Steenbergen an unlikely, yet fitting hero for Canada
By Ryan Evans
For the most part, it had been a forgettable tournament for Canada forward Tyler Steenbergen coming into Friday’s 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal game. But he came out of having ensured his country will forever remember his name.
With Canada and Sweden deadlocked at one and with just 100 seconds left in regulation, Steenbergen re-directed a pass from defenseman Connor Timmons for the tie-breaking and golden goal that delivered the Canadians’ first World Juniors title since 2015.
“I have dreamt about it all my life,” Steenbergen said. “To be able to score that goal and win the game for your team is surreal.”
“[Timmins] made an unbelievable pass through about two guys,” he added. “At that point I knew all I needed to do was get my stick on the ice and tap it in. After that happened I kind of blacked out.”
The sparsely used Steenbergen had no goals, just one assist and was averaging less than eight minutes of ice time in six contests as his team’s 13th forward. But there is something fitting about an unlikely player like that seizing the spotlight for Canada.
The common knock on this year’s Canadian squad was that it lacked a “superstar” type player that many of its predecessors had. But what it did have was depth.
Its tournament-high 39 goals were balanced among 15 players. Canada showed time and time again in Buffalo that any of its players could beat you on any given night—a point proven by Steenbergen’s heroics.
“That’s one of the biggest goals of his life,” goaltender Carter Hart said. “He was battling the whole tournament and working hard and got rewarded at the end.”
“He’s a champion forever now.”
Steenbergen’s marker took Hart and Canada’s other six returning players from the 2017 silver medal squad from the sport’s lowest of lows to its highest of highs. Last year’s title game shootout loss to the United States, which has stewed in their minds for the last 365 days, is now a nothing but a distant memory.
Hart took the loss in that setback against the Americans and avenged that bitter disappointment by backstopping his team to the win with a stellar, and personal tournament best, 35-save effort. Forward Dillon Dube, another returner, notched the game’s opening goal.
“When Steener scored that goal it was probably the biggest emotional high I have ever had. What a great moment,” Dube said. “After what we went through last year, for all of us returning guys it meant a lot to get it tonight.
“I could not be happier for any other guy to get it.”