1/5/2007 10:00:44 PM
LEKSAND, Sweden (CP) - The world junior hockey championship has made another hero out of a Canadian goaltender.
Carey Price was voted the tournament MVP and chosen the top goaltender by the International Ice Hockey Federation after the 19-year-old from Anahim, Lake, B.C., backstopped Canada to a gold medal in a 4-2 win over Russia on Friday.
Goaltenders Jeff Glass in 2005 and Justin Pogge in 2006 were front and centre after Canada's gold-medal wins those years.
Price faced more shots and was challenged more, however, and was rewarded for his efforts in a third straight gold for his country.
''It's not just me,'' Price said. ''I had a lot of help.''
The Tri-City Americans goaltender helped Canada build a 4-0 lead by early in the second period and held off the surging Russians when they scored two power-play goals to halve Canada's lead.
Price made game-saving saves in each period of the final and the most important one was early in the third period when he dropped to his knees to stone an Anton Krysanov breaking in alone on a short-handed chance.
''The guy that was our most important player the whole tournament came through for us,'' Canadian head coach Craig Hartsburg said. ''If they score there, oh my goodness, we're on our heels there.''
Price also made a toe save off Andrei Kiryukhin during a Russian power-play in the second period that had teammate Ryan O'Marra in awe.
''Wow. Unbelievable,'' O'Marra. ''I had my head in my hands already because I thought it was in the net.
''He's a big-time player. He came up in the clutch for us in every single game and he not only allowed us to win games. He won us some games.''
On Wednesday, Price stole a win for his team in the semifinal against the United States.
He stopped all 12 shots he faced in overtime, during which Canada was a man down for two minutes, and ended a seven-round shootout by stopping Peter Mueller in a 2-1 win.
Hartsburg wanted a goaltender who would instil the players in front of him with confidence and make them play better because of it, and Price did that.
He played big in the net with his six-foot-two, 217-pound frame, cutting off shooter's angles and helping his defence with his puckhandling and passing.
The first-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens finished the tournament with a 6-0 record, a 1.14 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage.
Price was cut from the Canadian junior men's hockey team last year as an 18-year-old and didn't even get much of a chance to watch it on televison because his Americans are based in the northwestern U.S.
He remembered how he felt after he was released and compared it to how he felt with a gold medal hanging around his neck and a tournament MVP to his name.
''They're different sides of the earth,'' Price said. ''It's such a great feeling. It hasn't really hit me yet, but I'm sure it will hit me when I try and sleep in a couple days.''
Price said he required a sleeping pill to get to sleep Thursday night and was unable to settle down for a pre-game nap Friday.