Zach Rose of Paradise stopped 35 shots as Team Canada West trimmed the United States 5-1 in the championship game to win the 2017 World Junior A Hockey Challenge Saturday night in Truro, N.S.
Rose, who plays for the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League, was named the tournament’s MVP and earned berth on the all-star team.
“This feeling that I have right now, wearing the Maple Leaf and winning gold for Canada,” Rose told reporters after Saturday’s win, “it’s just unbelievable.”
Team Canada West won gold at the first two tournaments, in 2006 and 2007, and also took home gold in 2011, 2015, and this most recent tournament.
The Challenge featured the top junior A players from Canada — represented by West and East teams — along with the U.S., Russia, Czech Republic and Switzerland.
The Canada West roster was selected from players in the BCHL, and Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba junior hockey leagues.
Rose opened the tournament on the bench, but replaced starter Mitch Adamyk of the BCHL’s Powell River Kings halfway through a 5-2 loss to the Czechs.
Rose stopped all nine shots he faced in that contest.
It was all Rose after that, as the CBR Minor Hockey Association product was in the nets the rest of the way for Canada West, which lost 2-1 to the States (Rose made 25 saves) in its second round-robin game, but then registered wins over Canada East (4-3 in OT, 18 stops) in the quarter-final and the Czechs (5-1, 26 saves) in the semis.
Canada West became just the second team in the 12-year history of the tournament to win gold after losing both of its preliminary-round games, joining the 2011 edition of Canada West.
“Character. Lots of character, and a lot of heart,” said Team Canada West head coach Mike Reagan in response to questions asked about what made the difference for his team.
“‘The Western Way.’ That’s what we preached, and the Canadian Way, and I’m just so proud of these guys. Three days ago we were sitting at 0-2, but we believed in this group.”
Reagan is the head coach and general manager of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Flin Flon Bombers.
Rose, who attended Lake Forest Academy in Illinois for three years before joining Victoria this season, is the Grizzlies’ starting goaltender. He’s 10-10 on the year, with a 3.17 goals against average and .916 save percentage. Victoria is third in the Island Division at 18-14-3-2.
Alex Newhook of St. John’s is another rookie on the Grizzlies. Newhook, who won’t turn 17 until Januray, but has already committed to Boston College for 2019-20, is eighth overall in league scoring with 14 goals and 39 points in 31 games and is the top scorer amongst all first-year players in the BCHL.
Newhook, was invited to try out for Canada West, but did not make the cut. However, there were no 16-year-olds on the roster.