International Ice Hockey Federation

The last WJC hero

The last WJC hero

Terry’s evolution from 4th line to Olympic hopeful

Published 24.12.2017 17:36 GMT-5 | Author Ryan O'Leary
The last WJC hero
Troy Terry became America’s shootout hero at the last World Juniors scoring the game winners both in the semi-final against Russia and in the gold medal game against Canada. Photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Just a few short years ago, Denver University winger Troy Terry was fighting for top minutes on the United States U18 team.

So you’ll understand that it’s a little surprising to find the young forward being paraded about in front of hundreds of media members during the United States Olympic Media Summit.

This summit is a biennial event put on by the organizing body to drum up excitement around America’s potential Olympians.

With the NHL not participating in the 2018 Olympics, USA Hockey is likely taking a “Miracle on Ice” approach looking for some fresh-faced college kids to be sent to Korea.

“Growing up as an American hockey player, it’s a little cheesy, but the movie Miracle is so big,” Terry started. “So for it [the Olympics] to be back that way is great.”

And amongst collegians, Terry is one of the stars likely to be called upon to lead United States against the top professionals from around the world.

“If you would’ve told me a year ago that’d I’d have a chance to play in these Olympics, I wouldn’t have believed you,” he added. “Having a chance to represent my country on the biggest stage is pretty cool.”

During the past few years, the hometown Denver boy has taken great strides – and won a lot of hardware – since he was overshadowed while playing with the best under-18 players in the country.

During that 2014/15 campaign in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Terry’s name was drowned out by the likes of future stars Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, Colin White, Charlie McAvoy, Jeremy Bracco and Clayton Keller to name a few.

Though he played third-and-fourth line minutes, Terry still managed 44 points in 66 games – ranking him seventh on that star-studded squad in scoring.

The experience proved a tremendous learning lesson for the Anaheim Ducks prospect, along with foreshadowing his bright future.

That team would go on to win the U18 Worlds gold medal that year and Terry would eventually enroll at powerhouse Denver University, just a few miles from his home in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

As a child, Terry was a staple at Pioneer games – an activity that would deepen his fandom and desire to play collegiate hockey at Magness Arena in South Denver.

“I grew up watching those games,” Terry started. “Ever since I started playing it was a goal of mine to play for them, so to be on the other side of the glass now is pretty special.”

He’d score 22 points in 45 games as a freshman at DU and even play in the Frozen Four (the semi-final round of the NCAA Hockey Championship). A loss to rival North Dakota cut his championship hopes short, but all in all, what more can you ask for from your freshman year?

It was a whirlwind beginning to a budding college career, but nothing could compare to last year when Terry went from being considered a good player in inner hockey circles to international star.

It started last December when Terry got a call from the higher-ups in USA Hockey with an invitation to the World Junior training camp. Terry never really considered himself the cream of the crop on any team he’s been on, so the invite came as a big surprise.

“I was never really the best player on any team I had played on,” Terry told the Player’s Tribune. “So when I got invited to Team USA's world junior camp in 2016, a year after my first season with DU, I was a little surprised. I had had a good freshman year, but I wasn't sure if I had a shot to make the national team.”

Nevertheless, a nervous, but talented Terry impressed coaches enough to make the roster and compete with Team USA in Canada. He’d be on the fourth line, but it didn’t matter, it was a ticket to the World Juniors.

As the tournament progressed, so did Terry’s confidence. He finished fourth amongst Americans in scoring with seven points in seven games. That’s pretty impressive for a guy not getting the same minutes as the top-six forwards.

The U.S. cruised through group play, but survived a close 3-2 tilt against the Swiss in the quarter-finals.

Next up, Russia in the semi-final and at that point Terry went from relative obscurity to viral hockey sensation.

Tied three goals apiece at the end of regulation, a shootout was needed when overtime couldn’t determine a winner.

Shockingly, Terry was called upon three times in the shootout and three times he scored five-hole in the fourth, sixth and seventh rounds to earn the United States a berth against rival Canada in the finals.

The performance echoed that of Jonathan Toews at the 2007 WJC and T.J. Oshie at the 2014 Olympics. In fact, Terry didn’t know how big of a deal it was until he received tweets and texts from Oshie himself, along with former teammate Auston Matthews and others.

“This was definitely the craziest moment of my hockey career,” said Terry. “My name kept getting called and thankfully it kept working out.”

Speaking after the incident, Coach Bob Motzko said of the moment: "Oshie wouldn't have done that unless the U.S. coach in the Olympics (Dan Bylsma) kept putting him out there, so that kind of paved the way for a coach saying you could do that, and the one thing about Troy Terry is he just has ice in his veins.”

"His pulse just doesn't change. So we had five shooters and once he scored, we tried him again and again."

The next day, the final was another U.S. vs. Canadian classic.

The Americans erased a two-goal deficit to tie the game four goals apiece, quieting a partisan Canadian squad in Montreal and ratcheting the tension in the Bell Centre to an unbearable level.

Again, overtime was indecisive and so too were the first three rounds of the shootout. That’s when Motzko called upon Terry to deliver once again.

Terry wasn’t thinking five-hole again. Not after he pulled that trick three times against the Russians. But as he skated in on Canadian netminder Carter Hart, his pads remained yawning and Terry took advantage. He beat Hart between the wickets and put the U.S. up 1-0 in the shootout – a score that stood up and gave the Americans a fourth WJC gold medal.

It was two game-winning shootout goals for Terry – a guy who was simply surprised to get a roster tryout in the first place.

“I think it showed a lot about our team and our country, the way we were able to battle back,” added Terry. “It’s a tournament that I’ll never forget.”

Terry returned back to campus as an American hero, but knew there was still a college hockey season to finish and a national title to win.

Denver would go on to win the regular season NCHC title and once again found itself in the Frozen Four, but this time the result was markedly different. Terry added three assists as DU took down Notre Dame and Minnesota-Duluth to claim the eighth NCAA title in school history.

The win gave Terry a college title to add to his U18 and U20 gold medals. He’s just the third player to win the World Juniors and NCAA Championship in the same year.

“It’s so surreal,” Terry told reporters after the game about winning both. “I think the World Juniors was just starting to hit me.”

“It’s definitely been the best year of my hockey life,” he added.

After winning all there is for an amateur, the question is what could keep Terry from joining the NHL ranks?

Well, two things. First, the NHL’s decision to forego the Olympics, gives a player like Terry a real opportunity to represent the United States in Korea. Second, the University of Denver entered the 2017/18 NCAA season as the No. 1 team in the country and strong favourites to defend their title.

“I was in contact with some of the officials this summer, saying that the NHL wasn’t going to the Olympics,” Terry explained. “They said to be prepared as I might be a candidate.

Terry understands the responsibility and of the pressure being applied by USA Hockey – as evidenced by him being one of two players to represent the organization at the Media Summit – but remains focused on the task at hand.

“Once I get back on campus, I just have to focus on my college team,” said Terry. “Obviously the Olympics will be on the back of my mind, but if my college season is going well then I’ll have a chance to be on that team.”

Denver is off to a fast start this season and so is Terry. The team is unbeaten in it’s first four games, while Terry has three goals and two assists in that quartet of matches.

It may just be the start of the season, but Terry has an opportunity to bring Denver is first back-to-back championship in 12 years and if he plays his cards right, America’s first Olympic gold medal in 38 years.

No pressure there.

In the meantime the United States aim at defending their World Junior title on home ice with the tournament starting tomorrow in Buffalo.

 

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