BUFFALO, N.Y. — It might have been Carter Hart's biggest cheer of the game and it didn't even come during regulation time.
Hart, Canada's starting goaltender at the world junior hockey championship, has a number of habits that he uses to stay focused. One of them is that he has to be the last player off the ice at the end of a period. In Canada's 8-2 quarterfinal rout of Switzerland on Tuesday, he was challenged by Swiss backup goalie Matteo Ritz in the first intermission.
After 10 minutes of waiting, Hart realized Ritz wasn't going anywhere. So the Canadian hid in the tunnel, then sprinted back out to the delight of the crowd after Ritz had gone to the Swiss locker-room.
"I was getting tired of waiting so I hopped off and then once I got off, he got off, so I quickly went back out, did a little loop, and came in," said Hart with a laugh. "The loop counts because I was still last off."
Hart's teammates noticed that their star goalie was missing during the first intermission but were thrilled when he came into the locker-room with a small victory over Switzerland.
"He came into the dressing room and started laughing," said captain Dillon Dube, who thought Hart's antics were good for team morale. "It didn't throw him it off at all. He's not too worried about it, I don't think it's a superstition, it's a routine. He also just likes messing around with everyone."
Hart has some other items in his routine that have drawn the notice of fans, media and teammates.
Before stepping onto the ice he'll pause and take a deep breath, raising both his hands up in front of him before skating to the net. Hart never looks at his stats and dislikes it when people tell him about them — he currently has a 1.32 goals-against average and a .961 save percentage for the Western Hockey League's Everett Silvertips.
He's also big on visualizing, to the point that he will be so immersed in imaginary pucks at practice that he ignores the actual shots coming at him from teammates.
Canadian head coach Dominique Ducharme took a long pause when asked about Hart's habit of being last off the ice, ultimately saying that he doesn't concern himself with those "little things." But he also said there was no time limit on how long Hart could stay out on the ice to make sure he wins that mini-game.
"As long as he's ready to play and stops pucks," said Ducharme.
Tuesday's duel with Ritz was Hart's second of the tournament. He also had a showdown with Finland's backup goalie Lassi Lehtinen in Canada's first game of the preliminary round. Hart, of course, outlasted his opponent in that one minute 40 second standoff.
"I've had like one standoff before in my life before this tournament, now I've had two." said Hart, who isn't worried about the Czech Republic doing it to him on Thursday when they meet in the semifinal. "Sure, if they want to, I'll just do what I did tonight."
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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press