Too close to watch

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

So here's the scenario: Winnipeg's Jonathan Toews was about to place his name in the Canadian junior hockey record books.

It was the overtime shootout, Team Canada against the U.S.

At stake, a berth in the gold-medal game at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Sweden.

Probably close to a million Canadians were watching, but get this: Toews' mother wasn't one of them.

Instead, Andree Gilbert was huddled in her St. Boniface bathroom, too nervous to watch her son become Canada's latest junior hockey hero.

"I am so pathetic," Gilbert said yesterday. "I went to the washroom and turned on the fan. I was just a basket case. I couldn't take it. Thank God Jonathan can take the pressure better than I do."

That he did, scoring on all three of his shootout chances in a performance that'll be remembered for years.

Told his mother couldn't bear to watch, Toews, on the line from Sweden, was surprised -- but only for a moment.

"No way," the 18-year-old said. "I haven't talked to her. No way. That's unbelievable. I don't blame her. We were all pretty nervous."

It's true. Toews and his teammates were close to being basket cases themselves after seeing the Americans dominate the 10-minute overtime.

You couldn't tell, the way the University of North Dakota forward coolly fired three shots, in three different places, past a shell-shocked Jeff Frazee in the U.S. net.

"We were all pretty shaky on the bench," Toews said. "I was pretty darn nervous. You're skating down for just over five seconds, and you've just got to go for it. You've just got to blank everything out and just let it happen."

Toews actually had no idea the rules allowed him to shoot more than once.

So the relief he felt after scoring his first quickly became a blur in the moments that followed.

"There was just one thing after the other," he said. "It was pretty amazing. You know, it's probably one of the most important games I've ever played. It's unbelievable to pull it off."

And quite a turnaround from regulation time, when Team Canada appeared down and out, trailing 1-0 through two periods.

So where did the third-period inspiration come from?

None other than Steve Yzerman, who had offered the team some valuable advice just before it left for Sweden.

Toews remembers those words well.

"We got a call from Steve Yzerman, and he told us about the adversity we were going to face out here," Toews said. "And we said, 'Yeah, well, this is it. This is the battle we're going to have to go through if we want to go all the way in this tournament.' We stuck with it, and it turned out."

Yeah, but who could have predicted the way it turned out, with Canada forcing overtime, only to be on the ropes in OT? Then Toews, who'd never been part of a shootout, going three-for-three during a crazy, seven-round roller-coaster ride?

"We played good at times, and sometimes we were a little shaky with the puck," Toews said. "When they went up one goal, we knew they were going to try and just hang on. We were scared, obviously, of running out of time."

No wonder his mom couldn't watch most of the overtime or the shootout.

"I've never done this before," Gilbert said. "I was just pacing. I thought, 'This is crazy. This is just a hockey game. Like, get with it.' I'm glad it's over. I'm not too proud of myself."

Think she's proud of her kid, though?

Darren Helm of St. Andrews had a heck of a game, too, although not quite as dramatic as that of his teammate.

Now they're both going for gold against Russia tomorrow.

And this time, Gilbert swears she'll stick around to watch.

"They better not do this the next game," she said. "They're gonna kill me."


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