Mason McTavish has just completed a hockey season like no other.
Since last fall, McTavish has played in the NHL (Anaheim), the AHL (San Diego), the OHL (Peterborough and Hamilton) and the Beijing Winter Olympics (Team Canada). And for an encore Saturday night, he captained Canada to a gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton. He was tournament MVP and led the tournament in scoring in the process.
It capped an incredible season for the kid from the tiny village of Carp, population 2000, half an hour outside of Ottawa.
But one day we may forget McTavish’s busy season and accomplishments. Thirty years from now, things will start fade. We’ll lose track of the weirdness of playing the World Juniors in the August heat, under the dark cloud of a Hockey Canada scandal. We may even draw a blank on Kent Johnson’s golden goal in the 3-2 overtime win over Finland.
Remarkably, it’s McTavish’s defensive play in overtime Saturday night – a stick save and a beauty – that will be remembered above everything else.
Moments before Johnson won it, with the score tied at 2, Canada was having a disastrous shift in the 3 on 3 overtime – McTavish included. They were gassed, couldn’t get off for a change, and made one mistake after another.
Eventually, Canadian goalie Dylan Garand made a solid glove save and Canada’s long shift should have ended there. But instead of getting a whistle and giving his group a chance to get off and rest, Garand dropped the puck at McTavish’s feet so that Canada could keep possession.
With surprise and exhaustion, McTavish tried to wheel behind the net with the puck but was immediately tripped into the end boards (a missed penalty call) and lost possession. With Canada outnumbered, McTavish was unable to get up in time to help stop Finland’s Topi Niemela from getting off a point-blank shot.
Niemela had charged into the slot and chipped the puck over top of Garand, who had come out to challenge. As the puck drifted toward the wide-open net, hearts sank across Canada. The Finnish defenceman threw his arms in the air, realizing he was about to be a World Champion and a national hero back home – the guy who the scored the golden goal.
But McTavish arrived just in time to save the day. Like Batman.
Standing by the post, McTavish whipped his stick onto his backhand and knocked the puck right out of the air, about an inch from the goal line. The puck deflected straight down and could easily have landed on its edge and trickled into the net. But it didn’t. The puck bounced off the ice perfectly, straight up into the air, almost like the net was repelling it.
But the trouble wasn’t over.
McTavish completely whiffed on his first attempt to clear the bounding puck away. Teammate Connor Bedard was in there chopping away at it too. As McTavish drew his stick back to have another go, he or Bedard could have accidentally knocked the puck into their own net without any trouble at all. But they didn’t.
McTavish finally shoveled the puck safely into the corner. The hand-eye coordination he’d quietly honed during those Carp winter nights on the outdoor rink served Canada very well throughout the tournament, but especially in that moment.
— BarDown (@BarDown) August 21, 2022
“I don’t know, to be honest,” McTavish told TSN. “ I just saw the puck trickling over and I thought, ‘Oh, crap. I’ve gotta do something here.’ Honestly, I don’t even know what happened.”
Bedard had a ringside seat for McTavish’s amazing play and didn’t mince words when asked to talk about it.
“I was s****ing myself,” Bedard told a live TSN audience. “I wasn’t even thinking. I lost my guy in front in a 2 on 0. It was f***ing crazy!”
Moments later, after McTavish was finally able to get off and take a breather, Johnson sealed the deal for Canada, toe dragging his own rebound beyond Juha Jatkola’s pad and snapping home the winner.
Kent Johnson with the golden goal in overtime to give Canada GOLD at the 2022 men's world junior hockey championship 🇨🇦🥇
— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) August 21, 2022
Edmonton completely erupted. Here’s the view from inside the arena.
— Elite Prospects (@eliteprospects) August 21, 2022
McTavish was pleased he didn’t opt out of the tournament and another chance to represent his country.
“It’s the best feeling ever, McTavish told TSN. “You can never get enough of this. I remember I won a gold in the (World U18 Hockey Championships). It’s the same feeling as this. It’s the reason you play hockey for games and opportunities like these.”
And so ends an incredible hockey season for Carp’s Mason McTavish. But no rest for the weary, as the Ducks open their NHL training camp in a few weeks. And that’s okay. For McTavish, there’s clearly no such thing as too much hockey.
By Steve Warne | Sens Nation Hockey