Linemates in Major Midget, Liam Finlay and Tyson Jost’s reunion with Team Canada West in the World Junior A Hockey Challenge was golden.
And they may yet cut the winning goal puck in half after a 2-1 win over Russia for gold Saturday before 2,250 fans at the Cobourg Community Centre in Ontario.
Jost, the team captain, was credited with the goal and Finlay the assist as Canada won a fourth gold in the tournament’s 10-year history
“It was funny,” said Finlay of the winning snipe. “I think it went back to (Dante) Fabbro and me and Jost both went to the net. I got a piece of it and as then as I was trying to hit it in, I think he got it. I thought I got it, he thought he got it so it was pretty funny. We ended up having separate celebrations which was pretty funny because both of us are pretty tight. It was a pretty unbelievable feeling. Not everyday you can say you won gold.”
Said Jost of the huge snipe: “It was pretty funny. We watched the replay after the game. We both kind of hit it in there. It’s still kind of hard to see who scored but I think I did get the last touch on it. It was funny we both didn’t know, we were just both so excited, we went in opposite corners. It’s something that we get to laugh about now for the rest of our life. We will have that memory.”
Jost and Fabbro are rated to go in the first round of the NHL’s June entry draft in Buffalo, while Finlay is ranked as a late choice.
Jost and Finlay had fabulous seasons with the Okanagan Rockets two years ago with Jost compiling 44 goals and 88 points and Finlay 51 points.
“We played together with the Okanagan Rockets and followed up again for the week,” said Finlay, second-leading scorer with the Vernon Vipers. “I think it was pretty clear we had good chemistry. He’s an outstanding player and easy to play with.”
Jost, who has 61 points in his second season with the Penticton Vees, was named MVP of the tournament. The Kelowna product pocketed three goals and nine points to win the tourney scoring title.
“We had a ton of depth,” said Finlay. “Our defence, our goaltending, our puck movement, everything was just fantastic.”
Jost had a blast playing with Finlay again.
“It was awesome,” said the Fort Saskatchewan-born Jost. “It was really fun. We got that chemistry back from midget and the little bit there with the Vees. We were throwing the puck around. People are making comments of how fun it was to watch us. It was pretty exciting. It was definitely fun for sure when you have a good buddy like that on your line. It made the tournament a whole lot better.”
Goaltender Mikhail Berdin and forward German Rubtsov (Russia) joined Jost and Team West d-man Cale Makar (Calgary/Brooks Bandits, AJHL) on the all-star team.
“I think we were favoured because we won in exhibition (6-1), but we knew they were getting better all tournament and we had to be confident, not cocky,” said Finlay, who turns 19 in February.
Finlay said players were limited to one hour a day on their cell phones which brought the team closer together. He said the coaching staff, from top to bottom, was highly knowledgable and prepared.
After a scoreless first two periods, Bobby McMann (Wainwright, Alta./Bonnyville Pontiacs, AJHL) took advantage of a turnover deep in the Russian zone to open the scoring early in the third.
Jost scored the eventual winner with three minutes to go, and the Canadians held off a late Russian push, backed by 26 saves from Matthew Murray (St. Albert/Spruce Grove Saints, AJHL).
“When [the Russians] played us in exhibition I don’t think they were prepared for us, but today they were a different team” said Makar (Calgary/Brooks Bandits, AJHL). “I think our speed and physicality wore them down, and that’s the reason we got gold.”
Kirill Slepets replied for the Russians with 36 seconds left to play.
“I thought (the Russians) did a great job blocking shots. The first time we played them they didn’t get in the lanes; tonight they did, and their goalie was exceptional,” said Canada West head coach Tim Fragle.
Meanwhile, Odeen Tufto, who leads the Vipers with 15 goals and 39 points, is stoked to have a scholarship locked up for the NCAA Division I Quinnipiac Bobcats in Hamden, Conn.
“I narrowed it down to Quinnipiac, Denver and Notre Dame,” said Tufto, a Minnesota product who turns 19 on Jan. 9. “I took visits to all of them. Quinnipiac was actually the last visit and I kind of got the feeling this was the place I could spend four years. I got a great deal and I couldn’t turn it down. It was awesome.”
While on campus of a school with 8,800 students, Tufto met Viper grads Luke Shiplo and Thomas Aldworth as well as all the freshmen. He plans to study business.
“That was one of my goals coming up here and to get that out of the way is a really nice feeling.”
Viper winger Christian Cakebread, who hails from Arizona, believes Tufto will duplicate his skill-set at the college level.
“He’s a great player, very shifty, very slick to play against,” said Cakebread. “Nobody can really hit him. He’s pretty dynamic and he can definitely be the same kind of player in college.”
Quinnipiac is ranked No. 2 in the NCAA at 15-1-2. Aldworth has three goals and seven points in 15 games, while Shiplo has two goals and three points in seven games. The Bobcats have 10 BCHL alumni, including senior Travis St. Denis of Trail.