Win or lose tonight, Sudbury Wolves fans will have something to cheer about.
The Wolves organization will pay tribute to defenceman Marc Staal and forward Ben Pouliot before the game for winning gold with Team Canada at the 2006 World Junior Championship (WJC) in Vancouver recently.
Pouliot was his usually slick self, and finished the elite event with five points in six games.
Staal had the tournament of a lifetime. The Thunder Bay native earned all kinds of praise from hockey experts around the world for his sound positioning and rock-steady play. For his efforts, Staal was named the Top Defenceman at the WJC. It was the first time a Wolves player had ever earned an
individual award at the annual event.
Wolves head coach and GM Mike Foligno can't wait to hear the roar from the local faithful when Staal and Pouliot are commended for their fine, and at times, stunning play at the WJC.
"Everybody in Sudbury should be proud of Marc and Ben," said Foligno. "They played well and represented the city, team, themselves, their hometowns and Canada well."
The two stars were still in shock last week when they arrived late Friday evening and made their way to the game.
For Staal, it was another taste of international gold, as he captured a gold medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge two years ago in
Newfoundland with Team Ontario.
"It was awesome...And it felt really good to win," said Staal last week.
Staal was a punishing force all tournament, especially in the championship game, where he effectively shut down Russia's top player, Evgeni Malkin and made him a non-factor.
For Pouliot, it was a satisfying encounter.
"It was a great experience...To win was unbelievable," said Pouliot last week.
Foligno hopes the entire championship winning experience rubs off on every player in the dressing room.
"Those two players went there with the mindset they were going to win gold," said Foligno. "I hope they keep the same mentality here."