Golden memories

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:55 AM ET

Not even a sleepless night could wipe the grin off Justin Pogge's face.

The Calgary Hitmen and junior national team goalie didn't sleep much after Canada's 5-0 world junior championship triumph over Russia on Thursday night in Vancouver but Pogge doesn't need the shuteye when he's got the gold medal.

When reached yesterday at his mother's house in Penticton, B.C., the 19-year-old was kicking back, enjoying some much-needed time off after leading Canada to its second straight world junior title.

"I'm just hanging out and relaxing. I haven't done this since the end of last season," he said, adding he's not sure if the win has sunk in just yet.

"It's the day after but I still feel pretty good about it -- I have a permanent smile on my face."

So he should.

Just before the world junior tourney, Pogge signed a three-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Then he set a new world junior tournament record for goalies with three shutouts, while the Canadian team set another mark for fewest goals allowed with just six against.

And when he rejoins the Hitmen, likely for Wednesday's game at the Saddledome against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Pogge's confidence will be sky-high as the Hitmen try chase down the Medicine Hat Tigers for first place in the WHL's Central Division and Eastern Conference.

"It's definitely helped my confidence. I learned a lot playing under some pretty big pressure. You definitely learn a lot and hopefully it carries through the end of the season," said Pogge, who was drafted by the Leafs in 2003 (90th overall).

"I don't think I've ever been under pressure like that but I'm excited to get back with the boys.

"It's been a long time and I've been talking with them on the phone and stuff, so it'll be nice coming back to Calgary and start playing with them again."

While Pogge flew to Penticton, Kris Russell of the Medicine Hat Tigers came through Calgary on his way back home to Caroline. The bleary-eyed blueliner actually played on the same team with Pogge when they were in minor hockey together on a tournament team.

And Russell, who sees plenty of Pogge when the Tigers play the Hitmen, was more than happy to be on the same squad with him again.

"He's a great goaltender and he's a great guy. When we were younger I had the opportunity to play with him, so I knew him before and we were looking back at that and saying 'Hey, now we're on the world junior team together,' " said Russell, who, along with Tigers teammate Cam Barker, didn't allow a goal against in the junior tournament when they were on the ice.

"So it's pretty cool and he deserves everything he's got."

Russell admitted he didn't get any sleep after the gold-medal game but any sleep depravation brought on by some post-game celebrating was nothing compared to winning the world championship.

"It's pretty exciting to share the excitement with all the other players that you've battled with for three weeks," said Russell, a Columbus Blue Jackets prospect. "We've been going hard, so it was nice to have some fun and enjoy what we've actually accomplished.

"It's pretty special."

Canada is now tied with the former Soviet Union by winning a medal for the eighth consecutive year (1999-2006). The Soviet Union accomplished the feat from 1974-1981.

Canada has won back-to-back championship games for the first time since its string of five consecutive gold medals from 1993-1997.


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