SOCHI, Russia, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The goal Jamie Benn scored on Friday to propel Canada into the gold medal game at the Sochi Olympics reflected the battling manner in which he fought his way into the team.
The gritty forward hustled his way to the top of the U.S. crease before deflecting a puck into the net early in the second period of a 1-0 semi-final victory in the men’s ice hockey competition.
“He’s that guy, that high offensive guy but he also checks hard, he plays hard, he wins battles and he’s one of those guys that just kind’ve does everything for you,” Canadian forward Jeff Carter told reporters.
Benn was not invited to the Canadian men’s ice hockey orientation camp last year, left out of the group of players from which the team were expected to be selected.
The snub lit a fire under Benn, who went and showcased his talents with a solid start to the National Hockey League season, giving the national team’s management little choice but to add him to the roster.
He has since validated their decision with two game-winning goals in Canada’s five games in Sochi, his first coming in their 3-1 opening win over Norway in the group stage last week.
But that first goal paled in comparison to the one he scored against Canada’s arch-rivals.
Benn scored the biggest goal of the tournament for Canada, but after the game he was a picture of calm, addressing reporters as if he had just finished a practice rather than an intense game against a U.S. team that was one of the gold medal favourites.
“I am just having fun out there playing hockey,” said Benn. “It’s fun to be part of such a great group of guys.”
Benn has a good shot and solid presence in front of the opposing team’s nets, something that may come in handy when Canada plays for gold on Sunday against a Sweden.
While Benn was hardly the popular pick to be the hero for Canada in Sochi, none of his team mates was surprised.
“Benner was dancing around, making great plays, using his body and even hitting,” said Canadian forward Jonathan Toews.
“You never know who is going to step up but we know that at some point someone’s going to do it,” (Reporting by Frank Pingue, editing by Clare Lovell)