With the IIHF World Junior Championship back in British Columbia for the
first time in 13 years and B.C. Hockey celebrating its 100th anniversary,
we asked the question … what are the best performances by B.C. natives in
World Juniors history?
NO. 7 – MATHEW BARZAL
Hometown: Coquitlam, B.C.
Minor Hockey Association: Burnaby Winter Club
2016 IIHF World Junior Championship
Statistics: 5GP 2G 1A 3P
Result: sixth place
2017 IIHF World Junior Championship
Statistics: 7GP 3G 5A 8P
Result: silver medal
Canada landed in Finland for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship as
defending champion, looking for its first gold medal on European ice since
2008. But an up-and-down prelims left the Canadians with a tough
quarter-final against the host Finns, and a 6-5 loss meant a sixth-place
Barzal scored the first Canadian goal of the tournament and earned three
points in the first two games, but the well ran dry after that. The
Coquitlam native returned a year later and had an immediate impact in
Toronto, equalling his 2016 scoring output in a Boxing Day win over Russia.
He added a pair of goals against Latvia en route to eight points in seven
games, good for third in Canadian scoring behind WJC MVP Thomas Chabot and
captain Dylan Strome. Unfortunately, another heartbreaking defeat, this
time to the United States in a shootout, left Canada with a silver medal.
What did you take away from 2016, and how did it help you in 2017?
“For us, we knew right away the things that were holding us back in 2016.
We had a bunch of returning guys; we all recognized what was wrong and knew
we needed to fix it, and then came back the next year and had a really
strong tournament, and just lost unfortunately in a shootout. We all just
wanted to win. It was unfortunate [in 2016] – losing in the quarter-finals
really stung. The next year I wanted to be a leader; it was the last kick
at the can for me to win a World Juniors, so I really wanted to make the
most of it and play well, and the same goes for the rest of the returning
players. The drive and the determination were there for all of us.”
What do you remember about the gold medal game against the United
“That was a crazy game, just constantly back and forth. In those kinds of
circumstances, there’s no stop. It’s one game, winner-take-all, so whether
you’re up two, or tied, or down two, you’re going hard all the time. When
it was 4-2 [Canada] in the third, we just tried not get over-excited, and
tried to keep pushing. And when they tied it up and it was 4-4, we were
thinking ‘If we could have written it up at the start of the tournament,
that we would be tied in the third period of the gold medal game, we would
have taken it for sure.’ We just looked at is as next goal wins. We wanted
a different ending, but it was a battle.”
How different is the experience playing in the World Juniors in Europe
versus at home in Canada?
“Going over to Europe is obviously different, but you do feel the support
from everyone in Canada, and you realize ‘Wow, there are a lot of people
watching.’ I kind of liked being over there; you kind of have your
4,000-5,000 fans that are there and that’s it, that’s all you’ve got for
Canadians. We were kind of like a big team over there because you’re all
Canadian … that’s what you have in common. I thought that was kind of fun.
We were all in it together. When we were at home in Canada, I can’t even
describe how big the tournament was with all the fans and the atmosphere in
the arena. It’s probably the craziest hockey experience I’ve ever been a
part of in my life. I don’t think there’s too many bigger games as a
Canadian than a World Juniors gold medal game at home. Being in Canada,
there was so much going on. So much energy from the fans, and the rest of
the country. Being so young, it was unbelievable and so much fun.”