Curtis Lazar spent a few days in Vernon chilling with his family this week after representing Canada well at the 38th IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Sweden.
He missed the Edmonton Oil Kings’ 4-2 Western League win over the visiting Kelowna Rockets Wednesday night, but gets back to work tonight in Cranbrook against the Kootenay Ice.
While a second straight year without a medal has Hockey Canada calling for a serious look at their overall program, Lazar certainly did his job, ringing up three goals and seven points while being used in crucial situations by coach Brent Sutter.
“It was tough losing to Finland (5-1) in the semis but they were the better team that night,” Lazar told The Morning Star. “We couldn’t generate enough offence and as soon as we got some momentum, a penalty seemed to derail that.
“Then against Russia (2-1 loss Sunday) in the bronze-medal game, we played a much better game but ran into a hot goalie. I was happy with our game; we just couldn’t buy a goal. Going all that way, putting in all that time and effort and coming back empty-handed stings. The world juniors is extremely tough to win and we learned that the hard way. All the other teams are so skilled you need to bring your best each game and we failed to do that.”
Lazar, who turns 19 on Feb. 2, is one of 11 players eligible to play for Canada next year in Montreal and Toronto. He is expected to seriously challenge for a spot with the Ottawa Senators, who drafted him in the first round last summer.
“There could be a bunch of guys returning and I could be one of them. It’s good motivation moving forward and the squad next year has a great chance to rebound while doing so on home ice.”
Lazar, who has 21 goals and 37 points in just 27 games with Edmonton, was a plus-2 and took just one minor penalty. He was named one of Canada’s three stars of the tournament by management.
“I left it all on the ice and I did what I could to represent my country. I really focused in on ‘playing like a Canadian’ which is getting dirty, putting in the work and being willing to sacrifice anything to help the team succeed.
“I hit my groove and was able to record seven points which I am proud about. I earned coach Sutter’s trust and found myself on the ice in every situation. Putting on that jersey was an incredible honour and all in all, I enjoyed the experience and had a smile on my face the entire way.”
He took the time to write a blog on the Oil Kings’ website, talking some about the Xbox contests during down time.
“Our team battles of NHL 14 have gone back and forth, with Taylor Leier and Nic Petan (Portland Winterhawks) probably being the most skilled. Jonathan Drouin and I made a good pair; we had some good chemistry (I thought), but I found myself placed on waivers within a couple days only to be picked up by Josh Morrissey. The games get quite heated as major bragging rights are on the line. I just have fun with it unless I’m playing the Reinhart (Griffin and Sam) brothers …Those games are must wins.”
The 2015 eligible group also includes goalie Zachary Fucale, defencemen Aaron Ekblad, Morrissey and Chris Bigras and forwards Drouin, Frederik Gauthier, Bo Horvat, Connor McDavid, Petan and Sam Reinhart.
McDavid is the only guarantee since he won’t be eligible for the NHL draft until June, 2015.