PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – A journey that officially began in July 2017 with the announcement of Hockey Canada’s coaching staff and management group has culminated with a podium performance as Canada’s Olympic Men’s Hockey Team wins bronze following a 6-4 win over the Czech Republic on Saturday.
A total of 16 CHL graduates will bring home bronze, a list that includes goaltenders Justin Peters (Plymouth Whalers), Kevin Poulin (Victoriaville Tigres), defencemen Stefan Elliott (Saskatoon Blades), Marc-Andre Gragnani (PEI Rocket) and Maxim Noreau (Victoriaville Tigres) along with forwards Gilbert Brule (Vancouver Giants), Quinton Howden (Moose Jaw Warriors), Chris Kelly (Sudbury Wolves), Rob Klinkhammer (Brandon Wheat Kings), Brandon Kozun (Calgary Hitmen), Maxim Lapierre (PEI Rocket), Eric O’Dell (Sudbury Wolves), Derek Roy (Kitchener Rangers), Christian Thomas (Oshawa Generals), Linden Vey (Medicine Hat Tigers) and Wojtek Wolski (Brampton Battalion).
It was Andrew Ebbett (Vernon, B.C./SC Bern, NLA) who opened the scoring on a power play at 8:57 in the first frame, and within 31 seconds, the score was 2-1 Canada, as captain Chris Kelly (Sudbury Wolves) tipped in a shot at 9:28 to pull ahead after Martin Ruzicka had tied things up for the Czechs.
Derek Roy (Kitchener Rangers) made it 3-1 for Canada before the end of the first period – a score that would hold until the opening minutes of the third frame, when the teams combined for six goals in a fast-paced flurry that kept fans on the edge of their seats. Ebbett and Kelly potted their second goals of the game, and Wojtek Wolski (Brampton Battalion) added the extra buffer, scoring Canada’s sixth and final goal of the game. [Full game stats and story available at HockeyCanada.ca.]
“It’s extremely special. The way we came out and started this game after a disappointing loss last night, I thought it really showed the character of the group. We didn’t want [the semifinal loss] to be the defining moment for our hockey team. We’re a hard-working group,” said Kelly responding to reporters’ questions on what it means to bring home bronze. “We had so many great leaders on this team. I was able to play with great players and find spots tonight [to contribute]; it’s quite the group.”
In preliminary-round action, the Canadians posted a 2-0-1 record, winning their games against Switzerland and South Korea, and posting a shootout loss to the Czech Republic. Canada went on to win the quarterfinal over Finland by a score of 1-0, and they were edged 4-3 by Germany in the semifinal.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the players. We talked about representing your country, we talked about being part of the medals for Canada. [Team Canada has] set a record, and we wanted to be part of that. It was [about] more than just us. They didn’t come over here just to march in the Opening Ceremony – they–wanted to do something special,” said head coach Willie Desjardins (Medicine Hat Tigers) of the team’s performance to ensure they secured the bronze medal. Desjardins spoke of the inspiration the team drew from management group member Martin Brodeur’s story about his father’s Olympic bronze medal that hung on their wall growing up. Brodeur’s father, Denis, played in the 1956 Olympic Winter Games, backstopping Canada to a bronze medal in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. “We talked about how special this one chance [is], and how last night didn’t go the way we wanted, but I think that’s how their whole career has gone. Some things don’t go the way they wanted, but they just don’t give up. I’m really proud of our guys because they battled tonight.”
On January 11, the 25 players selected to Canada’s Olympic Men’s Hockey Team were announced. The team gathered in Riga, Latvia, for its pre-competition camp, and blanked both Latvia and Belarus in pre-tournament action before travelling to South Korea where they won their final tune-up game against Sweden before beginning Olympic action.
The players were selected by Canada’s National Men’s Team general manager Sean Burke (Windsor, Ont./Montreal, NHL), management group member Brodeur (Montreal/St. Louis, NHL), Hockey Canada’s chief executive officer, Tom Renney (Cranbrook, B.C.), president and chief operating officer, Scott Smith (Bathurst, N.B.), and vice-president of hockey operations and national teams, Scott Salmond (Creston, B.C.), with input from the coaching staff – Desjardins and assistant coaches Dave King (Saskatoon, Sask.), Scott Walker (Cambridge, Ont./Vancouver, NHL), and Craig Woodcroft (Toronto/Genève-Servette HC, NLA).
For more information on Canada’s National Men’s Team, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow through social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Twitter.com/HC_Men.