The Red Deer Rebels stole the show at the World Junior Championships in Montreal on Boxing Day.
Rebels’ teammates Michael Spacek and Adam Musil, playing for the Czech Republic, together shocked the hockey world and upset Finland 2-1, one of the favourites to win the tournament.
In a 1-1 game late in the third period, Spacek fired a wrist shot on net while teammate Musil screened the Finnish goalie, and the puck rippled into the back of the net.
“It was a good game. We played very well. I scored so it was nice. It was a good feeling. I’m happy we won,” Spacek said.
Spacek went on to be named one the top three players for Czech Republic in the tournament with one goal and three assists.
Musil added playing with Spacek, a Winnipeg Jets draft pick, is always special, but a chance to represent the Czechs on the international stage is one he’ll never forget.
“It was a fun experience,” said the St. Louis Blues prospect, who chipped in three assists at the event.
“Something new, obviously I learned a lot from it. New guys, new coaches and the level of competition was pretty unbelievable, so I think you learn from that a lot. Try to bring it back to the Rebels.”
From their thrilling upset, the duo passed the tournament’s underdog baton to goalie Lasse Petersen, whose Danish team went from avoiding relegation to second place in group A. Wins against the Finns, the Czechs and an overtime loss to the Swiss made it all possible. Petersen said it was a magical ride from start to finish.
“Finishing second in the round robin, we probably didn’t expect that. We all thought it would come down to the game against Switzerland,” he said.
“After the second game with a win over Finland and over the Czech Republic was pretty huge for us. We definitely have lots of great memories from the tournament.”
Of course the win against his teammates, where Petersen made 32 saves in a 3-2 win stood out for the Rebels netminder, although he was quick to note there would be no ribbing because of a soft goal that got past him in the quarter-final.
“I better not, I had a rough quarter-final,” he said.
Even to Petersen, it was a bit of a surprise that he was named starter for Denmark’s do-or-die contest against Russia, which turned into a short night for the Rebels netminder when he allowed two early goals and was pulled to start the second period.
After all, his goaltending partner Kasper Krog was outstanding in a round-robin win against Finland and again in an OT loss to Switzerland. Petersen said the tournament taught him a valuable lesson.
“Be ready for your nation whenever you get the call,” he said. “I was maybe expecting to get more playing time in the round robin and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted. That being said, I have to be ready when I get the call and be happy for my teammates because my goalie partner played great as well.”
The experience as a whole will top one brief slip up by the netminder, one he said shows how deep the pride runs in Denmark’s hockey program.
“It’s awesome. You see all the ambition in all the kids for next year, too,” Petersen said.
“The guys from last year, we all believe in ourselves so much, probably more than anybody else does for any other nation. We know we can get so much respect from the other nations if we stick to our game plan and play with lots of heart.”
For now, it’s back to focusing on a deep playoff run with the Rebels, one that gets heated up Friday when the puck drops with the Vancouver Giants at the Centrium.
“We’re a lot better team (then our record shows) and we’ve just gotta prove it,” Musil said.