Kelowna Rockets captain Nolan Foote will be returning home from the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship with gold as members of Team Canada, following a 4-3 victory over Russia Sunday at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Portland Winterhawks goaltender Joel Hofer put forth another strong performance between the pipes, making 35 saves to earn the win. Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Dylan Cozens scored Canada’s first goal of the game while Hurricane teammate Calen Addison contributed primary assists on Canada’s second and third goals of the contest. Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram also picked up an assist on Canada’s second goal.
Calgary Hitmen defenceman Egor Zamula opened the scoring in favour of Russia midway through the second period. Russia pulled ahead 2-1 through 40 minutes, but Canada found the resolve to push back in the third. After going down 3-1, Canada responded with a goal by Connor McMichael 34 seconds later to cut the deficit back to a single goal. Minutes later, captain Barrett Hayton scored on the power play to tie up the game and Akil Thomas scored late to give Canada a lead they would not relinquish.
After the conclusion of the game, Hofer was recognized as the Top Goaltender at the tournament in the Tournament Directorate Awards and was also named to the Media All-Star Team for the tournament.
WHL players returning home with gold include goaltender Joel Hofer (Portland Winterhawks / Winnipeg, Man.), defencemen Calen Addison (Lethbridge Hurricanes / Brandon, Man.), Bowen Byram (Vancouver Giants / Cranbrook, B.C.), and Ty Smith (Spokane Chiefs / Lloydminster, Alta.) as well as forwards Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge Hurricanes / Whitehorse, Yukon) and Nolan Foote (Kelowna Rockets / Kelowna, B.C.).
Staff members from WHL member Clubs returning home with gold include assistant coach Mitch Love (Saskatoon Blades / Quesnel, B.C.), goaltending coach Jason LaBarbera (Calgary Hitmen / Burnaby, B.C.), Athletic Therapist Mike Burnstein (Vancouver Giants / Hamilton, Ont.), and Dr. Ed Berdusco (Edmonton Oil Kings / Orilla, Ont.).
Canada won Group B during preliminary action, skating to a record of 3-0-0-1, before defeating Slovakia in quarter-final play and Finland in semifinal competition.
WHL players contributed to Canada’s success throughout the tournament. Hofer took over the responsibilities in net for Canada near the end of preliminary action, finishing with five wins, a 1.60 goals-against average, 0.939 save percentage, and one shutout. Offensively, Cozens and Addison each posted nine points through seven games to lead all WHL skaters in scoring at the tournament. Cozens contributed a pair of goals and seven assists while Addison recorded a single goal and eight helpers. Foote contributed five points (3G-2A) while Smith posted three assists and Byram had a pair of helpers at the tournament.
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