The trials and tribulations of a Canadian hockey fan
It’s finally arrived, the IIHF World Junior Championships, and I couldn’t be happier to drag myself out of bed at 2 a.m. on a publication day.
I am writing this shortly after watching Team Canada’s spirited 6-3 comeback victory over Slovakia in the dark hours of Friday morning, my jersey is still on, and the adrenaline is still flowing.
Sure, I could have set my alarm a few hours later and watched the game at 6 a.m. before coming into work and no one would have been able to ruin the score for me, but where’s the fun in that?
There’s something about watching a game live, even if it means having to wake up at an unholy hour. It’s the feeling that while I may be alone in my living room, hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of hockey-crazed Canadians are on the edge of their seats with me.
Team Canada’s day started off a lot like mine, out of sorts. I was still rubbing the sleep from my eyes when the Slovaks managed to get the better of the Canadians and grab an early lead, which they quickly extended to two goals.
Given that the Slovaks took the tournament-favorite Russians to overtime a few days before their match-up with Canada, I can’t say I was shocked to see them come out with some serious intensity, but I was still feeling anxious.
For reassurance, I had to think back to the last year that Canada claimed gold, 2009, which saw a number of comeback victories, including the infamous Eberle goal that lifted Canada to a semifinal shootout victory against the Russians, and a monumental comeback on New Year’s Eve 2008 that saw John Tavares lead the charge in erasing a three-goal deficit against the Americans, putting up a hat trick en route to a 7-4 win.
That’s the beauty of this tournament: no game is a guaranteed win, and as long as there’s some time left on the clock, nothing is decided.
A coffee at the intermission gave me the jolt I needed to stay awake, and whatever they talked about in the dressing room seemed to give the players a kick as well, because they came out looking like a new team.
Ryan Strome beat Slovak goalie Adam Nagy with a fancy snipe to cut the lead to one, and while the Slovaks quickly re-established their two-goal lead, there was no quit in the red-and-white.
After Morgan Rielly brought Canada back within a goal with a hard slapper on a five-on-three power play, it was Airdrie’s Ty Rattie who evened things up with a beautiful tap in goal on a feed from Xavier Oullet. The lamp was lit red, and TSN commentator Gord Miller was right there with the perfect call, “Ty Rattie! Tie game!”
Just before the end of the second period, Mark Scheifele redirected a shot from Griffin Reinhart past Nagy to give Team Canada its first lead of the game, one it would not cough up.
The third period was all Canada again, as if the first 20 minutes were some sort of nightmare that never really happened. Edmonton Oiler Ryan-Nugent Hopkins scored his second goal of the tournament to put Canada ahead by two in the opening minutes of the third period, and Strome added his second of the night a few minutes later to put the game out of reach for Slovakia.
While the game saw a couple of hiccups, and may leave us without J.C. Lipon and Anthony Camara, who were both ejected from the game for hits to the head (although I would be surprised if Camara receives any supplementary discipline), it tested Team Canada’s resolve and gave them a shot of confidence after staging a comeback with only 10 forwards.
More importantly, the victory gave this entire country a reason to wake up, or stay up, for the rest of Canada’s early morning match ups, which promise to bring even more tension, drama and excitement. Go Canada, go.
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