 overtime win for Tri-City on November 1st.

This is a rivalry that might be worth watching this season, and they play five more times before the season's out!

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