As he sat in the Calgary International Airport on Friday evening, Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Nolan Allan was just starting to realize what he and his teammates had accomplished 24 hours earlier in Frisco, Texas.
The Davidson product helped Canada snap an eight-year gold medal drought at the IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship on Thursday with a 5-3 triumph over Russia in the final.
“We’re all still pretty excited,” said Allan, who joins Josh Morrissey, Rejean Beauchemin and Jeremy Colliton as Raiders players to capture the tournament title with Canada. “I think most of us didn’t go to sleep last night (Thursday) as we had an early morning trip to the airport.
“This has definitely been one of the most memorable experiences in my career to date.”
Allan, who celebrated his 18th birthday during the tournament, helped get his team started on the right foot in the final as he sent Russian captain and Lethbridge Hurricanes import draft pick Nikita Chibrikov flying into the Canadian bench on his opening shift.
“That was a good way to get into the game early,” Allan joked. “You either hit someone or you end up getting hit.
“It was a pretty exciting atmosphere, especially with fans being in the stands down there. That was a big boost for us and it was really fun to be able to play in front of a crowd again.”
While Canada hadn’t won the tournament since 2013, the Under-18 squad is usually not as strong as their Hlinka Gretzky Cup counterparts that play in the summer as the CHL playoffs are in full swing each spring.
Although the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League didn’t release their players for this year’s tournament, many of the top young stars from the Western Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League were able to take part and helped their country rattle off a 7-0 record on their way to the title.
“We had Zoom calls and team meetings while we were in quarantine in our homes and we did the same thing once we got to Texas,” Allan said. “I think those online chats allowed us to come together as a team and everything started to click once we got on the ice.
“Everyone bought in to what we needed to do. No one cared what their role was or how much they played. We all wanted to bring home the gold medal.”
Allan finished up the tournament with two points in seven games and was paired up with Brandt Clark of the Barrie Colts on Canada’s top defensive unit.
“I thought I did a good job of just playing my game,” Allan said.
“I stayed home and did my job on the backend. We had a ton of skill on our team so they didn’t need any extra help from me in scoring goals, that’s for sure.”
Allan also had a front row seat to watch the dynamic duo of Shane Wright (Kingston Frontenacs) and Connor Bedard (Regina Pats), who were tied for the team scoring lead with 14 points and are projected to be the first overall picks at the 2022 and 2023 NHL Drafts respectively.
“They are the full package,” Allan said. “Shane was our captain and in addition to being a great player on the ice, he’s a great guy off the ice.
“Connor’s still 15 so he’s like a little kid (compared to everyone else on the team), but he’s got the same characteristics as Shane.”
With the 2020-21 season now over, the next major hockey event for Allan is the NHL Entry Draft in July, where he’s expected to be an early round selection.
Prior to that though, his main focus will be in the classroom.
“My number one priority once I get home is to finish high school and graduate,” Allan said.
“Once I’m done with that, I’ll get into more of my off-season training and prepare myself for year three with the Raiders.”