By Max Lewis
Photo via USA Hockey
The Youth Olympic Games have come and gone, and the contingent of GTHL players have certainly left their mark on the city of Lillehammer. The group totaled six players representing three countries† – Canada, the United States and Russia – with all six earning a medal.
Don Mills Flyers left wing Tyler Weiss was the only gold-medalist of the group, helping guide the U.S. to a 5-2 victory over Canada in the final. Weiss was a catalyst for the red, white and blue, totaling four goals and nine points – good for a share of second place in tournament scoring. His performance was highlighted by a beauty backhand goal in a 4-1 round-robin win over Finland, and capped by an empty-net tally to seal the gold medal victory.
The Canadian squad featured the largest GTHL contingent, with one goaltender, two defencemen and one forward. Mississauga Senators keeper Alexis Gravel started the tournament on the bench, but was quickly thrust into action midway through the round-robin, responding with stalwart goaltending to earn key victories over the U.S. and in the semifinal against Finland.
After meeting in a grueling first-round GTHL playoff series, defensemen Declan Chisholm (Don Mills Flyers) and Ryan Merkley (Toronto Jr. Canadiens) quickly shed their GTHL alliances as partners on the Team Canada blueline. Chisholm and Merkley both played key roles offensively, finishing with two and five points, respectively. In the semifinal, Merkley logged three assists in regulation before scoring in the final round of the shootout to secure Canada’s place in the final.
Toronto Marlboros forward Allan McShane was the lone GTHL representative up front for Team Canada. The burgeoning power forward showcased his vision and shot throughout the tournament, totaling six points, punctuated by a goal and an assist in a 4-2 round-robin win over the U.S.
The final member of the GTHL crew was Jr. Canadiens forward Kirill Nizhnikov, who helped Russia capture a bronze medal. Nizhnikov recorded five points in six games, including a four-point showing in Russia’s 13-1 dismantling of Norway.
With a taste of international success on their hockey palate, the focus now shifts back to helping their GTHL clubs find success on home soil.
McShane will look to lead his Marlboros to consecutive Scotiabank GTHL Playoffs titles as well as a third straight OHL Cup championship. They face the Merkley/Nizkhnikov-led Jr. Canadiens in the second round of the playoffs beginning Friday, Feb. 26 at Etobicoke Ice Sports (9:00 p.m.).
Though their bid for a playoff title is finished, Weiss, Chisholm and Gravel will focus on helping their clubs clinch a spot in the OHL Cup. The Flyers and Senators face the Vaughan Kings and Markham Majors, respectively, in the first-ever GTHL Wild Card Play-In Series*. The two winning teams will advance to the wild card round in the OHL Cup.
The OHL Cup runs from Tuesday, March 15 to Monday, March 21 at Scotiabank Pond and Mattamy Athletic Centre. Click here for more information.
* The first-to-eight-points series between the Majors and Senators is tied 1-1. The teams played to a 2-2 tie on Wednesday, Feb. 24.
^ Click here for playoff and wild card schedules.
† Mississauga Senators defenseman Jeppe Meyer was named to the initial Norway roster but missed the tournament due to injury.