A few days before his teammates clinched their first Great Lakes Invitational title since 1996, freshman Carl Hagelin was focused on another intense competition as well in the Czech Republic.
In a fierce Christmas day contest, Hagelin helped catapult the Swedish junior national team’s fourth line to victory in one game of the IIHF World Junior Championship, held in the Czech Republic.
He also helped his team win a Christmas skit competition as part of Team Sweden’s holiday activities a day before the IIHF World Junior Championship began in the Czech Republic.
(If you were wondering, Hagelin played one of the three wisemen in a scene about the birth of Jesus.)
More importantly, though, Hagelin and Sweden took home a silver medal after sweeping Group A, beating Russia in the semifinal and losing 3-2 in overtime to Canada in the gold medal game.
As the No. 1 Michigan hockey team won its 12th GLI crown, the lone Swede in Wolverine history became the 12th Michigan player to win a championship medal in the World Junior Championship.
“It was cool – it really was,” Hagelin said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Though Hagelin received limited ice time, mostly on the penalty kill, and didn’t tally a single point, he was able to go home for five days, where his parents threw him a surprise party. Hagelin returned to Ann Arbor earlier this week, eagerly anticipating his first start in more than a month for Michigan.
“It was fun to be home, but as soon as I came back here, it felt like this is where I belong,” Hagelin said.
Three other skaters – sophomore Chris Summers and freshmen Max Pacioretty and Matt Rust – participated in the championship for Team USA.
But unlike second-place Sweden, Team USA came up short of the podium, falling in the to Canada in the semifinals and to Russia in the third-place game.
“We obviously came up a little short,” Rust said. Still, he added, “It was a great, great experience.”
Now, the players must prepare for the second half of the season.
For Hagelin, the last person off the ice in yesterday’s practice, that entails doing some extra sprints and gasping for air.
“I’m just trying to get my skating going,” said Hagelin, slowly taking in each breath. “I feel I’m really tired right now, I’m trying to work hard so I can get back right in it.”
For Rust, who skated Tuesday in an exhibition against his old team, the U.S. National Team Development Program, was all about fighting off the jet lag.
“After a long period like that, three weeks in Europe, you’re a little mentally drained,” said Rust, who was given the day off from practice yesterday. “I think I’ll be fine physically, but I just want to focus on getting some sleep and stuff like that.”