They said they weren’t coming home without gold medals around their necks and they kept their word.
Kelby Martin and Tyler Moser returned to Elmira this week from Prague where they competed in the U18 World Junior Ball Hockey Championship for Team Canada, earning first place after defeating Slovakia in the finals.
Their first game was an exhibition game against a local Czech Republic team. Some of their players were older and they were pretty good, but the Canadian team still beat them.
Aside from adjusting to a new team, the boys had to get used to playing on a different surface.
“The floor was a lot different than what we’re used to playing on. It was a plastic tiled floor. We usually play on concrete,” Martin said.
They played the Czech Republic for the first game of the round robin.
“We dominated them, but they actually had a lead with three minutes left or so, and then we scored twice in the last three minutes and won the game,” Moser said.
Next they played Team Euro, which was composed of mostly players from Russia, with a few from other countries.
“It was a rough game,” Martin said.
“It was really chippy, lots of bruises after that one. We were up 3-0, they came back and then we ended up winning 5-4 with another goal in the last three minutes,” Moser said.
Then they faced Hungary, easily beating them 7-2.
“That was a blowout. We had forwards playing defence, defence playing forward,” Martin said.
Their last round robin game was against Slovakia.
“That was when we really started gelling as a team, so we beat that team 5-1,” Moser said.
“It was probably our best game of the tournament,” Martin added.
They advanced to the semi-finals after finishing first and played the fourth-place team, the Czech Republic.
“We had a really bad game that game. We started off slow and were down 3-1 and it ended up coming back and we won,” Moser said.
They came out on the winning side of a 6-4 decision to send them to the finals, where they defeated Slovakia 7-2.
Martin says the game felt a lot closer than the 7-2 finish.
But there was nothing better than when they realized they’d won the championship.
“It was such a good feeling,” Martin said.
“It was amazing. It was one of the best feelings you’ll ever have. Words can’t even describe it,” Moser said.
After their win they went out to celebrate until almost 5 a.m., watching the sun come up, before they returned to their hotel to catch their flight home.
They also enjoyed exploring Prague and seeing some historic sites during the 10 days they were there.
And after getting over their jetlag this week they were back to work for the summer before they start post-secondary education this fall. Moser’s taking a double degree program at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University in business and math and Martin is studying civil engineering at Conestoga College.
They’re planning to continue playing ball hockey by putting a team of friends together to play in a men’s league in Kitchener.
And they have only good things to say about the new friends they made through the U18 team.
“We said we were all brothers in the end – we made 19 new brothers,” Martin said.
“It was definitely the best week of my life, hands down. The 19 guys, we kind of started off being silent in the room, not talking or anything, and by the end of it we were like a family,” Moser said.