With Team Canada and Team Sweden set to face off in the semifinal of the World Junior Championship many thought that we may see a showdown of two Flyers prospects: Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom. While that ended up being the case, it was only after Connor Ingram let in two goals on three shots when Hart entered the game against his fellow Flyers prospect.
Hart entered the tournament as the favorite for the starting job with Team Canada, but a lukewarm performance had him on the bench for Canada’s quarterfinal win. He was then named the backup for the semifinal, but knew anything was possible as he prepared for the game.
His pregame meal was similar to what he eats before games in Everett, according to TSN’s Frank Seravalli, and he was ready to go at any moment. “That’s the way you have to be on the bench,” Hart said, “That’s the way you’ve got to approach everything so that in situations like these, you’re ready to go in.” “I just took things in stride,” he said after the game. “When I heard my name called I just had to go in there and I was ready to go.”
Hart was technically coming in cold, but he was still loose from the pregame warmups. “My gloves were still a little sweaty from warmups,” Hart said. “I wasn’t too cold going in there.” Hart’s insertion into the game ignited the team, said Matthew Barzal. Barzal knows just how frustrating Hart can be, saying “I play against him 10 times a year in the WHL… I honestly wasn’t surprised when he came in and played like he did,” Barzal continued, “he’s a very good goaltender.”
Very good is an understatement on Hart’s performance against Sweden. Hart made 13 saves in the first period, 11 in the second and 4 in the third as Canada ended up cruising to a 5-2 victory.
One of his biggest saves came late in the second period with Canada up 3-2. He stopped the initial shot with his glove, and then reached back as it trickled towards the goal line. His glove covered the puck just in time with a little help from Dante Fabbro.
“It was a rolling puck, so I went to catch it, and it bounced out of my glove,” Hart said. “I saw it pop up, and I reached back and got my glove on it. Luckily it didn’t go in.”
He then made another nice save midway through the third period with his team on the power play. A dump-in bounced off the back wall and right out in front for a charging Swede. Hart scrambled to go post-to-post to seal off the goal line.
Hart is a perfect 3-0 and has now stopped 65 of 70 shots he’s faced for an impressive .928 save percentage and a 1.75 goals against average. He has the second highest save percentage among goalies that have faced at least 50 shots, behind only Finland’s Veini Vehvilainen (.931).
Hart said after the game that he’ll be ready for the gold medal game whether he’s named the starter or not. But head coach Dominique Ducharme put any doubts to rest by naming Hart the starting netminder for the gold medal game against Team USA.
Carter Hart and Team Canada will take on Tanner Laczynski and Team USA for the gold medal tonight at 8:00.
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