Trail Smoke Eaters Ross Armour and Seth Barton made the most of their time in Truro, Nova Scotia with Team Canada West, winning gold at the World Junior A Challenge on Saturday.
After losing their first two games of the tournament, Team Canada West rang off three straight victories that concluded with Saturday’s very satisfying 5-1 drubbing of the U.S.A. to win gold.
“Character, lots of character, and a lot of heart,” was Team Canada West head coach Mike Reagan’s response when asked about what made the difference for his team. “‘The Western Way.’ That’s what we preached, and the Canadian Way, and I’m just so proud of these guys. Three days ago we were sitting at 0-2, but we believed in this group.”
Victoria Grizzlies goalie Zach Rose was spectacular in a 35-save performance, Angus Crookshank scored the game-winning goal and added an assist, and Armour scored once to win the 2017 World Junior A Challenge.
“There’s nothing like it,” said Canada West captain Carter Turnbull in a release. “We’re just ecstatic right now. We just kept it simple – all the guys were rolling, all the guys were getting shots on goal. It was awesome to see, and we really deserved it today. There’s nothing like [winning]. I’m speechless, really. It’s just awesome.”
It is the fifth gold for West – joining 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2015 – and the first time in four tries it has topped the Americans in the final.
Rose – who was named tournament MVP following the game – was at his best in the final 40 minutes, making 14 saves in the second period and 12 more in the third to help the Canadians to the top of the podium.
Team West spread around the scoring, with five different players scoring goals and 10 recording points.
Brendan Budy netted the all-important first goal, racing away on a shorthanded breakaway and beating U.S. goaltender Jake Kucharski on the blocker side just 9:06 in. Crookshank, Budy’s teammate with the BCHL’s Langley Rivermen, doubled the advantage three-and-a-half minutes later, playing give and go with Ethan de Jong to send the Canadians to the dressing room up by a pair.
The Americans poured on the pressure in the second period, outshooting West 15-6, but Rose was up to the task with one of his best periods of the tournament.
Corey Andonovski gave the westerners a little more breathing room at 12:15 of the middle frame, dancing around a defender before sneaking in a shot to the far side of Kucharski.
That would be all for the U.S. netminder, who had allowed just a single goal in two games entering the final. He was replaced by Ryan Bischel after giving up three on 12 shots in 32 minutes of work.
Jake Drury gave the Americans life with a power play goal late in the second period, chipping a rebound over Rose. Sam Hentges was inches away from pulling the U.S. within one, but his shot rang off the crossbar in the dying seconds to keep it a 3-1 game after 40 minutes.
Any U.S. momentum disappeared early in the third; Crookshank set up Armour for his fourth goal of the tournament at 6:36, and Carter Turnbull forced a turnover deep in the American zone before feeding Dylan Holloway for the fifth and final Canadian marker just 32 seconds later.
Armour, a Rossland native, was tied for top spot in tournament scoring with six points on four goals and two assists and was named to the WJAC tournament All-Star team.
Joining Armour on the All-Star Team are Canada West’s goalie Rose, defencemen Alexander Romanov of Team Russia and Team Canada West’s Jonny Tychonick (Penticton, BCHL); as well as forwards Colton Kalezic (Toronto, OJHL) from Team Canada East, and American Tyler Madden
West became just the second team in the 12-year history of the World Junior A Challenge to win gold after losing both of its preliminary-round games, joining the 2011 edition of Canada West.