After Team USA beat Team Canada 5-4 to win the IIHF U20 World Junior Championships, several well-wishers started sending text messages to American forward Troy Terry.
The University of Denver sophomore had scored the winner in the fourth-round of a shootout at the Bell Centre in Montreal and many people wanted to congratulate him.
As he was going through his phone, Terry saw a tweet where he was tagged and quickly did a double-take. It was from legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman and Terry could hardly control his emotions, since he was actually named after Aikman.
Congratulations on bringing home the gold to @tterry28 and Team USA!????????
— Troy Aikman (@TroyAikman) January 6, 2017
“I had to read it a couple of times and then I had to check that it was the actual Troy Aikman that was tweeting at me. Before I even did anything my first reaction was to call my dad and I think he was even more excited than I was, so it was pretty awesome,” Terry said. “It was so cool and I think it even showed that our team, even major figures in other sports were following us. I think that was really cool and just knowing there were so many people in the United States that we kind of made proud and were following us through the tournament was pretty cool.”
The 20-year-old Terry, a 2015 fifth-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks, said he still gets “razzed” by Denver teammates about being known as the guy who beat both Russia with three shootout goals and the powerful Canadians with another shootout tally. But he has settled back into college life for the most part as he tries to help the top ranked Pioneers to an NCAA championship. Denver opens up the NCAA men’s hockey tournament on Saturday against Michigan Tech.
Last season, Denver lost 4-2 in the Frozen Four semifinal to North Dakota on a late goal by current Chicago Blackhawks forward Nick Schmaltz. An NCAA championship would truly end a storybook year for Terry, who has seen his development hit another level 36 points in 31 games played for Denver. At the World Juniors, Terry had seven points and four goals in seven games.
We spoke with Terry about the World Juniors, getting back to a normal college routine after the event, his thoughts on his NHL future and the upcoming NCAA tournament.
Q: What has it been like since you got back? What’s your life like now?
TERRY: I mean it has definitely – some of the attention has definitely died down which has been kind of nice. It was such an amazing experience and something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and every time I think about it, it’s such a surreal experience and to think I kind of realized that it all actually happened, when it first happened it almost seemed like it was too surreal to be true and just the fact that we were able to win that tournament in Canada is something I’ll always cherish and really left a bond with all of us. Now being back in school, my main focus is just to do everything I can to help this Denver team accomplish our goals this year and I’m on such a special team here in Denver and we came up short last year so we have really big goals in mind, so it’ll be a big couple of weeks ahead of us. It has been nice to just kind of be able to focus on this now and get back into the swing of things.
Did people around campus, like students and such, understand what you had just done?
I think it was definitely pretty special coming back here. I think more people realized what had happened than I thought were going to. I think when I was there and was just so focused on the tournament, I don’t think I realized the magnitude the tournament had just on USA Hockey in general and everyone here in the United States. To receive the outpour of support from people was pretty awesome and when I got back there were so many people coming up and congratulating me. I still get razzed pretty hard, especially by our team and just people on campus for the whole thing and the whole ‘American Hero’ thing. It’s all in good fun. It has been pretty awesome and I think all the attention I got really showed me how much it meant to USA Hockey and how much it just meant to people in the United States and how much pride people had in us winning so I think it was really cool to come back. It has definitely died down now but it was definitely pretty cool when I got back to campus and everyone was congratulating me.
What did you think of some Canadian fans voicing their displeasure over how the tournament ended – in a shootout?
I can see where there’s a little bit of frustration because I think in both games I think I get a lot of attention for the shootout, but the games were such good games. Especially that championship game. Both teams played so hard and to have it come down to that – I could see why they’re a little frustrated but I also think the shootout has become such a big part of hockey the past several of years. I mean it’s the way it’s always been.
I think if they had won in the shootout they wouldn’t have many concerns. I can understand why there’s a little bit of frustration just because of the way it ended but I think shootouts have definitely become a huge part of the game. I think they were all aware of how the game format was.
Could you imagine what the pressure of playing for Canada in Canada would have been like? There is a lot of scrutiny and you guys are not very old. Did you ever feel bad for Team Canada at all?
I think being on the United States team in Canada, we didn’t really realize the pressure that we had and how many people were following us and supporting us until after the tournament was over and we got so much support. But I think it was totally different for them because it was pretty easy for us to handle all of it. The tournament was in Canada. There were sold out crowds for all the Canada games and the World Juniors is such a big tournament there. I know the players were definitely feeling the pressure.
It was definitely pretty special to be able to win it in Canada, but I definitely felt bad for those guys.
So what is your favorite shootout move?
The one I did against Canada and the first one against Russia is kind of my ‘go-to’ is to just come down and shoot five-hole. The backhand five-hole (against Russia), I don’t know that I’ve ever done that move in my life so I don’t know where that came from. I think you saw moves where I don’t even know where they were. It was pretty awesome.
Could that skill help you to some degree in the NHL? Getting that extra point is pretty crucial in the NHL.
I mean, it’s not like my main focus as a player. I want to get better at that type of stuff that I tend to work on but it definitely has an implication on the next level just because in the NHL you see so many shootouts. Those extra points can be really important, especially in the NHL and especially in the World Junior tournament where playoff games can come down to it. So I think the shootout is definitely an important thing in the game today. I think it could be something that could help me and hopefully I can keep having success at it.
In terms of brushes with “celebrities” didn’t you also meet The Bachelor, Ben Higgins and his fiancee?
Yeah, that was pretty awesome. I’ve received support from a lot of people that I don’t think – I can tell you he definitely didn’t know who I was before the World Juniors so it was pretty cool to receive that kind of attention and it has been cool and that was awesome. They came to our practice and I was able to take a picture with them and that was cool. They’re really nice people so it was cool for our team to be around them and get a picture with them personally was pretty awesome.
Here's "Five-Hole" Troy Terry with "Bachelor" Ben Higgins and fiancé … Terry will return to lineup tomorrow BTW pic.twitter.com/i0lX7dC9c6
— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) February 9, 2017
How much have you heard from the Ducks since the World Juniors? You think you’re a little more on their radar now?
I talked with them a lot and I’m really impressed with how good of an organization they are because I was a fifth-round pick and they always make me feel like one of their main guys, so I’ve been really impressed with the attention they’ve given me since I was drafted. They were really happy for me. Even some of the guys I talked to at the Ducks organization are mostly Canadians, they were still really happy for me. It was definitely really cool to receive support from everyone and they were kind of the same way. I thought if anything helped me the most at the tournament, I thought I had a good tournament just the way I played. That would have helped me the most with them besides the shootout, but I think the shootout was really cool and they were happy for me.
Does the way things played out there make you think you could have a better shot of making the NHL sooner than you previously thought?
I definitely have goals for myself and my main focus, especially this week, is just going to try to help my team the best I can and we have some pretty high expectations for our team this year so that’s definitely my main focus right now. It’s always been my goal since I was a little kid was to make the NHL. I think this year how it has transpired has helped my chances and it has made me a lot more confident as a player and in my abilities and my ability to make that jump. It’s definitely helped me, but for right now all I’ve focused on his helping our team and trying to bring some of the stuff I learned at World Juniors to our team and trying to win a championship here.
What about your team at Denver? It really feels like “The Year” for you guys. How is the group feeling going into NCAAs?
There’s obviously some pressure. I think there’s more pressure on us this year than last year just because we are the No. 1 team and we have such high expectations for ourselves, but it’s mostly excitement. Last year after we lost it was pretty heartbreaking because we really felt like we could have done it. We played a really good North Dakota team that just beat us. Ever since then, our focus with the guys returning was just to do everything we could to get ready for this year, and it even started in the summer, so it has been a long time preparing for this moment. We’re all really excited because we feel really good about our team and about our chances, so we’re all really excited.
How did you get over that North Dakota game?
It was tough but we had such a great year last year. We had to kind of take a step back and realize we had a really great year. The biggest thing for us was just trying to use it for motivation because it kind of taught us how hard it is to win the national championship and what it takes. It definitely left a hunger for a national championship with all of us returning. I think it has been a big factor in why we train so hard in the summer and why we’ve been playing so hard this year.
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