Visentin deservedly gets cheered

Canada's goalie Mark Visentin poses with his medal and plate after his team defeated Finland in the...

Canada's goalie Mark Visentin poses with his medal and plate after his team defeated Finland in the bronze medal game of the 2012 IIHF U20 World Junior Hockey Championships in Calgary, Alberta, Jan.,5, 2012. (REUTERS/Todd Korol)

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:51 PM ET

Perhaps no one needed to hear the roar of the crowd more than Mark Visentin.

Make that, deserved to hear it.

On a day when the crowd clearly couldn't be convinced to try pretending it was anything other than a bronze-medal match, it was the Canadian netminder who drew the loudest cheers of the afternoon.

Late in the second period of a 2-0 Canadian lead over Finland Visentin was whistled for throwing his stick on an innocent play in which the lumber was clearly knocked out of his hand.

Nonethless, the Flames-like crowd sprang to life after Visentin stifled Teemu Pulkkinen's attempt to go five-hole.

The roar that followed was one of only a handful of spirited responses from a packed house of red-clad fans too disheartened to give any "Go Canada Go" chants any traction whatsoever.

He one-upped himself two minutes into the third with a behind-the-back grab so impossible to describe we'll simply leave it to TSN to show for the next 10 years.

For the sake of giving it the ol' college try, the puck had hit the post behind him and was rolling down his back and into the net when his reached back behind him, twirled and snagged it with his catching glove mid-air, just before it crossed the goal-line.

Do yourself a favour and YouTube it.

"I saw it out of the corner of my eye and I honestly thought I swatted it into the net, but the crowd went wild so I had a pretty good feeling," said Visentin, who made 27 saves in the 4-0 win.

"Once saw the replay, it looked pretty cool."

By afternoon's end, Canada had it's bronze and one year after departing the tourney in Buffalo with the bitterest of tastes in his mouth (allowing five goals in the final period of a gold-medal game will do that), Visentin at least got to go home this time on a winning note.

"This was no redemption "¦ different year, different result," Visentin, a first-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes, said.

"It was a tough year for me and I'm sure it was tough for the other returning guys but I used it to motivate myself all summer. I'm sorry to our country for us not playing for a gold medal this year. We really wanted it. I wanted it so bad.

"I really wanted to win this year, but that's hockey and I think this was a good solid game from everybody. I have full right to be proud of my performance and how my team played tonight."

With Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the house and a 50/50 take exceeding $121,022 the game played second fiddle to the national hangover stemming from Tuesday's memorable semifinal loss to Russia.

All that changed in the final minute of the game when the crowd came to life during a last-minute countdown that included a standing salute, plenty of noise and flag-waving to punctuate a 4-0 win.

But until then, Visentin was one of the only ones capable of eliciting that sort of crowd reaction.

"I'm so proud to play for this country -- it's the best country in the world and the best fans -- I wouldn't want to live anywhere else," said Visentin who stopped a breakaway early in a 1-0 game to help earn him a heartwarming roar when named player of the game.

"I'm a proud Canadian and I'm even prouder of every guy in that room. I'm proud of getting a bronze medal and I'm happy with how I played this year.

"It's been a tough year but 30 years from now I'll look back and cherish this memory."

As he should.

It wasn't the storybook ending he or any of his teammates dreamed of all summer, but it was a happy one at the very least.

The classy kid deserved as much.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ericfrancis

Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.


Videos

Photos