Ty's Oil right for USA

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

HALIFAX -- Ty Conklin, when we last watched him, was putting Team USA in the medal round by stopping everything in overtime and in the shootout to knock the favoured team, host Czech Republic, out of the tournament.

That was one thing.

Then he stopped everything in regulation and in overtime and won another overtime shootout, this time against Slovakia.

The Edmonton Oilers' netminder ended up with a bronze medal around his neck, the first medal the Americans had won at the World Hockey Championships since 1996, to finish 10 positions higher than the 13th place disaster the year before.

Conklin also ended up named by the IIHF as the most outstanding goaltender in the tournament. So he went home a hero, right?

Sorry. It doesn't work that way with the U.S.

The games aren't televised there like they are in Canada. Press reports are minimal. You go home and nobody knows you've been there.

"It's not like if I'd come back to Edmonton where they're tuned into the World Hockey Championships," said the goaltender who spent the off-season at home in New Hampshire and has come north from a three-day USA training camp at Lake Placid to start in goal against Team Canada here tonight. No TV, no coverage and nobody caring is the No. 1 reason why Team USA has such a tough time getting players to sign up for the Worlds.

But when you get a taste of the event ...

Preparing himself to return to this year's World's in Austria is one of the reasons Conklin decided to spend the second half of the season in the German Elite League with Wolfsberg.

"I think it would have been a lot more difficult," said the American who has a pad up on all three Canadian netminders in terms of having stopped shots in league play this year.

"If I hadn't played in Germany I think it would have taken a couple more weeks, for sure. For me in particular. It always takes me a while at the start of a season. It usually takes me two or three pre-season games anyway.

"I went over in January and it was all right," said the native of Anchorage, Alaska.

"It wasn't bad. It was good to play hockey. It was a good experience. I'd have rather been over here ... It was OK. It took me a couple of games to get into it, but it was easier having played on the big ice at the World Championships than it was going straight from the NHL to the big rink."

Conklin isn't sure if he's going to be No. 1 or No. 2 with Team USA this year, but he says he wouldn't be surprised if he and Rick DiPietro alternate like they did last year. Despite Conklin standing on his head to oust the Czechs, DiPietro played the next game - the semifinal against Sweden.

While Canada will split tonight's game between Martin Brodeur and Marty Turco, Conklin expects to go the distance for the young Americans.

"That's the plan," he said.

Conklin isn't sure if his half- season in Germany will make him a better goalie when he returns to the Oilers when hockey gets going again. But he thinks what happened in Prague last year and the experience he'll get this year have to help.

"Any time you are in big games like the ones at the world championships, I think it adds up.

Conklin, unbeaten with a win over the Russians, the Czechs and the Slovaks to take an American team to the medal, which many consider a minor miracle, said he can't wait to get back.

"This is the only chance this year to play high-level hockey," he said.


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