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P.G. Cougars centre Riley Heidt savouring Hlinka Gretzky Cup win

Canada claims gold in U-18 hockey event for first time since 2018
Tean Canada gold Hlinka Gretzky Cup 2022
Riley Heidt of the Prince George Cougars and McBride native Tanner Molendyk of the Saskatoon Blades are on top of the hockey world after they helped Canada defeat Sweden 4-1 Saturday in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup gold-medal game Saturday in Red Deer.

After three intense weeks focusing on hockey with Team Canada, Riley Heidt was back out on the golf course Monday morning, playing his second-favorite sport.

It was a perfect way to unwind for Heidt, less than two days after he climbed to the top of the hockey world after helping Canada win its 23rd Hlinka Gretzky Cup U-18 title Saturday in Red Deer.

“Golf is what I do in the summer, lots; it’s a good way to clear the mind after a long three weeks,” said Heidt, between shots at Moon Lake Golf and Country Club in Saskatoon.

His handicap hovers around is 2 or 3 but lately he’s been more focused on swinging hockey sticks than he has golf clubs.

Joining that dogpile on the ice after the game Saturday in Red Deer will no doubt stand as one of the highlights of his hockey career.

“It was a lot of fun, obviously we had a lot of skilled players and it was awesome to play with those guys,” said Heidt, who centred a line in the playoff round with Ritchie (Oshawa Generals) and Kalan Lind (Red Deer Rebels).

“Getting to know guys on a personal level was pretty special. Everyone comes from different backgrounds so it’s nice to get connected as one team.”

The 17-year-old Prince George Cougars centre produced two assists in the gold-medal game, a 4-1 win over Sweden. Heidt’s no-look power-play setup in the slot to Ethan Gauthier late in the first period stood as the tournament-winning goal.

Heidt also made a quick play to hold the puck in the Swedish zone and the puck he sent into the corner took a weird hop off the boards right to a waiting Calum Ritchie, who rifled in the third goal for Canada five minutes into the second period.

Heidt ended up eighth in tournament scoring with three goals and three assists in five games.

“Any line was working, there wasn’t any secret, we just kept moving lines,” he said. “It was good to get a couple (points) at the end there”

The Canadian roster also included McBride native Tanner Molendyk, a Saskatoon Blades defenceman. Molendyk finished the tournament with a goal and three assists in five games.

Goalie Scott Ratzlaff, a who plays in the WHL for the Seattle Thunderbirds, was nearly unbeatable, as the Canadians outscored their opponents 34-3. Ratzlaff played four of those games and posted a 0.50 goals-against average and a .967 save percentage.

Since the tournament started in 1991, Canada has dominated the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, building a 116-16-6 record. Their gold-medal win Saturday was the first for Canada since 2018.

It was the second time for Heidt to wear a Team Canada jersey. He was also part of the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Ottawa last November, playing for one of three Canadian teams in the tournament.

“It was awesome playing against different countries,” said Heidt, who led the Cougars in scoring last year as a 16-year-old with 21 goals and 58 points in 65 games.

He’s hoping to take his national hockey duty to the next level, playing in the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Heidt will be back in Prince George in about three weeks for the start of the Cougars’ training camp, which starts Sept. 1st. He’s predicting Cougar fans will get to watch one of the top teams in the WHL’s B.C. Division this season.

“I’m excited for it, four sure, we have a young group and all of us I think are excited to get going in the season, I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people,” said Heidt. “We have a lot of young guys and a couple new guys coming in that will help for sure.”