Just reaching the juniors in the world was a team meat grinder this year, and Canada was certainly no exception. In the middle, an expanded training camp was riddled with Covid cases, which led to a camp-wide quarantine. For the Colorado Avalanche prospect Alex Newhook, the camp had already been a mental test, as he was isolated from the rest of the players with NCAA colleagues Devon Levi and Dylan Holloway. Newhook also missed the quarter-finals against the Czechs due to injury, but none of that matters at the moment: he scored the goal that put Canada into the gold medal game.
Newhook’s nasty shot in less than a minute was so quick even he didn’t know it was coming in, and it took a video review to confirm his laser, the first of four shots taken by Russian goalkeeper Yaroslav Askarow in a nutshell night. In the end, Canada sailed to a 5-0 win crowned by an empty Netter, but Newhook set the tone and his overall play showed the Canadians’ dominance over a Russian squad that never really seemed to peak in this tournament.
« It’s his pace and his speed, » said coach Andre Tourigny. « He has quick hands and works very hard. Today he was always on the right side of the puck, he caught a lot of games, he was really responsible defensively, he put himself to the test with his speed and he is physically strong. He has a lot of tools that make him special. «
The most amazing thing is that Newhook hasn’t played a game before the tournament this season. He’s a sophomore at Boston College, but the Eagles were grounded by Covid by November. 27 when their season against UMass finally started. At this point Newhook was already at the World Junior Camp in Alberta. The long training camp and isolation were tough, but the talented striker saw the bigger picture.
« Everyone here gave up and sacrificed a lot to be here, » Newhook said. « Everyone had to come early and we’ve been through some long periods of time, but it’s easy to go through these with other people. We all had the same positive attitude that will take us somewhere. Having that and looking forward to the tournament and being excited about it all the time really got us to make it through and stay positive through the tough times. «
« We had a lot of time before the tournament to get closer as a group, » said Newhook. « It goes so far at these tournaments, and I think the games showed that: we trust each other on and off the ice and we trust each other to get the job done. « . «
One of the reasons Canada has been so unstoppable in this tournament is because so many strikers rose from game to game. Yes, Dylan Cozens is the top scorer, but Newhook is one of many Canadians who recorded more than one point per game – he himself has scored three goals and six points in five games. And all the strikers played a persistent « D » to make matters worse for their opponents.
« It makes us so much harder to play against us when we’re chasing so hard, » said Newhook. « We are just as proud of our defensive game as we are of our offensive game. It was emphasized since Day 1 that this mentality would be enormous for us in our game and it certainly was. «
As a freshman at Boston College, Newhook was fantastic at scoring 42 points in 34 games. No doubt he will be just as effective when he returns to the college ranks and given how good his two-way game is already, it won’t be long before he battles Colorado for a job in the NHL. And with the Avs already full of talent, that’s a pretty fun thought for the Denver fans – and a scary notion for the rest of the league.
As for the pressure to play gold with all of Canada from home? Newhook only feels love.
« It’s not really that the pressure is on us, » he said. « We are all Canadians behind us and it’s cool to feel that. «
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Junior Ice Hockey World Championships, International Ice Hockey Federation, 2021, championship
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