Canada knew that everything was on the line on Tuesday evening and they were determined to win it all. After dropping Games 2 and 3, the Canadians fought back in Game 4 and overtime to complete the Challenge in Halifax.
“It was extremely emotional,” said Moose Jaw Warriors defencemen Morgan Rielly. “We came into the tournament saying we were going to win and we were going to play to win, not just go and have a couple easy games. We are an extremely proud group and extremely honoured that we got the win.”
Ryan Strome scored at 3:20 of overtime to give Canada the trophy in the Canada-Russia Challenge after the Canadians won 4-2 in regulation time. Since it was a four game series, Canada needed a win in regulation time to force a 20-minute sudden-death overtime to decide the Challenge.
“It is a great feeling, we came close as a team over the course of the past couple of weeks and to get the win is just an extra bonus and we are all pretty excited about it,” said Rielly.
Xavier Ouellet kept the puck in the Russian zone and Strome took a pass and fired a wristshot past Russian goaltender Andrei Vasilevski. The overtime period was set up by some clutch scoring by Ty Rattie of the Portland Whitehawks. He scored two power-play goals less than three minutes apart in the second period to lead Canada to the 4-2 regulation win and even the series with the Russians.
“We just wanted to play smart and we are playing a good group, so we just had to play our game and take care of our end as well,” said Rielly. “We just had to play Canadian style hockey and I think that’s what we did.”
The Canadians won the first game of the series that commemorates the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series, but then fell behind after losing Game 2 in Russia and then Game 3 in Halifax.
This series was a tribute to team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Kontinental Hockey League. The club was devastated last September when a plane carrying the team crashed and killed 44 players and coaches, including former Saskatoon Blades coach and NHL defenceman Brad McCrimmon.
“What we wanted to do was go over there and show respect to those players,” said Bob Nicholson, Hockey Canada president. “Another key thing was that we wanted to take Byron, Brad’s dad with us. He went through all the sites and visited so many of the people Brad knew before the fatal accident.”
-With files from the Canadian Press
For more on this story, read an upcoming edition of the Times-Herald.