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Hodgson goes for gold

by Chris Yzerman / Vancouver Canucks
Cody Hodgson has shown plenty of good moves during this world junior hockey championship.

His best, and to this point his most memorable, was the leaping pirouette he performed in jubilation after linemate Jordan Eberle scored the tying goal against Russia with 5.4 seconds remaining in regulation time in the semifinals on Saturday night.

Hodgson, Eberle and the rest of Team Canada went on to win 6-5 in shootout to advance to Monday’s gold-medal game against Sweden at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.

“That was unbelievable,” Hodgson, the Canucks’ top pick (10th overall) in last June’s NHL entry draft, said Sunday following Canada’s practice, where he was still sporting a huge smile on his face when discussing the previous night’s events.

“We were talking about it on the bench earlier today. I was saying I think that was the most tired I’ve ever been in my whole life — just totally exhausted mentally and physically — and I was just so happy to see that goal go in.”

Although it’s now the early days of 2009, a victory over the Swedes a gold medal would certainly put the exclamation point on what’s been a memorable past year for the 18-year-old centre from Markham, Ont.

He captained Canada to gold at the world under-18 championship in Kazan, Russia, in April, heard his name called by Canucks at Scotiabank Place two months later and a few more months after that, almost made the Canucks in his first crack at the NHL before being returned to the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League.

Now he’s been on a wild ride as Canada drives to tie its own record of five straight world junior titles.

First was the New Year’s Eve thriller in which Canada rallied from an early three-goal deficit to defeat the United States 7-4 and win Group A, earning a quarterfinal bye.

Then came Saturday’s semifinal in which Canada gave up the lead four times and fell behind, seemingly to stay, when Dmitri Klopov scored with 2:20 to go to give Russia a 5-4 advantage.

Hodgson said he and his teammates wanted badly to win the gold before, but Saturday’s scare made them realize just how special the occasion is — hence his figure-skating impression upon Eberle scoring.

“Whenever you think about playing in the world juniors, you always think about playing for Canada and what an honour it’s going to be and winning the gold medal,” he explained. “But when you get so close to having it taken away, it’s a whole different feeling. (To score) with that five seconds left, it was just a huge relief to get back in the game. Once we got that, we knew we were going to take over the game.”

Hodgson has certainly been no passenger, either.

He’s played a huge role in Canada’s success in at least securing a silver medal.

Forming an explosive 1-2 punch down the middle with fellow pivot John Tavares, he’s racked up three goals and a tournament-high 10 assists through five games to this point.

The 13 points are good for second among the competition’s scoring leaders, behind only the 14 of Tavares, and Hodgson’s done it without the fanfare that’s accompanied the star of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals.

Hodgson’s quietly gone about his business with linemates Eberle of the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats and Zach Boychuk of the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes on arguably Canada’s most effective line throughout the tournament.

It was Eberle and Tavares who scored in the shootout Saturday to give Canada the win, but guess who was waiting quietly in the wings had it gone one more round?

“Yeah, I was shooting third, “ Hodgson said, adding that he kept a close eye on the first two rounds. “I had to see what the goalie was doing. I saw them both shoot backhand on him, so I don’t know what I was going to do. Fake backhand and probably go forehand.

He was also looking forward to the chance to be a difference-maker if Canadian goaltender Dustin Tokarski of the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs hadn’t of stopped the Russians’ second shooter, Pavel Chernov.

“It was a great save by (Tokarski)... but I was definitely ready.”

It was no coincidence that Hodgson was the Canadian coaching staff’s choice to shoot last in what could have been a clutch situation.

In fact, it was no surprise that late in the game and throughout overtime, Hodgson was constantly being thrown over the boards.

“When you coach your team, the easiest thing is when you put guys on the ice and you know exactly what they’re going to do. That’s what Cody Hodgson does,” Canada assistant coach Dave Cameron said Sunday. “You know exactly what he’s going to do, which means he’s smart, he reads the play, he’s consistent, he does at home, he does it away, he does it all three zones.

“It’s a real trust thing with him. There’s no guessing that when you put him on, what does he bring? What does he do? You know it. And that’s probably the biggest word to describe that — consistent.”

Cameron coaches the OHL’s Mississauga-St. Michael’s Majors and gets the chance to see division rival Brampton, and Hodgson, on a regular basis.

“Too much, way too much during the regular season,” he joked.

He’s blown away by how dependable Hodgson, who’s wearing the A of an alternate captain with Canada, is.

“Real good on both sides of the puck,” Cameron said.

“It’s his ability to see the ice and then make his decision based on what he sees. A normal person, when he makes a decision, gathers as much information as he can and uses that information. Well, Cody’s able to do that a lot quicker than the average person.

“Because of the speed of the game, it forces you to do that and he’s shown over and over again he’s quite capable of doing that.”

On Monday, Hodgson will be front and centre again, asked to work his magic in a building packed with about 20,000 Canadians fans, and many more watching on TVs across the country.

“We’ll try to keep it not as nerve-wracking,” he said, grinning all the while. “We definitely don’t want to go down that road again. We’ve been able to squeak it out in the last few games.

“We feel we can play a lot better. We’ve got the talent, the skill and character guys here to be able to do it. So moving forward here, we should be able to put it all together for the final.”

Canada top US 7-4 
Another solid night 
Hodgson's hot hand 
Hodgson in retrospect 
Offside with Hodgson 
Canucks fill the middle
Being smart and successful

13 - Points for Hodgson through five games at the WJHC

10th - Overall pick in the 2008 NHL entry draft

  1 - Players who have scored more points than Hodgson at the WJHC in Ottawa (Tavares has 14)

  20 - Goals Hodgson has scored in 23 games with the Brampton Battalion this season.

Training with Gagner
Prospect profile part 1
Prospect profile part 2
First timers
One on One
Summer training
Hodgson arrives

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