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Scott Wedgewood impressive in net for Canada

Sunaya Sapurji
Yahoo Sports
Scott Wedgewood impressive in net for Canada
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Team Canada goalie Scott Wedgewood says he's playing his best of his career so far

EDMONTON -- It was a moment goaltender Scott Wedgewood won't soon forget.

Standing at Team Canada's blueline after recording a 26-save shutout over the Czech Republic and listening to the partisan crowd of 16,417 packed into Rexall Place chanting his name.

"It was pretty surreal," said the 19-year-old after Canada's 5-0 win over the Czechs. "I looked at my parents and my brothers, I knew where they were sitting in the end (of the rink) and it was something they'll probably remember as much as I will. On a stage like this, it's something I'll have to take a step back from and think about. It was pretty sweet.

"I don't think something like that will happen too many times in my career, so I enjoyed it."

Coming into Canada's camp, Wedgewood, who plays for the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers, made it known that he wasn't going to be content sitting on the bench and serving as incumbent goalie Mark Visentin's backup. Visentin – one of four returnees from the 2011 silver-winning squad – was in net for Canada for their 8-1 win over Finland during the tournament opener on Monday night. The crowd in Edmonton, however, likely remembers Visentin for his role the third period collapse in which Russia scored five unanswered goals that cost Team Canada the gold medal last year in Buffalo, N.Y.

"I think I've done the best I can since coming here," said Wedgewood, a third-round pick of the New Jersey Devils. "This is probably the best hockey I'm playing of my career so far. I like to play under pressure because it kind of makes it that much better, but to stay calm in front of a crowd like that was hard at times. It was definitely something special – to start in a tournament like this, it was important for me, but more important was the team winning."

Head coach Don Hay said he would not name his starter for Thursday's game against Denmark. The Danes are one of the weaker teams in the tournament having already lost by scores of 11-3 to the U.S. and 7-0 to the Czech Republic. And while Hay declared prior to the start of the tournament that Visentin would be the team's starter, it's clear Wedgewood is making his own strong case for the position.

"I thought Scott played very well. I can see why the fans would be excited for him," said Hay of the crowd support for Wedgewood. "I feel both our goalies played well in their two starts. Where I'm going with it, you'll have to come to the game (on Thursday) and find out because I'm not going to tell anybody."

Make no mistake, the Czech side put up a good fight through the first period holding Team Canada to a single goal thanks to some strong goaltending from Ottawa 67's star Petr Mrazek. With 38 seconds remaining in the first frame, Canada's leading goal-scorer Mark Stone was awarded a penalty shot after Czech defenceman Jiri Riha fell on the puck in Mrazek's crease. But the Czech netminder stood his ground and denied the Western Hockey League's leading scorer when he tried to make one too many moves.

"I knew he would try the five-hole because he came from the other side and he was right-handed," said Mrazek. "I knew he would try the five-hole."

On the other end of the ice, Wedgewood watched as Mrazek made save after save before Ryan Strome scored to pad Canada's lead. It was Wedgewood, however, that picked up an assist for setting up the play by finding an open Freddie Hamiton. Hamiton's initial attempt was stopped by Mrazek, but the Niagara IceDogs forward was able to find his OHL teammate Strome who buried the puck for a power-play goal to make it 2-0.

"Their defender dropped out of the play and Freddie (Hamilton) jumped up and I saw him open so I made that executive call to throw it up there and Strome made a great play to finish that off," said Wedgewood.

Hamilton said the pass from the netminder was so crisp, it caught him a little off guard.

"I wasn't really expecting him to throw that up there," said Hamilton. "It was right on the tape and (he) just sent me in there so it was a really nice play."

Wedgewood also has two assists in the OHL this season in 21 games with Plymouth.

"It was something pretty cool to get a point," he said. "I was joking with (Canadian defenceman Jamie) Oleksiak that I have more points than him. He actually said it, but now I won't let him live it down. It was pretty funny."

Since Wedgewood started his hockey career out as a defenceman during his minor hockey days in Brampton, he joked with reporters after the game that he's still got the skills to make the outlet pass.

"I'm a righty as a player though, so I don't know how I would have done with a left-handed stick," said Wedgewood, who decided to become a goaltender full-time at age 11 after going back and forth between the two positions. "I guess I can still make a play or two."

Sunaya Sapurji is the Junior Hockey Editor at Yahoo! Sports.
Email: sunaya@yahoo-inc.com| Twitter @Sunayas>