Warm welcome for winners

CAM MAXWELL, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

Prior to the world junior hockey championships, Karl Alzner said the day he was named to Team Canada was the best day of his life.

Not anymore.

The Hitmen defenceman and the Canucks brought the gold medal to Calgary yesterday from Sweden following Friday's 4-2 gold-medal win over Russia.

"This tops that without a doubt," said the stalwart blueliner with his trademark grin.

"The feeling I had was unbelievable. It was like nothing else mattered. Injuries that guys had have sort of disappeared for a few hours after that win."

Like the rest of the players, including goaltender Carey Price and defenceman Kris Russell, who arrived at Calgary International airport yesterday afternoon, Alzner was bleary-eyed after little sleep and much celebration.

"I haven't gone to sleep since the last game but I slept on the way to Stockholm and from there to Frankfurt, so that's all the sleep I've had since the pre-game nap before the final," said Alzner, 18, who wound up with one assist.

Missing out on some shuteye is nothing compared to helping Canada win its third straight world junior title and first on European soil in 10 years.

The thing Alzner, a Burnaby, B.C., product, will remember the most is the amazing camaraderie the the team developed since the selection camp in Calgary last month.

"It was just an unbelievable group of guys. And to play the way we played was also unbelievable, so it's a good accomplishment for us," said Alzner, who will likely suit up for the Hitmen when they travel to Medicine Hat and tangle with the Tigers Tuesday.

"It was so exciting and I've got 21 friends I'll have forever."

Team Canada went a perfect 6-0 and has now won its last 18 games at the world junior championship.

During the tournament, head coach Craig Hartsburg's faith in Alzner's ability grew and, accordingly, gave the 6-ft. 2-in., 200-pounder more ice time.

"The coaches felt more confident in me as the tournament went on and decided to throw me in there more often," said Alzner, who is eligible for next year's tourney.

"Next year will be a little bit different for sure. In camp I'll be more settled down and I'll take the new guys under my wing and help them settle down and let them know what to expect."


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