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Visentin shines for Canadians against U.S.

by Mike G. Morreale /
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Mark Visentin is just glad he no longer will have to watch the video of the United States celebrating a gold medal triumph at the 2010 World Junior Championship on Canadian soil.
He can replace it with a far more pleasurable picture -- a victory celebration over those same Americans right in his crease following a semifinal-round win at this year's tournament.
"Payback was big time for us this year because it was a heartbreaker losing in the final last year," Visentin said. "There was a feeling I felt watching on TV that I didn't want to feel ever again. Losing to (the U.S.) in the final last year and watching it over and over … I never wanted to feel it again."
Visentin certainly helped make it happen, too, with his finest effort in three starts at the 2011 WJC on Monday. The Phoenix Coyotes' prospect turned aside 22 shots, including 10 in the second period, to help lead Canada to a 4-1 victory over the U.S. at HSBC Arena.
It was precisely the performance Canada needed in a game they so desperately wanted. Let's face it -- neither Visentin nor Olivier Roy had turned in game-changing performances in any of the previous four games. But that made no difference to Visentin.
"I'm just as confident as I was the last game (against Switzerland) as I have been through this whole tournament," Visentin said. "Whether I was or wasn't playing, you always have to be ready. It was probably on a bigger stage against the U.S. but preparation is always the same. I did what I do back home for Niagara (of the Ontario Hockey League) and just play as hard as I can."
It also helped knowing U.S. goalie Jack Campbell would be on the top of his game at the other end. But Visentin was hardly rattled and rarely out of position in a game that will certainly go down as a signature moment in his career.
Not only did he make the saves at the critical moments, but he'd also chip in with an assist on the eventual game-winning goal by Quinton Howden 13:54 into the first period.
"It was a great call by (Erik) Gudbranson," Visentin said. "I had my head down and had no idea where I was going to put the puck. He called for it and I basically made an easy rim to him. I couldn't tell you I got the assist at all, but it's a good feeling. The forwards did all the work."
Visentin was particularly sharp in the early stages of the second period during a U.S. power-play and his team holding a 2-0 lead. He'd first stop Nick Bjugstad's rip from the high slot before turning away Drew Shore off a blast from right circle.
When asked if he was motivated any more after reading reports that Canada was suspect between the pipes, he shrugged.
"There are a lot of motivating factors out here," he said. "I like to motivate myself in a lot of different ways and for the media to motivate me, I don't really look towards that at all. I don't pay attention to it because a lot of words can get twisted out here. I just try and stay focused, keep it straight and don't worry about what other people think because it's all in my own head."
Canada captain Ryan Ellis was pleased with the way Visentin exhibited great confidence by skating out to play the puck and aid his defense whenever possible.
"They seemed to dump it around the net and Mark stopped about 95-percent of those pucks and cleared it all the time for a quick breakout and transition," Ellis praised. "As a defenseman, he made my job so much easier, going back for that puck. He was great when we needed him and I hope he can play like that in his next game."
Canada will face Russia in Wednesday's gold medal game at 7:30 p.m. ET.
"Mark was unreal (against the U.S.)," forward Curtis Hamilton said. "I guess the goalie has been questioned throughout the whole run here, but he's got great upside and was unreal for us."
Visentin was quick to credit the team in front of him that completely frustrated the Americans in every facet of the game.
"It was an unbelievable performance," he said. "They talked every time and made it so much easier for me. The forwards got the puck and played for a solid 60 minutes. It was unbelievable watching from my end."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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