Tim Hunter was back on the bench for the Moose Jaw Warriors’ two wins over the weekend.
It was a quick turnaround for the Warriors’ head coach as he arrived back in the Friendly City just shortly before puck drop against the Saskatoon Blades at Mosaic Place on Friday night.
The past month has been busy for Hunter as he helped lead Team Canada to a silver medal finish at the World Junior Hockey Championship, finishing with a thrilling 5-4 shootout loss to the United States last Thursday.
“Overall it was great, it was an awesome experience, Hockey Canada treats everyone fantastically and I wouldn’t have done it any other way, while it would have been nice to get the gold, it was a great experience,” said Hunter, who was an assistant coach on the World Junior team.
This was Hunter’s second time serving as a coach with Team Canada after picking up a bronze medal as the head coach of the National Under-18 Team.
Canada came up just short in the gold medal game against the United States on Thursday at the World Juniors, blowing a pair of two-goal leads before eventually falling in the shootout.
Hunter said the Americans were just one shooter better than Canada on that night.
“Their team found a way to score in the shootout and that was the difference,” said Hunter. “We had two two-goal leads and couldn’t finish the deal, they competed hard and it’s not that we failed, but it was a great effort and it will be one of those classic games that you see as a World Junior game.
“You’d like to see the game decided by a real goal, especially a game like that, I can see the bronze medal game and quarterfinal games ending in a shootout, but people want to see a hockey game... the players run out of gas and there’s going to be scoring, but to put it on the line in a shootout is too bad, it is what it is, they found a way to win it that way and we didn’t.”
Canada threw 17 shots on the American net during overtime and Hunter feels like if they had another five minutes they could have won the game before the shootout, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
Hunter left the Warriors on Dec. 9 to join the World Junior team for the start of the selection camp. He said the build up to the tournament was an interesting process to be a part of.
“We built it in four phases: the training camp, the competition side of picking the team; then we had a second phase where we team built and got our plan and systems in place; then the third phase was where we played the preliminary games, exhibition games and really started to hone our game; and then started to put ourselves in a position to get to the medal round; I thought each phase was done very well,” said Hunter.
“I thought Dominique Ducharme did a terrific job, I learned a ton from both him and Kris Knoblauch as coaches and it will be more stuff that I can use here and help our team.”
Hunter led Team Canada’s defence and penalty kill during the tournament and he came away raving about tournament MVP Thomas Chabot of the Saint-John Sea Dogs, who played over 44 minutes in the gold medal game.
“I had him as a 17-year-old at the Under-18 World Champioships and he was fantastic, and (Kale) Clague and (Jake) Bean played really well, I’m familiar with both those guys, I thought Clague played the best I’ve seen him play,” said Hunter.
“Chabot played about half of each period in the gold medal game, he’s a horse. They had some pretty good offensive weapons that we wanted to match him up against and trying to get their coaches to keep their players off, we played Chabot more and that worked.”
Outside losing the gold medal game, Hunter said one of the hardest moments of the tournament was when he had to cut his captain here in Moose Jaw, Brett Howden, from the team.
“That was very tough, real tough pill for guys to swallow,” said Hunter. “The guys are in almost tears and it’s going to make them better people, and (Howden and Regina’s Sam Steel) will be on the team next year I guarantee that.
“Next year’s World Junior team will be a hell of a team with the 98s that are in this country.”