This was supposed to be the icing on the cake for Jonathan Toews.
And in many ways, it was an excellent way to cap a brilliant season.
However, the Winnipegger didn't plan on capping that whirlwind season with a silver medal.
Not when he arrived in Halifax for the round robin of the 2008 IIHF World Hockey Championship and certainly not when Canada held a 4-2 advantage during the third period on Sunday in the gold medal matchup with Russia.
Thanks to a pair of goals from sniper Ilya Kovalchuk -- one late in the third and another on the 4-on-3 power play in overtime -- Russia won 5-4 and Toews arrived home yesterday with a different coloured medal than he's used to adding to his collection.
Four different times while wearing the Maple Leaf -- once at the Under-18 Championship, twice at the World Juniors and at last year's World Championship -- Toews brought home gold.
This time, the St. Vital product had to settle for silver.
"It's tough," Toews said upon arrival home at the Winnipeg International Airport yesterday. "We were sitting in the dressing room for a good 10 minutes where no one said a word and no one took their equipment off. We were all pretty ticked off to not come out with a win there. It's a tough tournament and everybody plays their best game against Canada. There's been a lot of talk, for a long time, that hockey is our game and I don't think we're ever going to be satisfied with anything other than a gold medal."
A year ago, upon the completion of his sophomore at the University of North Dakota, Toews was called upon to join Team Canada for the World Championship in Moscow.
The skilled centre quickly showed he wasn't overmatched and that helped him earn a return engagement after completing his first NHL season with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Toews took on a larger role this year, skating on a line with Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan and Buffalo Sabres forward Derek Roy, averaging 11 minutes of ice time per game, while picking up two goals and three assists for five points in nine games.
"I think back to last year and having them take me on that team was pretty crazy, having a young, 18-year-old kid who hasn't played pro," said Toews. "To be picked to play for Canada is a big deal. This year, I was able to make a bigger difference and I was happy with the way I played.
"It was equally as fun, as enjoyable and as special as last year. I think I'd be a lot happier if I was here with a gold medal. It's always a learning experience, win or lose."
Toews, who had 24 goals and 54 points in 64 games with the Blackhawks this season, has made it clear he'll answer Canada's call whenever it comes.
Although it's still 19 months away, Toews would love the opportunity to suit up for Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
It's probably a little too early to project, but some pundits are already suggesting Toews deserves to be on that team.
Count us among the group that believes Toews will earn a spot on the club trying to duplicate the gold-medal effort from 2002.
"I can't believe that I am part of the discussion," said Toews, who will find out next month if he'll be honoured with the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the NHL. "You think of so many forwards that could be there and to be mentioned in the same sentence as the 2010 Olympics is unbelievable.
"It's a start and there's a long way to go. Hopefully, I'll keep improving and developing as a player and I'll have a chance to be there when the time comes. To have that opportunity someday would be a dream."