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NHL Heritage Classic

Heritage Classic Diary: Bryan Little

Jets center describes 'awesome feeling' scoring in overtime outdoors against Flames

by Bryan Little / Special to

Winnipeg Jets center Bryan Little kept his own diary throughout the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic. The outdoor game against the Calgary Flames was played at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan, on Saturday.

In his final entry, Little writes about a memorable Heritage Classic experience, including being the hero with his goal at 3:04 of overtime to help the Jets to a 2-1 win.

It really needs to be said that this Heritage Classic turned out awesome. It was a lot cooler an experience that I thought it was going to be. And by that, I mean that I thought the conditions were going to be a lot worse than they were. They were actually really good.

The ice here at Mosaic Stadium was awesome, super smooth and fast. Kind of the opposite of the practice day Friday, to be honest. They did some great work on it overnight and during the day and it felt great. The light snow was kind of cool, coming down like it did and it was all close to perfect for a setting to play a game because it wasn't piling up on the ice. And I didn't find it that cold, really. I think it was only a degree or two below freezing and I only wore one thicker layer of pants. Other than that, I had my regular stuff on for the game.

There was some snow on the ice at times. They did a great job shoveling it off. Honestly, if there had been no snow on the ice, I'd say that was the best ice I've ever played on. Really unbelievable. Everyone liked it. And it's crazy to think we were worried about the ice on Friday.

The wind, it wasn't too much of a factor. And that was kind of a surprise. Maybe it was because it was swirling around a bit or it wasn't just coming from one direction. I'm sure the huge stadium blocked some of it. I noticed it once in a while but I really don't remember noticing it while I was on the ice playing.

After I went for a walk downtown this morning and I was thinking then, 'Oh my God, we have to play tonight in this?' There were some strong gusts this morning, and you really felt that when you walked into the wind, but it really didn't turn out to be much of a factor.

This setting had a different feel to it. Such a different atmosphere than you get in a rink. I noticed how big the stadium was and how many fans were there, more than 33,000 I heard, and it had a big-show, entertainment feel to it. All really cool.

Once we started, other than it being the Heritage Classic, it felt like most other games. Sure, there were some sloppy plays that wouldn't have been made on a regular night, and a few fumbled pucks, but other than that, it felt like a normal game.

There were ups and downs and yes, some frustration when we fell behind in the game. We did think that it was a high stick on the puck by (Flames forward) Matthew Tkachuk that led to their goal from the replays we saw, but in the end I think that kind of fired us up. The tying goal by (Jets defenseman) Josh Morrissey got everyone on our side into it with 5:11 left in the third period and we've seen that a few times this year with our team coming back.

Now we get to overtime and I won the face-off in our own end, won it back to Neal Pionk exactly how I wanted to. So we regrouped and I was kind of going slow up the right side of the ice at first because I wasn't sure if their backchecker was going to catch us to make it a 2-on-2. But I saw he wasn't going as fast as I thought he might, so I took off to the net and honestly I just went to the net as hard as I could with my stick on the ice and Kyle Connor put a perfect pass right on my tape. What an awesome feeling.

Video: CGY@WPG: Little scores OT winner in Heritage Classic

We had a good night in the face-off circle. I saw the stats sheet and it said we won 36 of the 56 face-offs (64 percent). We sure do take pride in that part of the game. Everyone works on it and watches video on it, and it's nice when it pays off in the circle.

I hadn't talked to my family before I wrote this. But I imagine my family, my parents and my brother and his girlfriend, who were here, were pretty pumped. Everyone kind of missed out on the last Heritage Classic game in Winnipeg in 2016 when I was injured, so it was pretty special that they were here to see this, the way it ended. I'd say it worked out perfectly.

So now we're 6-6-0 and we go off on a three-game road trip to California, starting Tuesday in Anaheim (against the Ducks). I think we're trying to get kick-started here and get something going. Hopefully this is the start of it. We're .500 now, been hovering around that for a while and I think we're looking to have a big road trip. It's why we put so much focus into this game. Sure, it was an event and it was fun, but we're looking for wins right now and this was great to get.

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