His friends and Kelowna Rockets teammates were on hand to meet Nolan Foote at the airport Monday night, returning home from his experience playing for Team Canada in the world junior championship with a gold medal around his neck. (Daniel Taylor - Capital News)

Rockets’ Nolan Foote captures gold with Canada at World Junior Championships

Team Canada defeated Team Russia 4-3 to capture their 18th gold medal in tournament history

Wearing the gold medal around his neck, Kelowna Rockets captain Nolan Foote was greeted by the entire team when he arrived at the Kelowna International Airport late Monday night.

On Jan. 5, Foote captured a gold medal with Canada at the World Junior Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic, after defeating the Russians in an epic nail-biter 4-3.

“It’s incredible. It feels really good,” Foote said upon his arrival at YLW.

“You grow up watching the World Juniors as a kid and you dream of it, so it’s definitely an amazing feeling,”

The win came a week after Canada was embarrassed in a 6-0 blowout to Russia.

In that game, 18-year-old star Alexis Lafreniere left with what appeared to be a serious injury, Team Canada captain Barrett Hayton nearly caused an international incident at centre ice when he failed to remove his helmet during the post-game playing of the Russian anthem, and Joe Veleno earned a one-game suspension for headbutting.

It seemed as though Canada’s goal of winning gold was falling apart at the seams.

But over the next week of the tournament the group rallied for what would eventually be one of the best comebacks in Team Canada history, scoring three goals in the third period to overcome a 3-1 deficit.

Foote said he could hardly wait to celebrate as the clock ticked down and he finally realized his childhood dream.

“I was just feeling jitters and shaking,” Foote said referring to the final few seconds of the game.

“It was surreal. I was jumping up and down with the guys and it was even more amazing with that comeback.

“It felt really good.”

Canada played much of the first two periods shorthanded and found themselves down 2-1.

The Russians would score another goal at 8:46 into the third, but Canada responded quickly by finding the back of the net on a goal by Connor McMichael.

Hayton then added another on a power play with a wicked wrist shot from the slot at 11:21.

That goal is now part of Team Canada junior team folklore in the wake of Hayton overcoming a shoulder injury to play the game when it appeared to many he would be a scratch from the lineup after the warmup because he was clearly favouring the injury.

Then with four minutes remaining in the third, Canada’s Akil Thomas scored the eventual winner on a hardworking play where he poked the puck by a Russian defenseman for a partial breakaway and beat Russia’s goaltender blocker side.

Canada held of the Russians in a penalty-mired final three minutes of the third period to hold on for the win.

Foote said while Canada had been soundly beaten by Russian in the preliminary round, the group believed in their abilities and went into the gold medal game feeling confident.

“It was definitely challenging and we knew we had a good opponent we had to face, but since the 6-0 (loss against Russia) we outscored our opponents 24 to seven. We were feeling confident,” Foote said.

“Our power play and penalty kill were clicking well. We were playing really good as a team.”

Foote had a strong tournament finishing with three goals and two assists in seven games for Canada.

While Foote was productive offensively he was ejected for a hit to the head of Slovakia’s Kristian Kovacik in the first period of a quarterfinal matchup, another example of the adversity Team Canada had to overcome which Foote believes help unite the team in their quest to win gold.

“You’re always going to face adversity and what you need to do is come back from that.

“We’re lucky Lafreniere’s injury wasn’t serious, as well as Hayton’s shoulder.

“Obviously the ejection for me sucked because I didn’t think it was that bad of a hit, but all around we came away with the gold.”

Foote will now return to the Rockets lineup after he is evaluated by medical staff in the coming days.

Bruce Hamilton, the Rockets owner and general manager, said he is extremely proud of his star forward.

“It’s always great when you see these young guys go over there and have success,” said Hamilton.

“Only 22 players make it every year and any time you’re one of the best 22 players in Canada under 20 it’s a great honor and something they’ll never forget.

”It’s a special club to belong to and especially when you win a gold medal.”

Canada’s Alexis Lafreniere was named the tournament MVP while Barrett Hayton won the championship game’s most valuable player.

The Rocket’s next game is tonight (Jan. 8) when they play host to the Victoria Royals at Prospera Place.

A special presentation before the game will be held to recognize Foote’s achievement. Nolan is now the third Foote to win gold as his brother Cal won gold at the World Junior Championship in 2018 and his father Adam won gold with Canada at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

READ MORE: McDonald scores shootout winner as Rockets defeat Giants


@Niftymittens14
daniel.taylor@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Top employers give tips to succeed at Black Press Career Fair in Kelowna

The Black Press Extreme Education and Career Fair takes place Mar. 12. at the Rutland Soccer Dome

WATCH: Team Capital News spices it up with ‘Ladies’ Choice’

If you missed them at Swinging With the Stars, you can watch the team’s performance here

Central Okanagan school board members approve $50,000 loan for KLO modular farm

The garden will grow lettuce, kale and other vegetables once completed

Guilty plea withdrawn in West Kelowna murder trial

Tejwant Danjou’s application to have his impromptu guilty plea removed was accepted by the court

Peachland to host International Women’s Day Celebration

The day will honour Okanagan women’s contributions to the land, water and their communities

It’s Treat Week at Kelowna’s BC SPCA branch

Get some treats and meet some furry friends

Okanagan Indian Band voices support for Wet’suwet’en Nation

Band stands with hereditary chiefs’ fight against Coastal GasLink pipeline in letter to PM

Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto sign a historic agreement

Co-operation crucial to stem dropping Nechako Reservoir level

Vernon dust factor nearly five times that of Kelowna

Road grit a factor in uptick of advisories

Study continues on Summerland’s perpetual slide

Slide in Paradise Flats area has affected Trout Creek for more than 100 years

Hundreds of B.C. firefighters ‘climb the wall’ for BC Lung Association

The charity fundraiser saw participants climbing up 48 storeys

Salmon Arm RCMP, new immigrants get acquainted at police station

Tour of detachment provides opportunity to explore differences in judicial systems

Stories of sexual assault at B.C. tree planting camps ‘shocking but not surprising:’ advocate

Contractors’ association is working with trainers to create respectful culture

New York performer can’t wait to bring Chicago to the South Okanagan

The timeless, award-winning musical comes to the South Okanagan Events Centre March 28.

Most Read