SUDBURY -- Like so many of his fellow countrymen, James Neal was glued to the tube yesterday afternoon watching Team Canada become world champions.
"It was unbelievable seeing the Canadian team celebrate in the dressing room," the gifted forward of the Plymouth Whalers said. "I was hoping we could have a similar celebration ourselves."
Neal would get his wish.
About seven hours after witnessing Team Canada go bonkers, Neal gave his Whalers their own reason to party by scoring the championship-clinching goal in the Ontario Hockey League final.
When Neal converted a feed from teammate Evan Brophey at 3:22 of overtime, the euphoric Whalers poured off the bench in acknowledgement of their 3-2 triumph over the feisty Sudbury Wolves.
The win gave the Whalers a 4-2 series victory in the best-of-seven OHL final and ensured them of a date later this week in the Memorial Cup along with host Vancouver, Medicine Hat and Lewiston.
Neal recently signed a contract with the Dallas Stars. Last night's victory was just more icing on the cake.
"It keeps getting better and better," Neal said.
Plymouth GM/coach Mike Vellucci paid tribute to a Wolves team that got better as the playoffs rolled on.
"Many people thought we would sweep, but they were good," he said. "We didn't want a Game 7."