The 2013 IIHF Men's World Championship ended up being quite successful for several Colorado Avalanche players.
Nine Avs players represented their respective countries at the tournament, held May 3-18 in Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland, and five of them came away with medals.
During a press conference in Denver on May 28 introducing Patrick Roy as the organization's new head coach/vice president of hockey operations, two current Colorado players in attendance that had participated in the tournament – Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny – reflected on their experience.
Stastny, the captain of the United States, had several familiar faces with him on the team as fellow Avs players Matt Hunwick, Erik Johnson and Aaron Palushaj were also on the squad that won the bronze medal. It was the first medal for the Americans at the tournament since 2004, when they also took home the bronze.
"On paper, we probably didn't have the best team or the most experience, but the group of guys we had – the way we got along with each other on and off the ice I think really helped us throughout the tournament," Stastny said. "We really got along and for that reason we all kind of played for each other and that's why we did well."
Stastny had his own success at the world championship as he had seven goals and eight assists for 15 points, the second most in the tournament. He was also the only American to be named to the media all-star team.
Throughout the tournament, Stastny and his two linemates, Craig Smith of the Nashville Predators and David Moss of the Phoenix Coyotes, developed a good chemistry and had success on the scoresheet. In 10 games, the top U.S. forward line finished with 36 combined points (Smith had 14 points, while Moss had seven points).
Stastny said a reason why the line was so successful was because they always knew where each other was on the ice.
"Moss was a big body that would get the puck and always be in front, and Smitty was an easy guy to play with, a smart guy and a good two-way player and give-and-go guy," he said. "I like playing with guys like that because I give them the puck and I know that I'll get it right back, and I know where to be and I know where he is going to be."
In the bronze medal game, the United States had to defeat Finland in a shootout after the score remained tied, 2-2, after regulation and overtime.
With the Finns up 1-0 in the third round of the shootout, it was up to 19-year-old Alex Galchenyuk of the Montreal Canadiens – who had just arrived in Europe days earlier – to extend the tiebreaker. Galchenyuk came quickly through the slot, deked at the top of the crease to get the Finland goalie to go the wrong way and threw the puck top shelf.
After USA goalie John Gibson forced a Finland missed shot, Galchenyuk was sent back out to attempt to win the game for the Americans.
He did, and he did it with the exact same move.
"He had to score or it would have been all over," Stastny said. "The (first) shot that he did was ridiculous. I don't think people realize how difficult of a shot that was. And then on the second one, he comes back and does the exact same move, under pressure as a 19-year-old and gets us the bronze medal. That was fun, just for the guys too. We worked that hard and to come that far and to not get a medal, that's why I think guys were so excited about it."
For Landeskog, the medal that he won was gold.
Landeskog had three goals in the tournament and helped Sweden to its ninth world championship and their first since 2006.
The win for Sweden also ended the home-ice curse, as the Soviet Union in 1986 was the last host nation to win the world championship on their home soil.
"It's a big tournament and especially to win it in your hometown," Landeskog said. "It was 27 years ago that a team won it at home so we were extremely excited to end that drought."
This was the Avalanche captain's second year at the tournament with Sweden, which played out almost the exact opposite of his experience in 2012.
In last year's tournament, Sweden started off strong before faltering in the elimination rounds. However after a slow start to this year's event, the Swedes were at their best during the quarterfinal win against Canada and rode the momentum to the championship.
Switzerland defeated Sweden in the opening game of the preliminary round, but the Swedes got their revenge and ended the Swiss' Cinderella-run in the finals with a 5-1 win.
"We knew they were going to come out hard, but there was no chance of us losing that game," said Landeskog of the championship game against Switzerland. "We were trailing 1-0, but we came back strong. When we were up 5-1 with two minutes to go, everyone was jumping and it was chaotic on the bench, but it was a good feeling."
The next day, Landeskog and his teammates met the Swedish royal family and participated in a ceremony in Stockholm where over 20,000 fans helped celebrate the win.
"It was an unbelievable feeling," he said of winning the world championship. "It was the first time that I had won something big like that."
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