Warriors goalie tries to keep Pacific in the game at World Under-17s
A silver medal couldn’t tarnish Zach Sawchenko’s great week in Cape Breton.
© Erin Pottie/Cape Breton Post
Zach Sawchenko, left, keeps on eye on American forward Christian Fischer in the gold medal final at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge Saturday in Sydney, N.S.
The Moose Jaw Warriors goalie made 48 saves, but he and Team Pacific lost the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge final 4-0 to the United States Saturday afternoon in Sydney, N.S.
“We’re just two provinces against a country and we knew the odds were against us, but we gave it everything we had to try to win,” said Sawchenko. “It was tough, but I’m so proud of this team for everything we’ve achieved this week.”
After losing their pre-tournament game and their opening game to Quebec, Sawchenko and Pacific reeled off four straight wins to advance to the final.
“This is the closest group of guys I’ve ever been a part of. We were all pulling in the same direction and we came together so quickly. We had such a strong bond,” said Sawchenko of his teammates who were from B.C. and Alberta.
Sawchenko did what we could to keep Pacific in the game Saturday. They were out-shot 52-12 by an American team that tore through the tournament.
The American team didn’t lose a game — out-scoring opponents 47-6 — and is entirely made up of players from their National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Luke Kirwan scored twice and Christian Fischer and Colin White also scored for the Americans who lead 2-0 after a period and 3-0 after the second.
“Getting 54 shots is a lot, but in some ways it was the easiest game in the tournament for me to play because I was just busy the whole time,” said Sawchenko.
The under-17 tournament is the first step in Hockey Canada’s program of excellence.
This is the final year that the under-17s will feature five Canadian regional teams. Next year that will be reduced to three as Hockey Canada tries to level the playing field.
The five regional teams have taken part in the tournament for 29 years. Next year Hockey Canada will pick three teams — Red, White and Black — that won’t be based on region. Hockey Canada will host a nine-day summer camp in Calgary as part of the selection process. The tournament will shrink from 10 teams to eight next year.
Sawchenko would have loved to lead Pacific to its first gold medal in tournament history, but instead they settled for their sixth silver.
He said it was a great experience to wear the Canadian jersey as Pacific carried Canada’s hopes.
“I can’t even put it into words. It’s an incredible feeling. There’s so much pride having that maple leaf on your chest and I hope I get the chance to do it again some day,” said Sawchenko who was fourth in the tournament with a .929 save percentage.
Sawchenko had a 4-1 record and posted a 2.40 goals-against-average as he played against the Czechs, Russians, Swedes and Americans. That experience against some of the best 16-year-old players in the world had him feeling confident about his abilities on the international stage.
He played five games in six days and he is hoping to bring that confidence back to Moose Jaw with him.
“It’s been a long time since I played five games in a row, but I think this will benefit me. I feel like I’m in a groove right now and I’m looking forward to coming back to Moose Jaw and ready to make a push towards us making the playoffs,” said Sawchenko.