Brandt Clarke was one month shy of his sixth birthday. The moment remains, however, imprinted in his memory.
John Tavares scored a spectacular hat trick for Canada against the United States in a 7-4 victory on New Year’s Eve at the 2009 World Youth Hockey Championship in Ottawa.
Clarke and her family were in the arena, hanging on to every shot, saving and scoring.
“Electricity in the amphitheatre,” he said about what he remembers some 14 years later. There were red jerseys to the last row, 20,000 spectators, a victory over the Americans. is incomparable »
With another tantalizing chapter in the rivalry set for Wednesday, thanks to Connor Bedard’s overtime heroics for Canada in the quarterfinals, Clarke is confident that his teammate and the nation’s best youth player will be up to the task. circumstances, as Tavares did on that cold night. in the nation’s capital.
“I don’t expect him to take a step back,” the Los Angeles Kings defenseman said Tuesday after a brief practice. All I’ve seen of him so far are steps forward. Although it is hard to imagine that he can continue to take steps forward, he does. I don’t think that will change. »
Bedard not only changed a few lines in the U20 men’s tournament record books, he broke a few records.
The presumed first overall pick in the upcoming NHL Draft set five tournament and Canadian records early in Monday’s win over Slovakia before scoring an excellent individual effort in overtime that nearly blew the roof off at the Scotiabank Center.
Bedard recorded the most goals (16) and the most points (34) in tournament history by a Canadian. He also set Canadian records for most points (21) and assists (13) in a single tournament and set the record for most points by a player under 18, all countries combined.
But with each achievement, the 17-year-old North Vancouver native has grown accustomed to quickly turning the page.
His spectacular performance in the quarterfinals is no different.
“It’s really amazing that he can ignore all the media and all the attention he gets,” Canada goalkeeper Thomas Milic said. He first is a team player. »
“He’s not sitting around thinking about the most important goal of the tournament,” Canada head coach Dennis Williams said of Bedard, who did not speak to reporters on Tuesday. You wouldn’t have noticed after the game, he was already focused on the next challenge. »
That next challenge comes Wednesday, in the most recent duel between the two North American powerhouses of the sport.
“It’s every kid’s dream,” said US forward and Winnipeg Jets prospect Rutger McGroarty. Playing in an arena like this against your rival will be fun. It gives us energy to see this environment, to see how crazy it will be. »
Whether it’s the Olympics, World Youth Hockey Championships, World Hockey Championships, or any other level, extra motivation isn’t necessary when both countries hit the ice.
“I don’t think we as coaches need to motivate players,” Williams said. Rather, they should calm down. »
Tavares, Sidney Crosby, Joe Sakic, Hayley Wickenheiser, Marie-Philip Poulin and many others have seized the opportunity in similar situations.
This Canadian team expects the same.
“We all dreamed of this when we were young,” said Canadian winger Brennan Othmann. It’s that game, it’s that moment. »
“It’s the biggest rivalry,” added Ottawa Senators forward and prospect Zach Ostapchuk. For us, that’s huge. It will be very exciting. »
For all the points Bedard scored, the Americans are just as dangerous, especially the top line of Logan Cooley, Jimmy Snuggerud and Cutter Gauthier. The three players are in the top-5 of the best scorers.
“They’re talented guys,” observed Canadian center Logan Stankoven. They attack quickly. »
Playing the man will be a big part of Canada’s mindset against the Americans, including making life difficult for their smaller defensive squad.
“They don’t like the physical game,” Clarke said.
Canada lost to the United States in the final of the 2021 tournament in the sheltered environment of Edmonton in the last meeting of the two teams at the Junior World Cup.
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