Former IceDogs captain earns gold medal with Team Canada
Akil Thomas returned to the Niagara IceDogs last week, his head still spinning after being front and centre of one of the most memorable moments in Canadian sports history.
The IceDogs captain wrote his name into the record books when he scored with 3:58 left in the third period to complete a furious comeback as Canada topped Russia in their 4-3 victory for the country’s 18th title at the World Junior Tournament in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
“It’s been crazy. Everything happened so quickly,” Thomas said. “The last thing I remembered was being on the bench waiting for my next shift and then here we are with everything that happened.”
Thomas admitted the previous 48 hours had been insane.
“So many people have reached out to me. I saw so many people at the airport and have so many feelings,” he said. “It’s been pretty cool,”
Team Canada arrived home and were greeted by an enthusiastic gathering of fans at the airport in Toronto, including Thomas’ mother, who made the trip from Atlanta to greet him.
“I remember just laying down in the airport and then just picking up the trophy and screaming and all the fans were getting into it too,” he smiled.
Thomas said even the flight home was memorable as the flight attendants cheered the team as the boarded and again as they got off the plane.
“It was a mix of everything,” he said. “We were tired, we were pumped. We were very happy and a team from Niagara was on our flight home. They had a tournament in the Czech [Republic] and it was cool to talk to them. Some of them had season tickets and were familiar with me so it was cool to connect with them and come home with them.”
Overall, Thomas said he couldn’t have dreamt of a better experience.
“It was awesome. Playing on Team Canada for the world juniors is obviously something every kid who plays hockey dreams of. To make that team was sick. It was awesome. I was pretty proud of myself and there are so many good players to be around every day and learn off of them in practice. Overall, it was an amazing experience. I’m pretty grateful.”
Thomas was able to keep his Team Canada jersey and socks as a memento, but gave the stick he scored the winning goal with to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Thomas didn’t skate with the IceDogs upon his return, but was thrilled to be back home.
“For me, it’s not difficult at all. I was so eager to see the guys. Obviously, it’s been a crazy couple of hours so I was just looking forward to finally sitting down in the locker room and chilling with the boys that I missed for a while.”
Thomas was dealt to the Peterborough Petes last week ahead of the OHL’s trade deadline.
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