After crashing out in the quarterfinals with their Canadian teammates at the 2024 World Juniors in Sweden, a pair of Halifax Mooseheads players will be looking for redemption when they hit the ice this weekend.
Goaltender Mathis Rousseau and defenseman Jake Furlong were in practice with their Halifax teammates on Friday ahead of the Mooseheads’ clash with the Quebec Remparts at the Scotiabank Centre on Saturday night.
Despite making the trip back across the pond without a medal, 19-year-old Rousseau said his experience on the international stage was still a productive one — as he’s adopted some valuable additions to his game that he’ll be applying when he’s back between the sticks in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
“The speed is something different and I think the way you play the game and prepare, I had to take it up a notch there, and I think that’s something I brought back here to prepare for games,” he said, adding that he learned a lot from the mentality and playing structure at the Team Canada camp.
He said adapting to the pressure of having a whole country counting on your performance was an adjustment.
“It’s the whole country, so for sure it’s a lot more people watching you every game, and that pressure was more intense there than here,” he continued, noting the coaching staff gave him and his Canadian colleagues some words of wisdom before they hit the ice.
“(They said) ‘Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, play your game, stay yourself,’ and that’s something I want to bring back here.”
Rousseau said he hopes to bring the leadership qualities he developed with Team Canada to push Halifax towards a strong second half of their QMJHL campaign.
“We got some new guys here, new faces, and from what I saw in practice here, I think we’re a good group and good things will happen for us,” he said.
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Overall, Rousseau said it was “unbelievable” to represent Canada at the international level.
“I don’t think I still feel the full grasp of this experience. I think it’s something I’ll realize much later after more years of hockey,” the Montreal native added.
Team Canada was able to pick up a pair of convincing wins over Lativa and Germany during the tournament’s progression, but eventually lost 3-2 to Czechia in a quarterfinal bout.
Halifax Moosehead star winger Jordan Dumais and team captain Jake Furlong were also included on the Team Canada roster.
During a practice skate on Friday afternoon, Furlong, who’s from Upper Tantallon, N.S., said he learned there’s still “a lot of room to grow” following his experience in Sweden.
“Teamwise, everything’s different over there with structure and way that guys play. He said acclimatizing to the style of play in the QMJHL was a bit challenging upon his return but he’s now ready to lead his team forward as the Mooseheads look to maintain winning form.
“I just want to come back and do what I can do. I know what type of player I am, and I know what type of team we are, and our goal is to win it all at the end of the year so I’m just trying to be a good leader for the guys and do everything I can on the ice.”
Furlong, who returned to play with the Mooseheads last weekend, said he’ll be redirecting the energy from a failed medal push at the World Juniors to snatching a Memorial Cup trophy with Halifax.
“That’s the goal. Last year we were one game away, and this year, I like our chances and I like our team. We have a confident group and we’re really looking forward to the remainder of the second half of the season,” he said.
“I’m back in the groove now of things. The rest of our team feels confident and I’m excited.”
He said he was accompanied by a personal support group when he made the trip to Sweden, as his parents and family from Nova Scotia made the trip to watch him play on Team Canada.
“It made that experience all the much better,” he said about having fans from home in the stands in Europe.
The only Nova Scotia representative in the lineup, Furlong said he had many people from his hometown reach out and offer their support before he made the journey.
“I got a lot of cool text messages, couple phone calls from people that I never thought I’d hear from. It felt awesome, the support I’ve gotten from my neighbourhood back home or the people I see in the street or grocery store whenever, it’s pretty cool,” he smiled.
— with files from Zack Power
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