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Ottawa @ CWG Day 8: Local hockey players win gold after epic 28-minute 3-on-3 OT

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(This article was first sent to subscribers of the free Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it below!)

Day 8 Recap: Local hockey players celebrate gold after epic 28-minute 3-on-3 sudden death overtime

By Dan Plouffe & Mark Colley

A packed house of close to 4,000 fans. The Canada Games gold medal on the line. A comeback from two goals down with 10 minutes left. TWENTY-EIGHT minutes of 3-on-3 overtime.

The game that never wanted to end had it all. But when it did end, all the drama they’d lived through made the triumph just that much more special for Team Ontario.

“I really couldn’t believe it. It was an amazing moment. Just electric. Just a great, great game,” reflected Rockland Nationals defenceman Maasilan Etchart, one of six Hockey Eastern Ontario U18 ‘AAA’ players who earned gold. “Oh man. It’s been the best experience of my life, honestly. The team, the atmosphere, the hockey, it’s all been so much fun.

“I cannot imagine a better tournament, a better way to end it, it’s just been unreal. I loved the whole thing.”

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Ontario went 2-0-1 to top its preliminary pool, and then beat New Brunswick 5-2 and B.C. 8-6 to advance to the championship game against Saskatchewan. It was the Canada Games’ last event of the first week and the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown was full of energy for the Saturday night finale.

Saskatchewan struck first with a pair of goals in the first period. Ontario controlled play in the second period, but Saskatchewan goalie Logan Edmonstone turned them away time and time again, including a big shorthanded stop on the Smiths Falls Bears’ Peter Legostaev in the last minute.

In the lockerroom before the third, a player reminded his mates of some history: Ontario had lost in overtime to Quebec in the 2019 Canada Winter Games final, and that was a heartbreak they didn’t want their returning coach to relive.

Maasilan Etchart. Photo: Denise Pineau / Canada Winter Games

“That really pumped us up,” Etchart recounted during a phone interview post-game with the Ottawa Sports Pages’ Dan Plouffe. “One of the first things I thought of after we got out of the big (celebration) huddle was: now coach Steve (Devine)’s got his ring. He waited four years and he’s finally got it.”

Etchart helped kickstart the comeback by blocking three consecutive shots on the sequence before London’s Ryan Roobroeck finally broke the ice for Ontario just as the clock ticked under 10 minutes.

Then, with 7:13 left, Nepean Raiders defenceman Quinn Beauchesne sensed an opportunity to move forward on the powerplay and buried a juicy rebound for the equalizer.

The gold medal game went to 3-on-3 overtime, and it was heart-in-your-throat action for a full 20-minute session and then half a period more. There were countless close chances and massive saves along the way until speedy Stoney Creek defender Matthew Schaefer finally poked the golden goal in.

Beauchesne was on the ice every third shift or so in overtime. He said “there’s just no words” to explain what it’s like to play 3-on-3 for that long. Outwardly, the Nepean Raiders defender looked remarkably calm, ready to make the right decision in spite of the stakes, though it didn’t quite feel that way inside.

Quinn Beauchesne. Photo: Denise Pineau / Canada Winter Games

“All the different emotions run through your head,” recalled Beauchesne. “You’re excited but you’re nervous at the same time. Ultimately you just want to make everyone proud, so it’s great that we were finally able to send ’er home and take home gold.”

After six games in seven days, and a marathon 3-on-3 OT that drains many pros after five minutes, the smooth-skating blueliner said his legs still had juice left in them.

“All the time in the gym finally paid off,” Beauchesne smiled, noting it was nonetheless “such a relief” to see the winning goal go in.

“We’ve worked so hard for this. It’s unreal, honestly,” added the St. Francis Xavier Catholic High School student. “I’m trying not to swear here, but it’s just unreal. This team deserves it. It’s a great group of guys in this room and obviously we’ve got great skill on the ice. I’ve never been so lucky, to play with this group.

“I’m so fortunate and I’m so proud to be a part of this Team Ontario.”

The other local players on the team were the Raiders’ Harry Nansi, and Tristan Boudreau and Chase Hull of the Renfrew Wolves.

(From left) Harry Nansi, Tristan Boudreau, Chase Hull and Peter Legostaev.

While they’re often rivals on the region’s rinks, Etchart said their connection and camaraderie runs deeper than that.

“It’s been an amazing experience playing with them,” signalled the De La Salle high school student. “I’ve got to play against these guys for most of my career. Now playing with them on the same team, I feel like there’s still been a chemistry because I’ve known them for so long, even if it’s as opponents.”

Team Ontario’s respect for their opponents was very strong in the gold medal game for the ages as well. Beauchesne (who wears #3) was the first to receive his medal, and he immediately skated over the shake every player’s hand on Team Saskatchewan, and he was followed by each of his teammates.

Hockey’s taken lots of lumps lately in our country (and deservedly so), but this Canada Games championship final was the perfect reminder of why we love our national winter sport.

“It was such a great moment,” underlined Beauchesne. “We’re going to remember this forever.”

Speed skater & squash player serve up silvers

A pair of Ottawa athletes won their second medals of the Games yesterday – both silver.

When Matthew Freitag won silver in the male short track speed skating 500 metre race on Thursday, he surprised everyone — even himself.

Yesterday, he won silver in the short track team relay, but this one didn’t come as a shock.

“I wasn’t really expecting to walk away with two silver medals,” he explained in an interview with the Ottawa Sports Pages’ Mark Colley. “I was expecting to walk away with one, as we expected in the relay to get the silver.”

That’s because Freitag knew how fast Quebec’s skaters were, but also how Ontario’s skaters were faster than both Alberta and British Columbia, who they were racing against.

It ended up working out exactly that way. As the first skater for Ontario, Freitag started in lane four. It was a disadvantage, but a position Freitag was used to after starting in the fourth lane for his 500 metre final.

Like that race, Freitag immediately jumped the racer in front of him. He came out of his segment in third, and after another overtake by his teammate and perfect exchanges, Ontario finished in second.

Matthew Freitag of the Ottawa Pacers won his second silver medal of the 2023 Canada Winter Games on Sunday. Photo: @goteamontario Twitter

Freitag won silver alongside teammate Adam Law, who won gold in the 500 metre final with Freitag. After the one-two finish in that race, the two celebrated together as they skated around the track.

The two got to know each other through Team Ontario.

“We kind of created a bond and we’ve been friends ever since,” Freitag said.

Freitag’s season will wrap up in two weeks, when he competes in the Short Track Canada Cup Final in Quebec City. After that, he’ll focus his efforts on joining the Canadian Regional Training Centre in Montreal. If he makes it, he’ll go to university there as well.

But right now, Freitag can bask in the glow of his Games performance. He also finished sixth out of 51 skaters in the 3000 metre points race yesterday.

He said the mental toll of competition in speed skating can be overwhelming, but the Games environment, with so many activities and people involved, has helped make it easier.

“It’s all kind of made racing a bit less stressful,” Freitag said. “I know a few [skaters] myself who have had to quit because of [the mental toll], and the Canada Winter Games, they made it easier to cope with it.”

Iman Shaheen (left) won her second medal of the Canada Games squash competition. Photo: @goteamontario Twitter

On the heels of her individual bronze medal performance, Iman Shaheen earned her second medal of the 2023 Canada Games with a silver in the female team event yesterday.

Ontario won each of its encounters 4-0 with PEI, Newfoundland, Manitoba and Alberta to reach the championship match against British Columbia, but the B.C. representatives kept their perfect record intact as they didn’t drop a single site the whole team event.

Other action: Finishing strong in 3 sports

Chelsea Nordiq biathletes Ella Niedre and Antoine Gendron teamed up in the mixed relay event, helping Ontario to a fifth-place finish in the final biathlon competition of the Games.

Aaron Turnau finished sixth in the male dual moguls finals, his strongest result of the week.

After a disappointing quarter-final tumble to eventual-champion Quebec, the Ottawa-powered Ontario ringette team beat British Columbia for seventh place in an early-morning game. Ottawa’s Danika Osborne, Taylor Forrest, Kate Babineau and Laiya Evraire scored all four of Ontario’s goals.

In wheelchair basketball, Ontario took its first win of the Games to secure seventh place over Newfoundland. Ottawa’s Des O’Shaughnessy scored 10 points in the 44-27 victory.

And with that… an action-packed week 1 of the 2023 Canada Winter Games is officially in the books!

The Games take a break on Sunday and Monday to reset and welcome a new set of athletes arrives for week 2.

Ottawa athletes will look forward to the start of their competitions in alpine skiing, archery, cross-country skiing and female hockey.

We hope you enjoyed this wild finish to week 1, and we’ll look forward to bringing you more Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games coverage soon enough!

As always, you can look back at all of our CWG coverage in one place on our Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games central webpage:

(This article was first sent to subscribers of the free Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it below!)

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