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Garland Dazzles at World Championship

Coyotes forward sparks Team USA to bronze medal

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

Conor Garland finally got his shot to represent his country. And he didn't miss. 

Garland, 25, made his international debut and led Team USA in goals (6), assists (7) and points (13) to help blaze the Americans' path to a bronze medal at the IIHF World Championship in Riga, Latvia.

"I went over there with the goal to win the gold medal," Garland said. "But we came short. We came home with a medal. It actually helps you when your first focus is the team goal. The personal stuff just takes care of itself."

Garland ranked second among all players in points and assists; his six goals were tied for the second most of any player in the tournament.

Garland recorded four, multi-point games; the Americans were undefeated when he registered at least one point. 

His production was a result of pride and a will to prove.  

"The first couple days, you're just looking at the jersey, the 'USA' you're wearing," Garland said. "For someone like myself, I didn't make any USA teams growing up. I got cut from World Juniors twice. So, it was pretty cool to finally get there. It took me 25 years, but eventually I got there."

Garland earned three awards separate from the bronze medal. He was named Team USA's 'Player of the Game' after scoring two goals, including the game-winner, in the Americans' final preliminary round game, a 4-2 win over Italy. He also was named one of Team USA's "Top Three Players." 

Additionally, Garland was selected to the Media All-Star team. He is only the fifth American to earn the recognition. The previous players were: Patrick Kane (forward, 2018); Connor Hellebuyck (goaltender, 2015); Seth Jones (defenseman, 2014), and Carl Wetzel (goaltender, 1967). 

Team USA posted a 6-1-0 record in the preliminary round, the best among the 16 countries. It won seven straight games, including a win in the first medal round, a 6-1 victory over Slovakia in the quarterfinals, advancing to play Canada in the semi-finals. 

The Americans lost to Canada, 4-2, missing out on the opportunity to play for gold. USA beat Germany, 6-1, in the bronze medal game, as Garland scored the game-winning goal, while registering three points (1G, 2A).

"We had such a good group," Garland said. "And we had one bad game (in the semi-finals against Canada). We just played so poorly against Canada. If anything, we just got a little too tight, nervous or tense about that game. We knew what was at stake and we just didn't play our style. It cost us, and we came up short. Then we showed what we were capable of (in the bronze medal) game, so it was almost maddening. 

"We did win bronze, you do medal. We just had so many guys buy in and commit to what we wanted to do, and we just came up one game short. It was the weirdest feeling ever being on the ice celebrating, being so proud of what our group accomplished. You know you still came up short. So, it's definitely a weird feeling." 

Garland finished the tournament with two game-winning goals and 31 shots on goal - both tied for the highest marks on the roster. 

Garland is bringing home more than just a medal and personal awards. 

"One of my jerseys, I had everybody on the team sign it," he said. "I'll get that framed. I also had a stick signed by everyone. I'll probably keep the bronze medal and the other awards in my office with a lot of the other personal stuff I have."

He hopes, of course, that won't be the last Team USA jersey he wears.

Garland hopes he might have made a lasting impression on USA Hockey with the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, less than a year away.

"I don't know what the Olympic team is going to look like," Garland said. "It's going to be a long shot for me, but I wanted to make sure USA hockey knew that I wanted to be a part of that by having a good showing. I wanted to go to Latvia and perform well and show a lot of people what I'm capable of doing. I was put in a good spot by the coaches and relied heavily upon. I was just glad I could produce for the team."

As for now? Garland is back home in Massachusetts. 

"I'll just take the next two weeks off to rest my body," Garland said. "I've played a lot of hockey in the last couple weeks here. So, just rest my body, maybe golf once in a while, hang out with my girlfriend and the dogs."

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