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Canada’s DiPietro did not disappoint

 

Michael DiPietro knows high-pressure hockey and has the accolades to prove it.

The 2017 Memorial Cup champion entered Wednesday’s quarter-final match against Finland and kept the opposition scoreless until the dying moments of the final frame. Through it all, DiPietro made countless highlight reel saves, including a handful of big-time stops on Nashville Predators prospect Eeli Tolvanen.

While the end result – a 2-1 overtime for Finland – following two fortuitous bounces wasn’t what DiPietro was hoping for, there was still plenty to be proud of for the Amhertsburg, Ont., native.

For one, his dominant play between the pipes didn’t go unnoticed. That much was evident as chants of “DiPietro! DiPietro!” rang throughout Vancouver’s Rogers Arena. That may be a sign of what the future holds for the budding netminder, a third-round draft choice by the Vancouver Canucks in 2017.

DiPietro’s overall strong performance at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship was a positive step for the 19-year-old and served as a sneak peek for a rebuilding Canucks club that is sure to soon feature a younger face in the blue paint.

While Canada didn’t come away with a world junior medal on home soil, it’s difficult to foist the blame on DiPietro, who finished the tournament with a .952 save percentage and 1.23 goals-against average through four games. For his efforts, the Ottawa 67’s netminder was named a top three player for Canada, alongside forward Cody Glass (Portland Winterhawks) and captain Maxime Comtois (Drummondville Voltigeurs), in addition to being recognized as his country’s player of the game in the quarter-final.

“I am proud to be Canadian. To be a member of this great country playing our game at the world juniors was truly a dream come true,” DiPietro said in a statement following the loss. “Thank you Canada for trusting us and getting behind us since the beginning. Three-and-a-half weeks ago a group of friends got together, and in a short time became a family. Sometimes things don’t go as we had dreamed or hoped it would but the process along the way has and will be one I will remember for my entire life.

“I appreciate the kind words from everyone in this great country and I am proud to call Canada home. Hockey is my life and what I love to do and it was truly an honor to play for our great country.”

Overall, the world juniors served as a learning experience for DiPietro, and another notch on his belt after he disappointingly did not make the final cut of the Canadian roster in years prior. Of course, that wasn’t the case this time around, as DiPietro entered camp with the top job on his mind before ultimately earning the starting gig.

For DiPietro, with the world juniors now in the rearview mirror, the focus turns to winning his second Memorial Cup. After winning it all with the Windsor Spitfires in 2017 – when he also took home Most Outstanding Goaltender honours – DiPietro now has a chance to do it again with his new Ottawa 67’s teammates following December’s trade.

There’s excitement in Ottawa about what’s to come. DiPietro’s participation at the world juniors means he has only suited up for one game with the 67’s since the deal, a win in which he allowed a single goal and showed that he can be a key cog as Ottawa pushes for its first Memorial Cup since 1999.

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