Junior teammates again

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

Phil McRae and Nazem Kadri were the last two players to make it to the London Knights practice yesterday.

They could be excused for being a bit tardy since most likely their bodies were still on world junior hockey tournament time.

Now it's back to the business of winning games in the Ontario Hockey League after their excellent adventure in Saskatchewan the past three weeks.

McRae was a member of the United States team that won the gold medal over Kadri's Canadian team 6-5 in overtime.

Kadri and McRae showed some of the wear, tear and strain of playing in the emotionally taut tournament.

McRae didn't even have time to bring his gold medal to flash around to his Knights teammates. With so many good players from different countries playing in the OHL, it isn't unusual any longer to find players sharing different coloured medals in the same dressing room.

"Maybe I'll bring it (tonight,)" McRae said, looking at Kadri across the dressing room.

"Yeah, we've talked about it a little bit," McRae said. "We rode over to practice together and we actually bumped into each other after the game that night."

McRae isn't the kind of guy that would do a little rubbing it in after the win, is he?

"He let me have it a little bit," Kadri said with a laugh. "But what am I going to do?"

It was the experience of a lifetime for McRae and that experience will no doubt help him as a hockey player. McRae has all the tools needed to play the game at a high level. He's big, strong, can skate and shoot the puck. Confidence and the ability to use his size and strength is what McRae needs to develop.

But in Saskatoon, he proved he can do it all, getting good ice time throughout the tournament and in the final game.

"It should do a lot for him," Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said. "Not only confidence being a part of that, but a big part of that. It's something you remember the rest of your life. It's only going to do wonders for him.

"When you are picked in the top 22 in your country it means a lot to you, it means a lot to you as a player. You can build on that."

McRae agrees that the world junior is a confidence booster.

"I never really ever won anything. That was by far the biggest tournament I have ever won," McRae said. "I never won a Memorial Cup or anything like that. The biggest thing I won was a national championships in Triple A. It's just nice to be part of winning something like that.

"It is a confidence booster, playing in that tournament with those calibre players, to be able to contribute and help them win a tournament like that, it makes you better. It was a great experience."

The gold medal game was Tuesday and two days later McRae is still trying to sort out the feelings from the gold medal win.

"It's still just sinking in," he said. "It seems like just yesterday that we were pulling in to North Dakota for the start of camp. It went by really quick. It still hasn't sunk in all the way.

"It's just a flood of emotions. You don't know what's gong on. The place was crazy. Your emotions just take over. It took until the next morning to really realize we'd won a gold medal. There was just so much emotion."

The U.S. team was on a roller-coaster ride in the tournament, especially with their games against the Canadians. They gave up two-goal leads against Canada twice in the tournament, including the gold-medal game.

McRae said despite giving up the lead that forced overtime, the U.S. team was confident.

"We never changed our mindset at all," McRae said. "The dressing room was pretty quiet and I think everyone was a little nervous but we were confident. We were like that the whole tournament, You couldn't ask for a better group of guys. It was just a real team."

The medal McRae will eventually show his teammates is a tangible memory of everything he and his teammates accomplished in Saskatchewan. But he will have other memories.

"When we first got to North Dakota, it was a bunch of kids from the OHL, some WHL guys, a bunch of college guys, some kids from the national team program, a bunch of guys all different ages," he said. "By the end of the tournament, I was hugging my brothers on the ice. It was pretty awesome that way."


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