Shea Theodore has grown up watching Canada play on TV at the IIHF world junior hockey championships.
But this year was something completely different as the Aldergrove defenceman played a key role in helping his country win gold at the event for the first time since 2009.
Canada defeated Russia 5-4 in the gold-medal game on Monday night at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.
Winning the gold medal was mission accomplished as the 19-year-old said that was the team’s only goal heading into the championships.
“When you are here for a month to do one thing, and to be able to do it, that is pretty cool and pretty special,” he said.
Theodore was at the Toronto airport on Tuesday morning waiting for his flight to Seattle, where he will rejoin his Western Hockey League team, the Seattle Thunderbirds.
An Anaheim Ducks first round draft pick from 2013, Theodore said this experience is something he won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
“I don’t know if I could say I have done anything that’s cooler,” he admitted.
“It was unbelievable. To see 19,000 fans screaming for you, it is definitely a pretty surreal moment.”
The championships were co-hosted by Montreal and Toronto.
Canada played their first four preliminary games at Montreal’s Bell Centre before switching to Toronto’s Air Canada Centre for the championship round.
Altogether, Canada went 7-0 at the tournament, winning the first six games by multiple goals.
PHOTO: Canada’s Shea Theodore nets the third goal for Canada as Slovak goalie Denis Godla lays on the ice. 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship hockey, second period Semi Final action between Canada and Slovakia at the Air Canada Centre on January 4, 2015. -Rick Madonik/Toronto Star
The seventh and final victory provided some tense moments.
Canada scored twice in the opening 2:32 to lead 2-1 after 20 minutes.
They scored three goals in a span of 7:22 to seemingly take control with a 5-1 lead. But the Russians stormed back with three goals of their own in 3:16 to make it a one-goal game heading to the third.
Watching the lead shrink was tough but the players remained focused.
“But at the same time, we were still up one goal going into the third,” Theodore said.
“We were (still) in a pretty good spot, up one goal in the gold-medal game.
“We knew what had to be done and we just stuck our plan.”
Theodore was paired on the blue-line with Darnell Nurse throughout the championships, and finished with a goal and an assist.
“I thought we played well and had a good connection,” Theodore said about his defence partner.
This is the third time Theodore has helped Canada win gold — he was also on the team which won at both the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and the 2013 IIHF world U18 championships.
The former was held in the Czech Republic and the latter was in Russia.
He ranked this victory — and the fact he had family and friends in town to watch and that it was on Canadian soil — as something he won’t ever forget.
“To be here with my family and friends is a special moment,” Theodore said.
PHOTO: Surrounded by teammates, including Shea Theodore of Aldergrove, Team Canada goaltender Zachary Fucale celebrates win as Team Canada beats Team Russia 5-4 to win the Gold Medal in the IIHF World Junior Hockey Tournament at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, January 5, 2015. -Steve Russell/Toronto Star
Abbotsford’s Virtanen claims gold with Canada at World Juniors
Abbotsford’s Jake Virtanen found gold with Canada’s world junior hockey team Monday night in a dramatic 5-4 victory over Russia before 18,000 screaming fans at a packed Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
After leaping out to a 5-1 advantage in the second period, Russia narrowed the Canadian’s lead to just one heading into the final 20 minutes.
But with the nation’s eyes on them, the Canadians held on for Canada’s first world junior gold since 2009. The team also included Aldergrove’s Shea Theodore, who, like Virtanen, spent several years at Yale secondary’s hockey academy.
Virtanen – a first-round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks – said many of the players – like hockey fans in Abbotsford and beyond – could barely watch the final minutes of the game.
“The guys, I don’t think some guys were even lookin’ at the play on the bench,” Virtanen told Sportsnet after the game. “It was heads down, hope for the best, cross your fingers.
“Singing O Canada at the end of the game was unreal, and a moment I’ll never forget.”
While he didn’t figure on the scoresheet, Virtanen made the highlights with a spectacular check of a Russian player in the first period.
The win drew congratulations from various Abbotsford hockey fans, including from the Abbotsford Minor Hockey Association and from Mayor Henry Braun, who released a statement congratulating Virtanen and his teammates.
“Abbotsford has a proud legacy of sports excellence in our community and we are thrilled to celebrate this inspiring success for Canada,” Braun said.
PHOTO: Shea Theodore scores on Denis Godla as Team Canada beats Team Slovakia 5-1 in the semi final round to advance to the Gold Medal game of the IIHF World Junior Hockey Tournament at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, January 4, 2015. -Steve Russell/Toronto Star