MALMO, SWEDEN - Zach Fucale did exactly as he hoped.
© The Canadian Press photo
Canada's goaltender Zach Fucale reaches for the puck as USA's Stefan Matteau tries for the tip during second period action at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Malmo, Sweden on Tuesday.
The 18-year-old Halifax Mooseheads netminder played stellar between the pipes, leading Team Canada to a thrilling 3-2 victory over the United States on Tuesday at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Malmo, Sweden.
âIâm feeling great,â Fucale said in a phone interview with Metro Halifax several hours after the game. âIt was a great team win and we have a really good feeling going into the medal round.â
Fucale knew he didnât have his best game against Slovakia in his tournament debut on Monday.
But, as he has done so often for the Halifax Mooseheads, he rose to the occasion as the game wore on, doing more than enough to allow his teammates to climb out of a two-goal hole and earn a comeback win.
His preparation didnât change heading into a pressure packed duel against the Americans a day later, a game Canada was deemed the underdog.
â(Against Slovakia), in the first period I had a little bit of trouble getting into it and thatâs fine, it was the first period first but I came back hard,â said Fucale. âI kept working and I felt really good and things worked out well. The guys played well; it was a great game. So, Iâm happy.
âBut I didnât change my preparation against the U.S. I did the exact same thing as I usually do. I stuck with what got me here; I stayed myself and prepared myself for a battle.â
How exactly did he stay away from the many distractions?
âYou just stay away from everything media related. I made sure I stayed with the guys, talked with the team, kept it real, kept it loose but I didnât become tight with this whole situation. Itâs fun, itâs a great experience and I have to keep it that way, you know.â
Fucale indeed rose to the challenge Tuesday, fending off a relentless American attack, making 13 saves in the opening period. After falling behind 1-0, Fucale and Co. went into lock-down mode and took a two-goal lead in the final frame, en route to victory.
Fucale, who took over the netminding duties after Jake Pattersonâs performance in Canadaâs second game against Czech Republic, earned player of the game honours on Tuesday with a 24-save performance.
Now with Canada earning top spot in its pool, Fucale is determined to keep building on his momentum into the medal round. Heâll face the Switzerland in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
âWhen I was given the start I was feeling really good. I felt a lot of confidence from the coaches and the whole team,â he said. âI really wanted to make the most of it and give the best performance that I could for the team. In a tournament like this itâs all about the team and wanted to do what it took for the boys.
âThatâs the key in this tournament, to be well prepared, keep the distractions away and youâre focused on the task.â
But that doesnât mean that he hasnât noticed the huge contingent of Canadian fans in Malmo.
âItâs unbelievable. There are so many people out here. Itâs pretty crazy, actually. Itâs just like a home game. Itâs so loud out there. It just makes it so special and weâre all surprised that everyone is here being so supportive.â
He also hasnât forgotten about his legion of fans back home in Halifax.
âI want to wish them a Happy New Year,â he said of his fans here. âThe boys are really excited and ready. Iâm really excited and grateful for my teammates, coaches and great fans that have helped me get here.â
- by Andrew Rankin - Metro Halifax