WATCH: Hamilton Bulldogs star keeps Team Canada alive just before world juniors golden goal


Published August 21, 2022 at 6:30 am

Mason McTavish's biggest play was not on any stat sheet. (Brandon Taylor, OHL Images)

Mason McTavish made a game-saving play with a flick of a stick, which is tallying up the clicks real quick.

The hand-eye coordination of the Hamilton Bulldogs forward that squelched the overtime winning goal in the world junior hockey championship (WJC) final drews more eyeballs and astonished gasps than the actual golden goal moments later. McTavish, who was Team Canada’s captain, the tournament most valuable player and leading scorer, knocked the puck out of the air just centimetres in front of the Canadian net to thwart a deflection by Finland defenceman Topi Niemela during overtime in the WJC final in Edmonton on Saturday.

On the ensuing transition, after McTavish got off the ice to end his shift in the 3-on-3 sudden-victory session, Kent Johnson buried the winning goal for Canada. The goal gave Canada a 3-2 victory and a gold medal for a team which included two Hamilton-area natives, defenceman Ethan Del Mastro of Freelton, and Hamilton-born backup goalie Sebastian Cossa.

Del Mastro is the captain of the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads. Team Canada head coach Dave Cameron was behind the bench of the franchise from 2007-11 when it was known as the Mississauga-St. Michael’s Majors.

“My stick was in the right place at the right time,” McTavish, who helped the Bulldogs win the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) title last season, told “I don’t even know why I was behind our goalie (Dylan Garand). I’m just thinking about it now. But next thing I went to the bench and KJ (Johnson) was on a breakaway.”

Suffice to say, if the play was the only highlight from the COVID-19 rescheduled summertime WJC that many Canadians chose to see, then they picked the right one. Two clips of it alone from noted hockey vloggers had more than a half-million views by 2 a.m. Sunday.

The International Ice Hockey Federation had to scrub the 2022 tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic and spread of the Omicron variant last winter, choosing to restart it in August. The summertime scheduling, and widespread public and political criticism of a spiralling Hockey Canada sexual abuse scandal, widely diminished viewing interest in the tournament. The scandal is tied to how Hockey Canada, the national governing body for amateur hockey, has handled allegiations of sexual abuse.

The crux of that is not related to the current men’s national junior team. The revelations — many of which saw the light of day due to media reports from Rick Westhead —  a reporter with host broadcaster TSN, led to sponsors cutting ties to Hockey Canada. On Saturday, TSN gave more priority to a Toronto FC soccer match than it did to the WJC gold-medal game. In most circumstances, the gold-medal game with Canada involved draws viewership of over 11 million Canadians.

The game-saving play by McTavish, and his MVP performance that included a tourney-most eight goals and 17 points, also meant the Bulldogs went back-to-back with having a player win a WJC gold medal. In 2021, the Bulldogs’ Arthur Kaliyev was the third-leading scorer for Team USA when it won the gold. Kaliyev now plays in the Los Angeles Kings organization.

McTavish is an Anaheim Ducks first-round choice who played nine NHL games last season before being returned to the OHL. The Bulldogs added him in a trade in January. He also laced ’em up for Canada in the 2022 Beijing Olympics and was dominant with Hamilton, scoring 36 goals and 77 points across 48 regular-season, OHL playoff and Memorial Cup tournament games.

As a 19-year-old, the Carp, Ont., native’s playing options this coming season are to join Anaheim full-time or return to the OHL.

Graduating Bulldogs forward Jan Mysak was also the captain and leading scorer for fourth-place Czechia. Mysak, a 20-year-old Montreal Canadiens prospect, had five goals and eight points across seven games. While Czechia did not earn a medal, their run to the bronze-medal game (a 3-1 defeat to Sweden) was just its second in the last 15 years.

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