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Canada 'learned the hard way' in WJC loss to Russia

by Mike G. Morreale
CALGARY -- One by one, members of the Canadian National Junior Team were asked to express their disappointment after once again being shut out of a gold medal at the World Junior Championship.
It's not an easy thing to do, particularly when your emotions are still sky high following a tough loss and the brain is flooded with thoughts that need to be conveyed intelligently and with some measure of grace.
Their eyes were bloodshot and, at times, their chins slowly dropped to their chests. But they would all prove their character and professionalism in the wake of what had to be one of the most disappointing finishes of their hockey careers.
Unlike the previous two seasons, this year would be different. Instead of an excruciating loss in the gold medal game, Team Canada was knocked out in the tournament semifinal round.
It marks the first time since 2001 that the country will not be playing in the big game.

"We kind of dug ourselves into a hole and we can't do that. We learned the hard way. It's unfortunate we had to learn in that fashion. It's hockey and it happens. It's a life lesson for all of us."
-- Canada goalie Mark Visentin

"There are no positives when we lose," Canada goalie Mark Visentin said. "We had a good comeback. I don't think we ever should have had to come back in that game. We kind of dug ourselves into a hole and we can't do that. We learned the hard way. It's unfortunate we had to learn in that fashion. It's hockey and it happens. It's a life lesson for all of us."
Lessons learned seemed to be the appropriate phrase during the post-game talks with the players.
"I can't tell you how much experience I gained in that third period; what I needed to do to be successful," Canadian defenseman Dougie Hamilton said. "It was probably the greatest period of hockey I've ever been a part of. It's tough to lose, but I will take a lot from this."
After spotting the Russians a 6-1 lead almost halfway into the third period, Canada rediscovered its identity and would pare the deficit to one with only 5:43 remaining. They'd unleash seven more shots and hit a post, but failed to get the equalizer.
"Obviously I'm very disappointed," said defenseman Brandon Gormley, who played fantastic throughout. "We came here to get that gold medal. It's not going to happen now.
"It's tough when you come back into the room and you're down 6-1," he continued. "I thought the boys did a great job of staying positive and battling back. We definitely looked back on last year. That [Canadian] team had a three-goal lead and [Russia] came clawing back, so that's what we tried to do. When you give up six goals, though, it's hard to come back."
Back in the 2011 gold medal game, Canada built a 3-0 lead through two periods only to see the Russians score five times on 10 shots in the third to claim a 5-3 victory. This was to be the year the Canadians gained some measure of revenge following that stunning defeat. The fact they had another shot at Russia would have made it that much sweeter, but the big red machine wasn't about to let that happen.
"We beat Canada and we win … wonderful win," Russia's bright young star, Nail Yakupov, told reporters.
Canada's captain, Jaden Schwartz, was asked how the team will regroup in preparation for Thursday's bronze medal game against Finland.
"Yeah, we're going to have to [regroup]," Schwartz said. "It's not the reason we came here. The reason we came here is to win the gold medal, but it's tough … we have to live with it now."
Starting goalie Scott Wedgewood, who was ultimately knocked out of the game after being run over by Russia's Yaroslav Kosov with 11:12 left in the second, summed up the feelings of just about every Canadian player.
"It's not what we came here for," he said. "We're obviously going to pick our heads back up and play the bronze game like we're supposed to and try to come out and win that game. Guys are upset and it's not what we wanted, but it's a learning experience for all of us. You've got to play a full 60 minutes. The cliché is said, but proven that it's true."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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