MONTREAL – Michel Lacroix’s voice can raise the hairs on a corpse.
When the Bell Centre’s resident announcer belted out Thomas Chabot’s name in that rich, deep French accent to call Team Canada’s first goal of what turned out to be a 5-4 shootout loss to Team USA in the World Junior Hockey Championship final, the 20,173 fans in attendance just about brought the building down.
That occurrence, at the 1:42 mark of the first period, created the raucous atmosphere we’ve been waiting for at this tournmaent—the one that would have the home side feeling like the whole nation truly was watching.
And for as tense as things got—with the Americans mounting two, two-goal comebacks, the second of which culminated in Colin White’s goal to make it 4-4 with 13:53 remaining in the third period—the noise level only increased.
The crescendo built to a climax through a 20-minute overtime period that was literally breathtaking. Play went back and forth, chances were exchanged at break-neck pace, every close play pushed the fans out of their seats and had them hooting and hawing.
And then there was silence.
Due to protocol, Troy Terry’s game-winning goal, which came on USA’s fourth shot in the shootout, wasn’t announced by Lacroix.
And Nicolas Roy’s miss on Canada’s final attempt sent the building into shock.
Tears flowed on the Canadian side as the crowd shouted out one last “CA-NA-DA” cheer.
And the final sounds of the night came from the boys in red, white and blue, who stood along the blue-line singing their national anthem.
About the game…it was unquestionably one of the best ones we’ve ever seen at this tournament and possibly the best one ever held at the Bell Centre. Here are four takeaways from it.
Chabot’s MVP-worthy performance
After an emotional semifinal win over Sweden on Wednesday, Chabot played a Herculean 43:53 over 62 shifts on Thursday.
He had an assist on top of the game’s first goal, he registered three of Canada’s 50 shots on net, and he finished the night at plus-1.
Chabot also saved the game twice in overtime, pulling pucks off the goal line.
On one shift in the extra frame, he went on an end-to-end rush that concluded with him getting rammed head first into the boards. He sat for less than two minutes before getting back on the ice.
This was just one out of a bunch of incredible performances Chabot turned in on his way to capturing tournament MVP honours.
When asked if getting that award was bittersweet, he said, “No, I’m proud of everything I accomplished here.”
He should be.
“It’s hard for me to lose that game,” Chabot said. “I put everything I could on the ice, night after night. We didn’t get the result we wanted.”
But the Ottawa Senators have to be extremely thankful their prospect had this experience.
The hometown kids showed up
Chabot was one of four French Canadians—all of them from Quebec—who accounted for Canada’s goals in the gold-medal game.
Defenceman Jeremy Lauzon and forwards Nicolas Roy and Mathieu Joseph joined him.
“It was special saying those names in such a big game,” said announcer Lacroix. “The crowd went absolutely crazy after I did.”
In medal rounds leading up to the final, Canada got major contributions from Julien Gauthier, too. He finished the tournament with five goals and two assists.
Pierre-Luc Dubois—the third overall pick at the 2016 NHL Draft who had struggled throughout the tournament—had an impact in Canada’s win over Sweden as Gauthier’s linemate, but he may forever be plagued by the memory of missing a wide open net late in the third period to break the 4-4 tie.
Bellows makes his mark in Montreal
USA forward Kieffer Bellows gave his team hope when they were desperate to find some.
He hadn’t scored a single goal in the tournament before delivering two of them in the final game. His first was a tip-in that completely handcuffed Canadian goaltender Carter Hart, and his second came 39 seconds after Joseph made the score 4-2 Canada in the third period.
And to do this in Montreal?
“It was special,” Bellows said. “My dad [Brian]—he won a [Stanley] Cup here in 1993 and it was the last Canadiens team to win a Cup.
“My dad loves it here and I’ve learned to love it here… To win a championship here where my dad won a championship gets me pretty emotional.”
Having Brian in the building made it that much more special for Kieffer.
A likely hero emerged
Terry, who was a fifth-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2015, made a name for himself in USA’s semifinal win over Russia in the shootout.
Three times he was tapped to face Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who was named top goaltender in the tournament, and three times he beat Samsonov right through the five hole.
Hart made glove saves on Clayton Keller and Bellows before Terry lined up at centre ice for his chance to break the goose egg.
Was there any doubt he’d try to shoot through Hart’s legs?
“Yeah,” Terry said. “Before the shootout it wasn’t my plan, I actually was thinking about trying something different. But as I came down I guess—I guess it just took over me, I had to try it.”
The USA can thank the good Lord he did.
With goaltender Tyler Parsons putting up a wall at the other end, Terry had the chance to play hero and took full advantage of it.