Visentin taking it like a champ
Keeps it classy through heatbreak
ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
|Canada goaltender Mark Visentin during practice in Calgary, Alta., Jan. 2, 2012. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI Agency)
CALGARY - He came into the tournament the poster boy for last year's gold-medal meltdown.
He'll leave once again with heartache.
However, regardless of whether Mark Visentin departs with a bronze medal or not he'll take home with him a level of class, poise and professionalism every mother and father would be proud of.
"You can't lull," said the 19-year-old goaltender following a spirited skate that belied the heartbreak felt by all on Team Canada following Tuesday's semifinal loss to Russia.
"You can't sit here and be sad or feel sorry for us -- it's our fault. We have to be responsible for that loss and (Thursday) we move on. We had to regroup. Obviously it's disappointing but we're professionals and when you are a professional it means coming to work every day no matter what happens."
As one of four players returning from last year's third-period meltdown, the plan all along was to have last year's jersey and the silver medal put in a shadow box for display. This year's souvenirs would be boxed separately.
And while the prize from either varies as much as the experience, Visentin is convincing when he outlines the major difference.
"I know last year losing the gold-medal game it was different after that because there weren't any more games and I had to go home and deal with it like that," said Visentin of the sour taste left in his mouth following the five goals he let in to ruin an otherwise golden performance.
"It would be a good feeling to go out on a winning note. Coach Don Hay settled us down and I think the guys have done a good job getting over the loss and focusing on the bronze-medal game."
Was there anything he felt he could say to help his teammates get over Tuesday's semifinal loss?
"I don't have to teach them a lesson -- we learned the lesson ourselves yesterday and it was pretty straightforward what we learned," said the Phoenix Coyotes first rounder from Waterdown, On. -- the only logical choice to start Thursday's bronze matchup with Finland.
"We need to play a complete 60 minutes. We played unbelievable in the third period and that's the way we need to play for 60 minutes tomorrow for us to be successful."
Asked literally hundreds of times about his nightmarish finale in 2011's tourney, Visentin has patiently owned his performance and that of his team. His refusal to pass the buck and accept responsibility is equal parts noble and heartening.
So when Visentin replaced starter Scott Wedgewood in the second period of a 5-1 game, the last thing anyone thought about was whether this was his opportunity to avenge last year's loss. However, two quick goals by Canada early in the third made it a nailbiter that likely had many wondering if perhaps karma was at play and the quiet keeper would help author the greatest of turnabouts.
"I thought for sure it was going to happen," said the ever-positive Visentin of what would have been one of the great comebacks in hockey lore.
"The biggest thing is trying to stay positive and in the second intermission I really felt I had the group of guys in front of me who could do it. Once we started clicking out there it was pretty unbelievable and watching it from one of the best seats in the house was fun. Too bad we hit a post there with a couple seconds left."
It wasn't until after the game Brendan Gallagher thought long and hard about how great it would have been to help Vistentin slay the Russian dragon.
"You do have a have a heart for him because you know what he went through last year," said Gallagher.
I know how hurt I was last night but I thought a lot about how the returning guys must feel. I can't imagine how badly they wanted to win."
But unlike most Canadians, that's not what dominated Visentin's mindset Wednesday.
"I always take a positive approach," he said.
"I want that bronze."
Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.