Rattie returns to Portland after World Junior tournament
It wasn’t the redemption Team Canada had in mind.
It had been four years since Canada last won a gold medal at the World Junior Championships and the 2013 squad was hell-bent on restoring Canada to the top of the podium. Instead, the team came home empty handed after losing to the hometown Russians in the bronze medal game Jan. 5 in Ufa, Russia. The loss ended a 15-year medal streak for Canada.
That doesn’t mean Ty Rattie didn’t enjoy his first and last junior tournament.
“It was unreal,” he said. “It was the experience of a lifetime and not something I’m going to forget any time soon. It was awesome.”
Rattie and Team Canada came out flying in the preliminary round, going 4-0. Rattie had goals in a 9-2 drumming of Germany and a 6-3 win over Slovakia. The last two games were wins over the United States and Russia, which propelled Canada into the semis and a rematch with the Americans.
That’s when the wheels began to fall off for Canada. Fuelled by the offensive stylings of Jake McCabe and Calgary Flames draft pick Johnny Gaudreau along with stellar goaltending from John Gibson, the U.S. steamrolled Canada and booked its ticket to the finals, sending the Canadians to play Russia for bronze. Rattie’s roommate and Portland Winterhawks teammate, Seth Jones, was part of the U.S. squad, which defeated Sweden for gold.
Russia’s Valeri Nichushkin put away the overtime winner only 1:35 into the extra frame of the third-place game, sending a ripple of heartbreak across the Canadian bench.
After going down 2-0 early in the first period, the Canadians battled back to tie the game and then fought for every goal until the game ultimately ended in overtime.
“We were happy with our (bronze-medal) game,” Rattie said. “We came out slow and then battled back. I think we showed a lot of character. It was a tough loss in OT, but it’s not OK to come home without a medal as a Canadian.
“The U.S. game was tough to lose, too. In a tournament like that, you go undefeated in the prelims and you lose one game and you are done (playing for a chance at gold). It’s a tough way to go out, but it’s something you take as a good experience.”
The loss led many in the hockey industry to question whether the pressure to win gold was too big of a burden to put on teenagers but Rattie believes this year’s team had it easier than others. Unlike last year, when the tournament was held in Calgary on home soil, the spot light was turned away from Team Canada and onto the Russians, but that didn’t erase the expectations the Canadian juniors face every year.
“Obviously, you feel the pressure,” Rattie said. “In Calgary, (at the selection camp) the pressure was a lot, but not so much in Russia. The (Canadian) media wasn’t there and we didn’t see the papers, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. But we definitely felt it at times.”
There was a strong Canadian presence that cheered Team Canada on in Ufa, including seven of the players’ families. Rattie’s was one of them. His parents, Shauna and Rob, younger brother, Taden, and his grandparents all made the trek to Russia for the tournament, which was a boost for Rattie.
“It was huge,” he said.
“That was the biggest thing for me was getting them over there. We got to celebrate New Year’s Eve together. My little brother loved it and they got a first-hand taste of the food over there. That was one of my top priorities was having them there.”
Once the tournament ended, Rattie returned to Portland where the Winterhawks were in the middle of a 14-game winning streak that ended with a 5-4 loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Jan. 18. As of press time, the Winterhawks had lost a rare, three straight games. It hasn’t done much to shake them off top spot in the WHL’s Western Conference, however, and the ‘Hawks are looking to make another run at the league title and the Memorial Cup, which is being held in Saskatoon in May.
In order to play for junior hockey’s highest prize, the Winterhawks will have to clear the hurdle that’s felled them the past two years: the WHL final. It’s entirely possible, Rattie said, and one the team is expecting to overcome.
“That’s been our ultimate goal from day one,” he said.
“We’ve always thought we could get there and we still have that feeling. There are a lot of good teams in the league, but we’re a good team. Our experience is going to help after being in the finals two years in a row. We have a lot of guys that have played in both and that experience is going to come in huge and play into our favour.”