Eberle Recalls Goal That Kept Canadian Junior Hockey Team's Run of Gold Alive

August 9, 2009

Jordan Eberle has been asked to re-live the goal many times.

"It's definitely a conversation starter," Eberle says.

Canada's run of five straight gold medals at the world junior hockey championship hung on a knife's edge at different points in the tournament the last three years. But the fifth gold was truly on life support in the 2009 semifinal in Ottawa.

Canada trailed Russia 5-4 as the clocked ticked down. It appeared the drive for five was going to stall.

But Eberle, of the Regina Pats, scored a clutch goal with just five seconds remaining in regulation to make it one of the most memorable in Canada's history at the tournament.

If Canada manages to win a record sixth consecutive gold at the 2010 world junior hockey championships in Saskatoon and Regina, many will recall Eberle's heroics in keeping the chain unbroken.

That Eberle and John Tavares scored in a 6-5 shootout win to propel Canada to the final in Ottawa was almost a footnote alongside Eberle's dramatic tying goal.

"You look at that goal and there's definitely 100 things that had to happen," Eberle said during the Canadian team's summer camp in Saskatoon. "I was the lucky one to finish it off."

Canada got a break when Russia iced the puck while goaltender Dustin Tokarski was pulled for an extra attacker. That gave the hosts a faceoff in their own end and a chance to set up a play.

Defenceman Ryan Ellis started the scoring sequence with a smart play at the blue-line boards to keep the puck in the attacking zone after Russia tried to clear it.

John Tavares backhanded the puck from the boards towards the net. Russian defenceman Dmitri Kulikov dropped to his knees in front of the net to freeze the puck, Eberle stole it and went forehand to backhand to beat Russian goalie Vadim Zhelobynyuk.

A multitude of emotions swept the Canadian bench.

"Numb," recalled Rimouski forward Patrice Cormier. "You think it's over. I remember being on the bench and we were devastated with 10 seconds left. Then he scores and you can't believe it and you're numb."

Defenceman Colton Teubert, Eberle's Pats and Canadian teammate, said he screamed himself hoarse in celebration.

"It was like being in a movie and on the edge of your seat," he said. "Right after he scored we all had to get ourselves right back to normal again because we had to play overtime and we still hadn't won the game.

"Just him putting it to his backhand and putting it into the net, it's unbelievable. I watch highlights of it and get shivers. I don't think I could have scored it, but I always tell people I taught him how to do it."

Canadian head coach Willie Desjardins was an assistant to Pat Quinn in Ottawa. Once you send the players out for their last shift, he said, the coach is no different than a fan in the seats.

"There's nothing more you can do," he said. "You're sitting there going 'we haven't got much time left. This is way too close.' "

Canada required the shootout heroics of goaltender Carey Price and forward Jonathan Toews to get by the U.S. 2-1 in the semifinal of the 2007 world junior championship in Leksand, Sweden.

Matt Halischuk scored the overtime winner in the final the following year in Pardubice, Czech Republic, where a 3-2 victory gave Canada a fourth straight gold.

But Eberle's goal in Ottawa kept the dream of five alive when it appeared to be over.

"We battle and battle until we get what we want," Eberle said. "It goes to show in the last three world juniors, it's almost been going the other way, but the Canadians just battle back and get that win.

"We go into tournaments with only gold on our minds. Second isn't good enough. That's what makes us special and why we have five in a row."

Desjardins wants those kinds of players on his team in Saskatoon starting Dec. 26, when Canada begins defence of its titles against Latvia. But it's impossible to simulate those white-knuckle situations at summer camp, or even in December's selection camp.

"You want guys who have proven they can do it under pressure situations, but you can't duplicate that pressure," he said Saturday. "You can't say how guys are going to react.

"We know what we want from players and we expect our guys to be like that. We have to make good things happen. We can't hope it will happen."

Eberle, who scored twice in regulation and added a shootout goal in that semifinal, is among 10 players from the 2009 team eligible to return and play for Canada again in Saskatoon. The NHL will keep some of them, however, and they won't be back.

The Edmonton Oilers own Eberle's rights and Quinn is now head coach of the NHL club. Eberle has proven he's a gifted goalscorer at the junior level.

"I'd like to move forward and try and get maybe some of those at a different level," Eberle admitted.

To have even a handful of players from the previous squad that pulled out a win when it counted can give Canada a small edge if the situation arises again, said Desjardins.

"Some way, somehow, other years we've found way to win," he said. "Every country knows that and they're wondering 'how many times can they do that?' It does build confidence in us.

"We just have to make sure we're ready when that chance comes again. You know somewhere along the line, it's going to be real tight."

As a footnote to the story, Eberle didn't get the puck as a souvenir and continued to play with the same stick upon his return to the Pats after the world junior championship.

"I went back to my junior team in Regina and broke it," he said. "I didn't think it was that big of a souvenir.

"The trainer saw it and put a little bit of wood in between it to keep it together. It's pretty nice.

"I'm not a big memorabilia guy. My mom has it. I'm sure it will be a nice keepsake some day."

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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