A bronze medal in the world junior hockey championship isn’t the ultimate goal of a top nation like Russia.
But as a secondary prize it’s pretty sweet, as Alex Alexeyev would attest.
“One of the best moment of my hockey career,” he smiled Monday, after arriving back in Red Deer with the bronze medallion he garnered as a member of Team Russia. “I really like and enjoy this tournament.”
Russia defeated Switzerland 5-2 in Saturday’s bronze-medal game after falling 2-1 to the United States in a semifinal.
The competition at the 2019 WJC in Vancouver and Victoria was extremely tight, Alexeyev noted.
“You know this tournament is like very important for older countries, older teams, so doesn’t matter who you play with — Denmark, Switzerland or Canada or USA, they will going to like fight with you and fight for finals and for medals,” he said.
The tournament featured a high number of NHL-drafted players and others who will be selected at the top of the 2019 NHL entry draft, the championship finalists Finland and the USA boasting their fair share.
But Alexeyev said there was as much luck involved in the outcomes of games between the high-profile teams as pure skill, and he placed gold-medal winning Finland and silver medalist USA at the top of the good fortune list.
“Actually, like I was really impressed with older guys on the teams who were really competitive and working hard, like never give up,” he said.
“But I can tell you this, I think Finland and USA for sure were lucky. We could beat the USA, but just had no luck, and Finland beat Canada (2-1 in overtime in a quarter-final), and I think they were lucky too.”
The WJC is now a memory and the Russian rearguard is eager to help the Red Deer Rebels get back into a consistent winning mode.
“I missed this team,” said Alexeyev, who was absent for a half dozen WHL game while at the world juniors. “I heard they were up and down so I’m ready to play with them and ready to win.”
The Rebels return to action Wednesday against the Broncos in Swift Current, then visit the Brandon Wheat Kings and Regina Pats Friday and Saturday.
The following week, Red Deer will be in Lethbridge to face the Hurricanes Friday and will host the ‘Canes 24 hours later.