Courtesy Global News
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – Michael DiPietro wasn’t bothered by losing his shutout bid.
All he cared about was celebrating with his teammates.
DiPietro made 29 saves on Sunday as Ontario defeated Alberta 3-1 to win men’s hockey gold at the Canada Winter Games.
Ryan McLeod, Nick Suzuki and Zachary Gallant, into an empty net, scored for Ontario, which finished the under-16 tournament a perfect 6-0.
Zane Franklin got one back for Alberta on a power play in the dying seconds to foil DiPietro’s bid for a third shutout in four games, but that didn’t phase the Amherstburg native one bit.
“It’s more about the team than individual stuff,” DiPietro said after receiving his gold medal from Gov. Gen. David Johnston. “It’s a great feeling knowing we’re the best province in all of Canada.”
Ian Scott stopped 33 shots in taking the loss as Alberta finished with a 5-1 record.
“The boys really battled,” said Alberta captain James Hamblin. “Our team identity was grit, and we really showed that. I’m really proud of them.”
Ontario head coach Drew Bannister, who beat Alberta for gold as a player back in 1991, praised his team’s ability to become a cohesive unit in a short amount of time.
“From the first breakfast that we came together, you could tell the guys were just gelling,” he said. “There was no awkward silence. They all got along well.”
Ontario had just two practices in Toronto before flying to Prince George, but Bannister said he used the Internet to make sure his players understood what was expected.
“This team had never played together, we never practised together,” he said. “All of our system-based stuff, all of our team identity, every week we would meet online in a Google chat room and we would go over it.”
Ontario led 1-0 after 40 minutes on Sunday and doubled its lead at 11:33 of the third when Gallant jumped on a turnover and fed Suzuki, who chipped a nice backhand over Scott’s shoulder.
“I thought we played real well. We came here to win gold, but silver is still pretty great,” said Scott, a first-round pick of the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders. “This is one I’ll remember for a long time. It was pretty cool being a part of this.”
Gallant then sealed it into an empty net with 1:28 remaining before Franklin scored the consolation goal with 1.8 seconds left on the clock as Ontario claimed its fifth men’s hockey title and first since 2007.
Tied 0-0 after first period, McLeod opened the scoring at 7:44 of the second moments after DiPietro stretched to make a big save at the other end. Expected to be among the top picks at this spring’s Ontario Hockey League draft, McLeod banged home a loose puck at the side of the net after some good work by linemate Gabriel Vilardi.
Owen Tippett also picked up an assist on the play, but didn’t finish the period. Another highly-touted OHL prospect, Tippett took a knee-on-knee hit from Franklin with two minutes to go and returned for one shift in the third before sitting out the rest of the game that brought competition at the 17-day multi-sport event to close.
Alberta had the best chance to open the scoring with about three minutes left in a tentative first period, but Kyle Olson’s shot on a 2-on-0 break after coming out of the penalty box chimed off the post behind DiPietro, who was solid the rest of the way.
“We stayed humble,” said DiPietro. “We never got too high or too low. We just stayed as a team, trusted each other and moved on.”
Manitoba beat Quebec 5-3 on Saturday to win bronze. Hayden Ostir, a forward with the Winnipeg Wild of the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League, scored a hat trick in the game.