Halischuk gets hero's welcome

IAN ROBERTSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

Seeing his parents, grandparents and "billet mom" was pure gold yesterday for hockey hero Matthew Halischuk.

Halischuk, 19, scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Sweden on Saturday to give Canada a 3-2 win and its fourth consecutive gold medal at the world junior championship.

Surrounded by his tired but triumphant Team Canada teammates, Halischuk was thrilled when his family "pushed through the crowd" of fans at Pearson airport.

"It was great to see them," said Halischuk, who broke the tie against Sweden 3 minutes and 36 seconds into overtime.

In addition to parents John and Susan and billet mom Ellen Martin of Kitchener being at the airport, his older brother Jeff, 23, arrived at his family's Mississauga home to congratulate the New Jersey Devil's draft pick.

'PRETTY POOPED'

A winger with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers, Halischuk said his family has always backed his goals.

"I watched the game when I was young and my parents were very supportive," said Halischuk, who has cheered for the Leafs over the years.

Scoring the winning goal "is pretty much the high point of my life," he said.

Rest was very much on the agenda for most of the Team Canada heroes, he said.

After a champagne celebration, Halischuk said the team "had to hop on the bus."

"All of the guys were pretty pooped, so we fell asleep."

After arriving in Vienna from the Czech Republic where the championship was played, the team flew to Frankfurt, and, after an hour delay, Canada's top young puck-handlers landed at Pearson at 4:30 p.m.

"It was pretty fun to see all those Canadian fans cheering for us," said Shawn Matthias, 19, who plays for the Belleville Bulls of the OHL.

Despite being "pretty tired," he had to watch the play after arriving at his Mississauga home, where brother Steven, 18, recorded the game off TV.

Lauding his teammates, the NHL Florida Panthers draft pick said "It's nice to be on top again."

From Oakville, where he was preparing to drive to St. Catharines to celebrate his best friend's birthday with his girlfriend last night, Stefan Legein, 19, said the victory "was the greatest thing ever" and forged bonds with other players that will last "forever."

Legein, 18, who plays with the OHL's Niagara Ice Dogs, said he was very frustrated playing only "one shift."

LACED UP SKATES

Left out of the final stages by a separated shoulder, "I watched the game in the dressing room." But when Team Canada won, he laced up his skates and held the trophy on the ice with his teammates, happily watching his smiling parents, who flew over to be at the game in Pardubice with friends.

"We had an unbelievable party afterwards," said tournament MVP, goalie Steve Mason, 19, of Oakville, who was recently traded to the OHL's Kitchener Rangers.

John Tavares, 17,of the Oshawa Generals, said "bringing home another gold is incredible."


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