Winnipeg Ice blueliners Lambos, Streule reflect on shortened world junior hockey experience

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Canada's Carson Lambos, left, checks Austria's Marco Kasper during the third period of their men's World Junior Hockey Championship matchup in Edmonton on Dec. 28. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Canada's Carson Lambos, left, checks Austria's Marco Kasper during the third period of their men's World Junior Hockey Championship matchup in Edmonton on Dec. 28. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Two Winnipeg Ice defencemen who suited up for their respective countries at the shortened men's world junior hockey championship are disappointed, but feel the International Ice Hockey Federation did what it felt was best in the wake of a handful of positive COVID-19 tests.

Team Canada's Carson Lambos and Maximilian Streule of Switzerland were excited to step back on to the ice for upcoming games when the IIHF announced the tournament was cancelled last Wednesday.

"When they called us in and told us the bad news it was pretty upsetting," Carson Lambos said via Zoom Monday afternoon.

"There was a bit of a common worry between everybody if it was going to come to that, and our nightmares kind of came true when we heard about it,"

The 11-day, 10-country event in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta. was called off after just four days.

News of the tournament's cancellation was met with silence, shock and tears among members of the Canadian team, including Winnipeg Jets prospect Cole Perfetti, Lambos said.

The 18-year-old Winnipegger, who was selected by the Minnesota Wild as the 26th overall pick in last year's NHL draft, is still coming to terms with what happened in Alberta.

"I've been pretty sad about the whole thing and definitely upset and still getting over it. A lot of work and a lot of effort goes into getting there, being a part of that team," Lambos said.

Streule, 18, admitted he is still "pretty upset."

Streule picked up an assist in the lone game he played for his home country — a 4-2 loss to Russia in Red Deer, Alta., on Dec. 27.

Although Slovakian goaltender Simon Latkoczy criticized tournament organizers, neither Lambos or Streule expressed similar concerns with the COVID-19 protocols.

"In the end it wasn't possible to play the tournament how it was supposed to be played so I think it was a good health decision to make," Streule said.

Could the tournament have been conducted differently to avoid cancellation?

Lambos, who picked up a minor penalty in Canada second tournament game — an 11-2 win over Austria — doesn't think so. He believes Hockey Canada did a tremendous job of ensuring players were safe and avoiding extra contacts, including daily testing.

"I think we took the right steps in avoiding risks," he said. "I thought we did a good job and were pretty diligent every day."

Having fans there 'a great thing': Streule

Streule was stoked to be able to play in front of fans, albeit with a 50 per cent capacity restriction in place in both Edmonton and Red Deer.

Submitted by Winnipeg Ice
Submitted by Winnipeg Ice

Like Lambos, Streule doesn't believe more could've been done to avoid the four positive tests — and three cancelled games — and the decision to halt tournament play.

"To get the fans in was a great thing ... I don't think there's much more to do better," Streule said.

"You can do a bubble again as last year but it's not the thing that they wanted or we wanted. We just wanted the fans back in again and get going and to enjoy the whole tournament with the whole world, not only the players who are playing there."

Lambos feels for all of his Canadian teammates who were stripped of playing in their final world juniors — fans or not.

"It's very disappointing to see a lot of those guys that are a year older than I am and they don't have the chance to be on that team next year … that's pretty devastating," he said.

"Even for myself, to have the opportunity to possibly play in that tournament twice, and to have one taken away is pretty disappointing."

Both players would welcome the IIHF resuming or restarting the tournament later this spring or summer, but that decision isn't expected for multiple months.

"I hope that IIHF and Hockey Canada can work something out and I definitely think it is possible. It's hard to say right now if it will or won't happen. There's a lot of time between now and then," Lambos said.

"Our lives are changing so much on the day-to-day, who knows what it's going to look like in the summer."

WATCH | IIHF cancels world junior hockey championship due to COVID-19:

Streule and Lambos are set to return to practice with the Western Hockey League-leading Ice (27-5-2-0) this week, shifting away from a heartbreaking end to the world juniors and toward the push for a WHL title.

Due to the current Manitoba public health order, the Ice have had a few games postponed. The team is scheduled to return to game action until Jan. 15 when the Regina Pats come to town.

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