'Everyone was going crazy': Saskatoon’s Darcy Kuemper on Team Canada’s late push for IIHF gold

After Team Canada lost their first three games of the IIHF world hockey championship, scoring only two goals, some thought their time in the tournament was coming to an early end.

As it turned out, they were just getting started.

Starting goalie Darcy Kuemper, who is from Saskatoon, said this year was special and despite the slow start the team had, things started clicking as the playoff round approached.

“We wanted to keep improving and not get down on what had happened so far and just keep our eye on the future. We were able to keep getting better and we played our best hockey once we got into the playoff rounds, and that’s what we wanted to do from the start,” Kuemper said.

Team chemistry was an issue this year and not just for Team Canada. Kuemper said with all the COVID-19 restrictions in place it was harder this year to bond with the team.

“There wasn’t a lot of time to get to know each other and practice together, I think we only had three skates then we played. Obviously, that chemistry had to build over time,” said Kuemper.

‘I KNEW WE HAD BETTER’

Two of the teams that beat Canada before the playoff rounds began were Finland and America, two teams they had to play again once the playoffs started.

“I think we learned a lot from the first two games. When we played the Americans early in the tournament we didn’t feel like we played our best game, I knew we had better. Against Finland in the round-robin we lost in a shootout, it was tight,” said Kuemper.

“We were confident that we could play with them too. It went to overtime in a gold medal game, that’s about as exciting a finish you can get. It was fun to get a chance to play those two teams again.”

Kuemper said that having so many people saying Canada was done in the tournament helped fire the team up.

“Everyone wanted to prove that we are still Team Canada. We wanted to go out there and represent the country as best we could. A lot of people didn’t think we could do it, but we just believed in ourselves and we were able to pull it off.”

ACHIEVING A DREAM

The gold medal game against Finland saw its fair share of drama. A called back goal, a controversial penalty call, but in the end, Canada was able to win in exciting fashion when Nick Paul found the back of the net in overtime.

“I was kind of waiting to see the bench reaction. I was looking around thinking ‘were we onside? Was there goalie interference? What just happened?’ The bench cleared and everyone was going crazy and it was clear that we won,” Kuemper said.

Kuemper said the gold medal win ranks high on his list of hockey accomplishments. Getting to wear the Team Canada jersey while winning a gold medal is something he won’t soon forget.

“It’s pretty special to win a gold medal for Team Canada. It’s something you kind of dream of growing up when you’re playing in the street or the backyard.”