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Roussel scores twice as France upsets Finland

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers / DallasStars.com

PARIS, France -- Understandably, Antoine Roussel was excited to represent his home country of France at the 2017 IIHF World Championship.

It's safe to suggest the excitement of the Dallas Stars forward has ramped up a couple notches. 

On truly home ice, Roussel scored twice to help France upset Finland 5-1 on Sunday.

"Awesome, awesome win," said Roussel, one of three Stars participating in the tournament.

"That was awesome."

"It was a good feeling to look up and see the crowd standing and jumping. You can't beat it. The crowd was awesome. I think on TV it couldn't be as good as being here. I hope our country and the fans are going to come in and help us keep the momentum going forward."

There was plenty of reason to celebrate.

After all, Roussel's group entered the tournament ranked No. 14 by the IIHF among the 16 teams competing.

Needless to say, the win ranked high on his list of memorable hockey moments.

"Pretty high," said Roussel, who had 12 goals and 27 points in 60 games for the Stars before missing the final 18 games of the regular season because of a broken thumb. "Pretty high."

It also trends high on his scale of upsets France has had in recent memory at the World Championship, too.

But it's certainly not his only.

Roussel was part of the French group that helped upset Russia 2-1 in round-robin play at the World Championship in Helsinki, Finland in 2013, and also helped France to a 3-2 shootout win against Canada, again in the round-robin, one year later in Minsk, Belarus.

One on home ice and in front of his country, though, certainly has to be memorable.

It has to help grow the game in the non-traditional hockey country, too.

"Just having the event it's huge," said Roussel, who now has 11 goals and 21 points in 31 career games for France at the World Championship. "For French hockey it's too soon to talk."

"But for the tournament, it's a good step moving forward."

Paris is co-hosting the World Championship with Cologne, Germany, through May 21. France has welcomed Belarus, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Norway, Switzerland and Slovenia as part of Group B. Group A, in Cologne, includes Denmark, Germany, Italy, Lativa, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and the United States.

Roussel hopes the event on home soil can help spring the country forward.

"I was young, and I think the Albertville Olympics (in 1992) helped to get it started," he said. "If we can make a few kids come to the rink and say, 'Hey I want to do that sport,' that will be huge for us."

The opportunity is there.

Roussel, one of just two NHLers on France's roster alongside Philadelphia Flyers forward Pierre-Eduard Bellemare, is hoping to help lead the way, too.

He's not putting that pressure on himself, though.

He's bringing his Stars style to the ice at AccorHotels Arena in Paris.

"I still have to play my role," said Roussel, who has represented France a total of five times at the World Championship, after suiting up for his country at the Under-18 and World Junior Championship levels. "I can't come in and be the super skilled guy…something I'm not. I'm just going to play this game."

That style worked Sunday.

His first goal, a rebound, stood as the game-winner, and his second, on a breakaway, added some much-needed insurance.

He also added 14 minutes in penalties.

"That was fun," Roussel said. "At the same time I took a couple penalties I'd like to have back. They weren't very smart plays. Unlucky at some points. Hard calls too. That's the way it is on the big stage here."

"You've got to learn, move forward and enjoy the win."

There's still work to be done too, Roussel insists.

France isn't settling on one win.

"Sometimes you got to get the legs going," he said. "For us that was the point. The energy was low. Today we just came back and played as hard as we could, hung in there, and capitalized on the few chances we had.

"It's a good bounce, obviously. It's good points to take. We've got to keep it moving forward."

"We can't be too long in the clouds."

"We have to just keep playing hard."

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