Golden Boy's back

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

Exactly one year ago, Justin Pogge was packing his bags in preparation of joining the Calgary Hitmen.

Pogge's world has changed dramatically since he was acquired by Hitmen GM Kelly Kisio at the 2005 WHL trade deadline.

Back then, he was deemed expendable by the Prince George Cougars, who included the big goaltender in a six-player swap.

Now he's something of a national hero, having backstopped Team Canada to a second straight gold medal at last week's world junior hockey championship in Vancouver.

But as much as things have changed, some things remain the same.

"Yeah, I just figured that out. I'm still flying to Calgary," Pogge said yesterday of spending his one-year anniversary at the Calgary airport.

Pogge is scheduled to arrive from Kelowna today at 12:25 p.m. He's expected to be swarmed by fans and media alike, something the affable teen says he's still getting used to.

"It's just a little overwhelming," he said of becoming Canada's Golden Boy.

"You can't get sick of it."

Two months ago, the 19-year-old was quietly going about his business, putting up the best numbers in the WHL.

Now, everyone wants to talk to him.

Pogge was greeted by two dozen fans at the Penticton airport last week. Among them were the mayor, Jake Kimberley, and Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Stockwell Day, who presented the netminder with a parliamentary citation.

He was also honoured in front of his hometown fans before last Friday's Penticton Vees BCHL game.

There's sure to be more adulation tomorrow night when Pogge returns to the Saddledome ice to battle the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Coming off an incomparable high at the world juniors -- where he won all six starts, put up a goals-against average of 1.00 and set a record with three shutouts -- Pogge said he'll have no trouble refocusing on the task at hand.

"There won't be that much of a difference," he said. "This was definitely a big event but it's over now.

"You have to look past it, put it in your memory and move on.

"I have to go back to Calgary where we're going to do our best to win a championship. That's the next goal."

It's a goal, much like the others he's recently accomplished, that wouldn't have been possible if he hadn't got that phone call a year ago today.

The magical ride all started with the trade.

"It's high up there," he said when asked where the deal ranks among his career highlights.

"It was definitely a big move for me. Everything has worked out so well for me since then. It was a fresh start, it was a good team, a great bunch of guys and a great city, good coaching. It was a new outlook on hockey and what it feels like to win."

Part of a goaltending platoon with Real Cyr prior to being shipped to Calgary, Pogge flourished in the Stampede City when he was told from the get-go he would be the No. 1 man.

"It was a big confidence booster," said the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect.

"Knowing you're going to be playing every night is kind of a relief. You know you won't be on the bench every other game."

He won't need to worry about riding the pine anytime soon.

HIT PARADE: Calgary was ranked No. 2 in the Western Major Junior Hockey Writers Association's weekly poll, one point back of Medicine Hat ... The WHL trade deadline arrives today at 3 p.m.


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