Red Deer Rebels Defenceman Alex Alexeyev and Russia fell short of the ultimate prize.
In what was his last chance to represent the country at the junior level on the national stage, Alexeyev, 19, and his teammates were hoping to haul home gold.
He still got to stuff his suitcase with a medal, as the Russians captured bronze at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Vancouver with a 5-2 win over Switzerland. Along with the medal, a lifetime of memories with friends he grew up skating alongside.
“It was one of the best moments of my hockey career and I really enjoyed the tournament. I think we could have won more, the gold medal. We got what we got and it’s still a medal so I really like it,” said Alexeyev at the Centrium Tuesday before the team departed for Swift Current.
“It was an amazing moment, I like that I won the medal with the guys I was with for years. We played a lot of tournaments and games together and that was the last game, we wanted to win a medal. It was a really good time.”
That’s was one of the best time of my hockey career , I wanna thank everyone in this team they became brothers to me , we are the best love everyone ❤️🇷🇺🥉🏆одно из самых лучших воспоминаний в моей хоккейной карьере , благодарю каждого из этой команды они стали мне братьями ❤️🇷🇺 pic.twitter.com/jJiYdQ2Dqy
— Alex_Alexeyev (@Alexeyev04) January 6, 2019
Alexeyev said the Russians grew as the tournament went on and pointed to an unlikely 3-2 upset victory over Canada on New Year’s Eve as one of the highlights.
“It was crazy, the atmosphere because their fans were really crazy and cheering for Canada. We didn’t really care, we got used to it,” he said.
“We just played our game, our best game of the tournament and we won.”
His own performance was also nothing to scoff at. The six-foot-three, 200-pound blueliner registered six-points (2G, 4A) in seven games throughout the tournament. He was second in defence scoring, only to teammate Alexander Romanov, who had eight points and was named top defenceman.
“Through all the time I got better every day and was working hard every day. I think I played pretty good. Especially for the team. I was pretty good defensively and played good offensively,” said Alexeyev.
— Alex_Alexeyev (@Alexeyev04) December 26, 2018
Now back in the saddle as the anchor on the Rebels blueline, he knows the team has an important stretch ahead.
They struggled on and off in his absence, going 2-3-0-1 over the six-game stretch. The blueliner is happy to rejoin the Rebels now, even if it is for a 2,300 kilometre trip from Red Deer to Brandon and back.
“I know the Rebels had up and down games, so I think we just have to start competing and do what the coaches are saying and work hard. Battle in all areas of the ice. Just play our best game,” said the Russian rearguard, who is looking to improve on his 31 points in 30 games during the first half.
Red Deer kicks off a four-game road swing Wednesday in Swift Current against the 8-28-2-1 Broncos.