From potential zero to tournament-winning hero, all in less than two minutes. That was the story for the USA’s Tyler Weiss in the dying minutes of the men’s ice hockey gold-medal game at the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games.
With the USA nursing a 3-2 lead over Canada in a thrilling final, Weiss put his team at a manpower disadvantage when he took a slashing penalty late in the third period.
His USA teammates kept the pressing Canadians at bay, and then, with the Canadian net empty when the goaltender was removed in favour of an extra attacker, Weiss became a national hero.
He had his back to an empty net when he spun around and rifled a low shot for the strike that gave the USA a two-goal cushion en route to a 5-2 triumph.
“I was just throwing it somewhere, just getting the puck down the ice,’’ Weiss said about his crucial goal. “I thought I’d cost us there [by taking the penalty] but the boys killed it off.”
Weiss broke into a wide smile as he looked down at the gold medal around his neck. “It was the biggest goal I have ever scored. This thing is heavier than I am.”
Kristins Hall was packed to the rafters for the match between the two North American teams and the gold medal game finished the competitive schedule of the Youth Olympic Games.
The game featured a little of everything. USA goaltender Drew Deridder made the saves he was supposed to make, and added a few that had the crowd raining applause down on him in appreciation of his efforts. There was no shortage of physical play between the rivals, with the game played at a hectic pace.
The USA took the lead in the first period, after the Canadians coughed up the puck in their end. The USA pulled 2-0 ahead early in the second and a few minutes later, the Canadians had a goal disallowed.
“The goal judge, after lighting the red light to signal a goal, decided it wasn’t a goal,’’ said Canada coach Martin Raymond.
Canada scored just before the 10-minute mark of the middle period to cut the USA lead to one, but the USA restored their two-goal lead less than two minutes later.
The Canadians made it a one-goal game for a second time with three minutes, 49 seconds left in the game, and they continued to press, but Deridder denied them with superb goaltending, especially when Weiss was in the penalty box.
“Bottom line we were not as opportunistic as they were,’’ said coach Raymond. “They are crying in the room. They are disappointed. It hurts them and us to lose in the final.”
The last time Canada played for gold in Lillehammer was 22 years ago and they settled for silver after losing 3-2 to Sweden in the final of the Lillehammer 1994 Olympic Winter Games.
A second silver has given them motivation to return again. “They say third time is a charm,’’ said Canada forward Allan McShane.
Written by YIS / IOC ALAN ADAMS
Alan Adams is a reporter for the Lillehammer Youth Information Service ‘YIS’. Based in Toronto, Canada, he has covered sports since the mid-1980s including covering five Winter Olympic Games.