Sweatin' to the goldies

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

PARDUBICE, Czech Republic -- Team Canada captain Karl Alzner is a mild-mannered guy, but there he was climbing out of the penalty box and leading his team into the stands at the CEZ Arena.

This wasn't about letting some dough-head have it, however. This was about sharing the world junior hockey championship trophy with some of the estimated 4,000 fans that had cheered Canada on for the past 11 days.

It was the climactic moment in a delirious celebration after the unofficial home team salvaged victory from the brink of defeat in a 3-2 overtime thriller over Sweden in the gold-medal final yesterday, securing Canada's fourth consecutive world junior crown.

This year's hero was Mississauga's Matt Halischuk, who did what all red-blooded hockey players are taught to do, barely three minutes into overtime: He went to the net.

Linemate Shawn Matthias had forced the puck into the Swedish crease and Halischuk just poked it home.

"I don't think I even saw it go in," Halischuk said. "I just saw the ref point to the back of the net. I don't even remember what I did. I don't think it's sunk in yet, what happened."

This was one slippery gold medal, in the Canadians' hands one minute, out the next. First-period goals by Brad Marchand and Claude Giroux had Canada up 2-0, exactly the same score this team led Sweden by early in the third period of the preliminary round. And we all know what happened in that one.

"We told ourselves it's not going to happen again," defenceman Drew Doughty said. And then it did.

Five minutes into the third, the Swedes got on the board and the momentum, once again, had done a complete about-face.

"Once we got on our heels, it was tough to get it stopped," coach Craig Hartsburg said. "The Swedes just kept coming and coming."

And with 38 seconds left, they arrived, and Canada had blown the lead once more.

"Your heart just stops," is how Marchand described it.

"It was devastating," goaltender Steve Mason -- named the tourney MVP added. "We were right back where we started."

In overtime, the longer this went, the worse it looked for Canada -- until Halischuk and Matthias went to work.

"We knew it probably wasn't going to be a pretty goal," Hartsburg said.

Then he quickly changed his mind: "I don't care if he stickhandled through eight guys, it was a great goal."

Giroux described the winner as "by far the best moment of my life." Minutes earlier, he'd been living "probably the worst moment of my life."

Little wonder the celebration spilled into the stands.

"We're not just doing this for ourselves," Marchand said. "We're doing it for every person in the stands, every person back in Canada."


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