By Woodard, Dale on January 16, 2020.
During their tenure with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Calen Addison and Dylan Cozens have dished off a pass or two to each other.
But the pass-off between the two teammates 11 days ago was unlike the tape-to-tape, blue-line-to-blue-line variety Hurricanes fans have become accustomed to over the past few years.
Instead, this dish-off featured Addison handing the World Junior Hockey Championship trophy to Cozens after the duo captured the gold medal following a memorable 4-3 win over Team Russia in Ostrava in the Czech Republic on Jan. 5.
“That’s a dream come true,” said Addison Wednesday afternoon outside the Hurricanes dressing room as he and Cozens met with the media for the first time since returning from the championship.
“Me and him have been here for a few years now and it’s pretty special for us and for the organization to have us both there, (Oliver) Okuliar also with Slovakia. But to hand that trophy off to him after that game was a feeling I will never forget and it was definitely the best feeling of our lives, for sure.”
As if winning a gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship wasn’t enough of a milestone, Cozens said having his Hurricanes teammate and friend hand the hardware off to him made the moment even more special.
“He’s become one of my best friends over the last couple of years. To win the gold medal with him and for him to pass that trophy to me just made the experience so much better.”
Addison and Cozens weren’t the only Canes representatives at this year’s junior championship. Also on hand was Okuliar, who laced up with Slovakia at the tournament. As it turned out, Okuliar had the lone goal for Slovakia in their 6-1 loss to Canada in the quarter-final.
The Canadian squad went 3-1-0-0 in the round-robin, their only loss coming via a lopsided 6-0 blanking at the hands of the Russian team the Canadians would earn another shot at in the gold medal game.
“That whole tournament had a lot of ups and downs,” said Addison. “I honestly think it was a good thing we got that loss to Russia. It kind of brought us back to where we needed to be and brought us back to an even keel.
“Then when you get that rematch against them and you go down 3-1 in the third, we had a team that whole month that never quit no matter what the situation was. We had no doubt in our mind we were going to come back. Some big players stepped up in big moments and we just found a way to get it done.”
Both Cozens and Addison finished the tournament with nine points, Cozens with two goals and Addison with one and eight assists, including three helpers in the gold medal game on Canada’s final three goals.
Addison was called upon to quarterback one of Team Canada’s power plays, but he turned heads in other capacities as well.
“That big power play unit was obviously a big opportunity for me and I was looked upon to play good defence, too,” said Addison, a prospect of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I think I stepped up my two-way game for the tournament and we made teams pay on the power play, for sure. I think it’s a lot of opportunity, but at the same time there’s a lot of pressure and you want to do well for your whole country. I think we did a good job of that.”
Meanwhile, Cozens skated with a variety of linemates and looked comfortable as usual working the man advantage down low.
“I think I played pretty well,” said the forward who was selected seventh overall by the Buffalo Sabres in last June’s NHL entry draft. “There was lots of line shuffling, but when you’re playing with good players it makes it so easy. I thought I got better as it went on, I just got more comfortable to the style of play of the European teams.
“It’s a way different game than the WHL. There’s way less hitting and there’s more skill. It’s the best junior players in the world so there is lots of skill there, but it’s so tough, there’s no time and space even with a bigger ice. The guys are on you right away, it’s so fast and high-paced and intense.”
With the gold medal secured, the Canes gave the two players a break upon returning to this side of the pond as Addison headed to his hometown in Brandon and Cozens headed north to Whitehorse.
“I know a lot of the people in Brandon and I feel everybody kind of knows everybody in a city like that,” said Addison. “I went to my old elementary school and a place called Ventures, where there are disabled people. So it was kind of cool just to share the moment with them.”
Outside of a little fishing, Cozens’ week off at home was low key.
“It was really nice to get home and spend some time with my family,” he said. “I didn’t get to see them much over there. So to get home and get a couple of days off was definitely much needed. But I kind of kept a low profile. I just stayed at home a lot and went out ice fishing one day and relaxed and just let it all sink in.”
On Wednesday afternoon as he and Addison prepared to join their Hurricanes teammates for practice, things had started to sink in a little more.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” said Cozens. “We were there for so long in new parts of the world and parts I haven’t seen before. Just being with all those guys and making new friends and seeing guys that I’ve played with before for Team Canada and the experience of playing on that stage.
“So that was exciting and to come home with a gold just makes it all worth it. It was tough at times, it was a long time to be away from your family at Christmas time, but we got that gold medal and that’s what we wanted, so it makes it all worth it.”
Follow @DWoodardHerald on Twitter