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"Surreal" run to the gold for George

The Thunder Bay product helped Canada win the IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship on Sunday.
Thunder Bay's Carter George, left, receives the player of the game award after helping Canada win the IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship on Sunday.

BARRIE – Carter George just lived out a childhood dream.

The 17-year-old goaltender from Thunder Bay helped Canada capture the 2024 IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship on Sunday with a 31-save performance in a 6-4 win over the United States in Espoo, Finland.

“It's surreal," said George, who lives in Barrie during the off-season. "You dream about gold medal games against the United States all the time and about being out there for those big games.

“To win with that group of guys, especially since Canada isn’t considered the favourites in that tournament because we don’t have all the guys from the CHL (Canadian Hockey League) playoffs, is a pretty special memory that I’ll have for the rest of my life.”

George, who is a netminder for the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound Attack, put together a 6-0 record, with a 2.33 goals against average and a .915 save percentage in Canada’s run to the title.

His play earned him a spot on the tournament all-star team and the event’s top goaltender award. He is the first Canadian to earn that accolade since Benjamin Gaudreau in 2021.

“That was a pretty cool moment,” George said. “To win those awards and walk away with a gold medal on the international stage is something I’ll remember for a long time."

George also earned player of the game honours in Sunday’s final, which saw him make the save of the tournament as he robbed star American forward James Hagens with a stick save on the goal line in the second period.

“I knew that after we had scored (to cut the United States’ lead to 3-2) they would be coming down right away to get some momentum back,” George said.

“He (Hagens) made a nice move that I bit on and I got a little lucky there with my stick, but I’ll take it. We didn’t allow them to take the momentum away and I know my teammates were pretty thankful that I was able to help them out there.”

George was pretty thankful for his teammates as well, who averaged nearly seven goals a game during the tournament.

“That made my life a lot easier,” George said.

“When you got guys like (Medicine Hat Tigers forward) Gavin McKenna and (Mississauga Steelheads forward) Porter Martone setting records for points during the tournament, it’s pretty special to be part of that kind of greatness.”

This is the second international tournament that George has won in the last year. He helped Canada capture the gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August.

“A majority of our team was also at that tournament, so we had a pretty instant connection and our new guys just fit right into that,” George said.

“Personally, I was still pretty fresh after the playoffs in Owen Sound (where the Attack lost in the first round to the Saginaw Spirit) so I didn’t really have to tweak anything for the tournament as I was already in playoff shape.

“Going into the tournament I wanted to do everything I could to give us a chance to win and to make saves that kept the momentum in our hands. Our guys fought hard for me and I paid them back.”  

George, who turns 18 on Victoria Day, is taking some time to relax before preparing for the National Hockey League draft, which will be held on June 28 and 29 in Las Vegas.

He is ranked second among North American goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting and is expected to be picked during the first three rounds.

“I just hope to go to a good situation and a spot where a team wants me,” George said.

“It would mean the world to be picked and it would mean a lot to my family, especially with everything they have done for me. The sacrifices that my parents and my sister have made . . . I can’t thank them enough.”

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