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Bill Meltzer | NHL.com correspondent
Jan 12, 2007, 10:00 AM EST


Handling pressure is part and parcel of being a goaltender. That’s especially true when you are the goaltender for Team Canada and nothing less than a gold medal is acceptable.

Coming into the 2007 World Junior Championships, the inexperience of goaltender Carey Price in international Under-20 competition was one of the few question marks in Canada’s quest for its third straight gold medal. True, the Canadian roster was stacked with 11 returning players from its 2006 championship squad. But goaltending is hockey’s great equalizer, especially in a short tournament. Price would still have to match his opponents save for save for Canada to be successful.

As it turned out, Canadian fans had no need for concern. Price, the Montreal Canadiens first-round pick (5th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, did more than just hold his own at the WJC. His play was one Canada’s biggest strengths. Price richly deserved the tournament most valuable player, IIHF Directorate best goaltender, and Media All-Star Team honors he earned along with his gold medal.

In winning both the Directorate and Media honors for the 2007 WJC, Price has joined some select company, including the likes of past dual honorees Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury and Jose Theodore for Team Canada. Others to accomplish the feat include David Aebischer (Switzerland), Rick DiPietro (USA) and the late Pelle Lindbergh (Sweden).

As well as Jeff Glass played in backstopping Canada to WJC gold in 2005 and Justin Pogge did last year, Price was arguably even better in compiling a perfect 6-0 record, 1.14 goals-against average and sterling .960 save percentage. Reason: the tournament field this year was a little more balanced than in previous years.

As a result, Price was often more severely tested over the course of the tournament than his two predecessors. There were stretches of time where Canada got outplayed. Price had the answers every time, enabling his team to survive rough patches and come away undefeated once again.

“He’s a big-time player,” Team Canada teammate and New York Islanders prospect Ryan O’Marra told the Canadian Press after Canada downed Russia 4-2 for the gold medal. “He came through in the clutch for us in every single game and he not only allowed us to win games, he won us some games.”

Goaltending a family affair

It always seemed natural that Carey Price would become a goaltender. His father, Jerry Price, was once a promising Western League goaltender for the Calgary Centennials and Portland Winter Hawks.

The elder Price parlayed his junior career into an eighth-round selection (126th overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1978 Entry Draft. Although he never played in the NHL or American Hockey League, Jerry Price played four seasons in the lower minor leagues before a serious knee injury ended his career. Today, he is the administrator of an adult learning center.

Carey Price, a native of Anahim Lake, British Columbia, started playing goal at the age of 10 after starting out as a defenseman. Anahim Lake is a remote, sparsely populated area. The closest teams were located hours away, so licensed pilot Jerry took to flying his son in a small Piper Cherokee plane to fall and winter practices in Williams Lake and to summer hockey camps.

Carey developed quickly. After a successful peewee hockey career, he graduated to junior hockey in the WHL for the Tri-City Americans. Making his Western League debut in 2003 at the age of 16, Price played 28 games the following year.

It wasn’t until 2004-05 when he posted eight shutouts and a .920 save percentage for the Americans that Price truly started to catch the eye of NHL scouts. Following the season, the Habs tabbed Price early in the first round of the draft.

While they share a common position, Carey Price enjoys several advantages his father lacked— namely size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) and puckhandling ability. At the top of his game, Price gives opposing shooters very little net. He also moves with surprising quickness to corral pucks behind the net and enable his team to clear the zone.

“He handles the puck well, and I think that’s an advantage on the big (international) ice,” said team Canada coach Craig Hartsburg in explaining his choice of Price to start the WJC in goal for the Canadians.

Model of consistency

Some NHL scouts tout the upside of 18-year-old Everett Silvertips goaltender Leland Irving (the Calgary Flames' first round selection, 26th overall, in 2006) as being even higher than Price’s. But Price, who was cut from the squad last year as an 18-year-old, quickly put to rest any semblance of a goaltending controversy for Team Canada.

In Canada’s tournament-opening 2-0 win over host Sweden, the Swedes outplayed the Canadians for significant stretches of the second and third period. Swedish star Nicklas Bäckström, player-of-the-game Linus Omark, Patrik Zackrisson and Nashville Predators draftee Patric Hörnqvist all had good scoring chances. Price had the answer for every Swedish volley.

"I'm not really surprised, because I know Price is supposed to be a really good goalie,” said Bäckström afterwards.

In the next game, a 6-3 win over the USA (the final score is deceptive, as the game was closely contested), Price came up big several times to help his club nailed down the win. He then slammed the door on both Germany and Slovakia, allowing just one goal over the two games as Canada clinched first place in the preliminary round and earned a bye into the medal round semifinals.

As strong as he was in the preliminary round, Price was even better in the medal round. In a classic semifinal rematch with Team USA, won by Canada 2-1 in a shootout finale, Price was nothing short of sensational. In particular, Price stood on his head in a thrilling overtime period, making a dozen saves.

The last line of defense, Price was Canada’s best penalty killer as the Americans threw everything they had at the Canadians during a 5-on-4 overtime power play. The keeper than held the fort through a nerve-racking, seven-shot shootout. Price clinched the victory by stoning Peter Mueller, who had been on Team USA’s best clutch players.

For the third-straight year, Canada met Russia for the gold medal. Easily forgotten in the face of a 3-0 Canada lead after the first period (which ultimately grew to 4-0) were several key early stops Price made to enable his team to forge a lead.

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Gainey = God

everyone criticized Gainey for talking a goalie 5th overall in the 2005 draft after the lottery, but hes not looking so bad now... drafting the goalie that won Canada a world junior championships...onlying having one off game..starting every single game


Price will one day be a starter in MTL
 
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