Are you in need of a player to score an incredibly important hockey goal?
Perhaps an overtime marker in a pressure-packed playoff game? Maybe a huge game-winning goal for a Canadian national team, or perchance a series-clincher for a storied NHL franchise looking to shake off the collective shame of generations to win its first Stanley Cup in more than half a century?
Do you need one of those? If so, I have good news for you! I know where to find lots of those players. If you need an OT hero, look no further than right here on the North Shore. We’re full of players who score those goals! Over the past year, players with ties to North Vancouver and West Vancouver have been scoring those goals in big games all over the world. It’s uncanny. You could seemingly head down to Lonsdale Avenue right now, take a few slappers down the sidewalk and chances are one of those pucks would clip the shins of some hockey player or another who recently scored a monster overtime goal.
It all started with Kent Johnson, who isn’t technically from the North Shore (he’s a Port Moody boy), but we claim a piece of him due to the time he spent playing for the North Shore Winter Club. We particularly claim him when he scores goals like the one he notched last August for Team Canada at the 2022 World Junior Championships in Edmonton. In overtime of the gold medal game against Finland, Johnson took a pass from teammate Logan Stankoven, put a nifty deke on the goalie, got robbed on a backhand shot but stuck with it, shoving home the rebound to give Canada a championship victory with a golden goal.
Four months later the World Juniors were back in their regular Christmas holiday spot, and North Vancouver phenom Connor Bedard provided a timely gift to the whole country with one of the most impressive overtime winners you’ll ever see. You remember this one, right? Canada and Slovakia were battling in the quarterfinals – winner goes to the medal round, loser goes home – and the Canadians were having an incredibly hard time getting past goaltender Adam Gajan. Time to call on Connor Bedard.
The North Van forward corralled the puck at the blue line, deked one defender, deked another defender, deked Gajan and slid the puck into the net to send the country into a frenzy. It looked like he could have spent all night deking the entire population of Slovakia without anyone laying a glove on him before calmly destroying all their hopes and dreams with a simple backhand.
Moving up to the pros, a couple of West Vancouver buddies went double dragons last week, scoring back-to-back overtime winners to help the Toronto Maple win their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning and advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since Paul Martin was prime minister.
First it was Morgan Rielly who flipped a wrister from the blue line, through traffic into the back of the net in Game 3 to give the Maple Leafs a 2-1 series lead.
MORGAN RIELLY, THE GAME 3 OVERTIME HERO! pic.twitter.com/oKowLk5odx— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 23, 2023
Two days later Rielly ripped another long wrister to tie Game 4, completing a comeback after the Leafs fell behind 4-1 in Game 4. Overtime heroics were then performed by fellow Hollyburn Huskies alumni Alex Kerfoot, who scored a devilish tip-in off the post and in to give the Leafs the win in overtime.
IT WAS 4-1!— NHL (@NHL) April 25, 2023
Alexander Kerfoot tips home the overtime winner as the @MapleLeafs complete the comeback and take a 3-1 series lead! 🍁 #StanleyCup
🇺🇸: @NHL_On_TNT ➡️ https://t.co/LaJpv7c3yx #NHLonTNT
🇨🇦: @Sportsnet ➡️ https://t.co/uEVY6yXLpz pic.twitter.com/fyN7ImnBoP
To finish off the parade of overtime heroes we’re heading back to the youth department. The latest monster goal came from North Vancouver’s Macklin Celebrini, who practically went Bedardian in scoring an epic overtime marker to clinch a 4-3 win over Slovakia in the bronze medal game at the U18 World Championships on Sunday. Celebrini – who already has a Hall of Fame great hockey name – found himself in alone on the Slovakian goalie and absolutely froze him with a fake, followed by a slick deke to the backhand to slide in the medal-winning goal.
If you don’t know the name Celebrini, you will soon, as he is projected to potentially go first overall in the NHL draft ... in 2024, one year after Bedard is going to go No. 1 overall. Could we have two No. 1 overall picks from the North Shore in two years? Yes. Yes we could.
And we have already proven that North Shore players come through in the clutch. I don’t have the official stats, but we must be near the top of the world in per capita overtime goals over the past year.
Remember that, North Shore residents, the next time you need to come up big in a tight situation. We have a reputation for just such a thing.
Andy Prest is the acting editor of the North Shore News. His lifestyle/humour column runs biweekly.