CALGARY - Some players crumble under pressure.
Some can handle it.
Others absolutely thrive.
Jonathan Toews proved to the world he has ice water running through his veins at the 2007 world junior championships.
With Team Canada and Team USA tied 1-1 through regulation time and a 10-minute sudden death period, the North American rivals headed to a shootout.
The semifinal tilt had already lived up to expectations, but no one could have predicted the high drama still to come.
Canadian head coach Craig Hartsburg looked down his bench and decided on his three shooters — Steve Downie, Bryan Little and Jonathan Toews.
The Americans answered with Patrick Kane, Peter Mueller and Jack Johnson.
The late Luc Bourdon, who scored Canada’s lone goal in regulation, couldn’t watch.
“I just put my head down,” Bourdon told the Sun after the game. “I did not watch any of the shots at all.”
And there were a few.
After both Downie and Kane came up empty, Little and Mueller traded goals.
Toews put Canada on the verge of victory when his shot beat U.S. goaltender Jeff Frazee to the blocker side.
But the celebration was put on ice when Johnson came through for the U.S.
At the world junior hockey championship, a team can send in any player the coach chooses once the first three shooters have gone.
Hartsburg went back to Little, who was stopped.
Team USA called on Kane again. He, too, was turned aside by Canadian ’tender Carey Price.
Bourdon wasn’t the only one who couldn’t bear to watch.
Head coach Craig Hartsburg surveyed his bench, and he didn’t see many faces.
“We looked down the bench and there were kids ... there was no chance they wanted to go,” Hartsburg said.
“Some of them were actually hiding.”
He’s not exaggerating.
“I was one of those guys,” current Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tom Pyatt admitted last week.
Toews, though, met Hartsburg’s gaze and the coach had his shooter.
The Chicago Blackhawks first-round pick (third overall) in the 2006 draft cooly skated in and ripped a shot over Frazee’s glove.
The celebration on the Canadian bench was quieted again when Mueller scored again to prolong the theatrics.
Hartsburg gave Toews a break and sent Andrew Cogliano over the boards and he delivered.
But Johnson again kept the Americans alive with his second goal of the shootout.
For Round 7, Hartsburg didn’t have to labour over his decision.
“The whole thing as surreal,” Hartsburg said. “But it was pretty easy to keep picking (Toews) with his body language.
“He was so cool. Maybe on the inside, something else was going on, but not on the outside. And that’s why he’s a great captain and a great leader.
“His body language and his demeanor showed me ‘I want to go. Put me in there, coach. I’ll score for you.’ ”
So Toews jumped over the boards for a third time, confidently skated into the zone and scored on a fantastic forehand deke.
“It’s unreal,” Toews told the Sun after the game. “We have a shootout at (the University of North Dakota, where he played) every week and I rarely win the thing.”
But he won the big one as Price squeezed the pads to deny Mueller, touching off a dogpile celebration usually reserved for gold-medal victories.
Pyatt still marvels at Toews’ clutch three-for-three performance.
“It takes a special player to do that under that kind of pressure,” Pyatt said. “It’s such a huge tournament and everybody was watching.
“When anyone thinks of that tournament, they think of what Toews did — scoring three times in three different ways.
“That’s something only special players do.”
The Canadians went on to beat Russia 4-2 to claim its third straight gold medal.
But it’s the heart-stopping semifinal that everyone remembers.
And just in case anyone was wondering, if there had been an eighth round, would Hartsburg have sent Toews in for a fourth time?
“Oh yeah,” Hartsburg said. “For sure. No question.”
On Twitter: @SUNScottFisher