Good night, Nurse!
After being snubbed by Hockey Canada last year for a slot on its junior national team, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Darnell Nurse achieved a “How You Like Me Now” moment Monday night at the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.
Nurse, a 2013 Edmonton Oilers first-round draft pick, was named Canada’s player of the game in Monday night’s 5-4 victory over Russia in the tournament’s Gold Medal game in Toronto.
In addition, he was named one of Canada’s best three players in the tournament along with Max Domi, a forward for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League and a 2013 Arizona Coyotes first-round draft pick, and Sam Reinhart, a forward for the Western Hockey League’s Kootenay Ice and a 2014 Buffalo Sabres first-rounder.
Monday’s win ended a five-year gold medal drought for Canada at the tourney for players under 20 years old, and the 19-year-old Nurse was a key component in the team winning the gold without a loss.
Monday night represented Mission Accomplished for Nurse. The nephew of retired Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb vowed to make Team Canada after not being named to the 2014 squad, a move that even stunned “Hockey Night in Canada” commentator Don Cherry.
The 2014 Canadian team finished fourth at the tournament played in Malmo, Sweden, and failed to medal.
“That is an absolute joke not to have Darnell Nurse out there,” the bombastic Cherry
said last year.
As for Nurse, he took the snub and being cut in training camp by Edmonton in 2013 hard. He used those experiences and being sent back to Sault Ste. Marie after playing two games for the Oilers this season as fuel to make Team Canada this year.
“Not being (in Edmonton) opens up opportunities like this, which I have been looking
forward to all year,” he told reporters at Team Canada’s training camp last month. “I am going to develop playing junior and hope to play in this tournament.”
And play he did. Nurse had one goal, no assists, and a plus-minus of +8 in seven games. He also got off 10 shots, several of them missiles fired while rushing the puck up ice. Opponents didn’t score while he was on the ice.
Apparently, there’s something about playing Russia that brings the best out of the Nurse family. Sarah Nurse, Darnell’s cousin and a forward for the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team, scored a goal for Canada’s National Women’s Development Team in a 5-1 win against Russia Sunday at the 2015 Nation’s Cup tournament in Germany.