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Canada's Visentin stands tall in net

Mark Visentin plays the most pressure-packed position in his sport.

As if being a goalie isn't tough enough, try being the man between the pipes for Team Canada and having the hopes of a hockey-loving nation resting on your shoulders.

Welcome to Visentin's world -- where millions of people are depending on him -- yet he shrugs off the pressure as if he was making a routine save.

The 6-foot-1 Phoenix Coyotes prospect didn't disappoint in the biggest game of his career as Visentin didn't give up any soft goals, nor did he cave when Team USA desperately pressed for a momentum-turning goal during Canada's 4-1 triumph Monday night at sold-out HSBC Arena.

Visentin finished with 22 stops in helping the Canadians gain a measure of revenge against the Americans after they lost to the red, white and blue during last year's gold medal game in Saskatoon. The Canadians were plagued by suspect goaltending in that winner-take-all match-up, but they weren't on Monday night.

Visentin wasn't tested nearly as much as Team USA counterpart Jack Campbell (37 saves), but when his teammates needed him to have their back he did just that to give Canada a chance to play for its 16th gold medal Wednesday night against Russia.

"The only pressure you have is the pressure you put on yourself," Visentin said. "For me, I'm a really intense guy out there but I tried to stay calm, confident and composed." He did just that as a second-period save on a nifty redirection by USA's Charlie Coyle on the power play prevented the Americans from trimming a three-goal deficit and going into the third period with any momentum.

Visentin flashed the leather on another chance before Sabres prospect Zack Kassian made it 4-0. Chris Brown's redirection with 10:23 left broke Visentin's shutout bid but not the faith of his teammates.

"We wouldn't have been able to do it without him," Canada forward Ryan Johansen said. "All our guys are confident in him and believe him."

Visentin got his chance to start after previous No. 1 Olivier Roy struggled late in Canada's 6-5 shootout loss last Friday to Sweden. He gave up an extremely soft goal in the opening minute of Canada's 4-1 quarterfinal win over Switzerland and looked a little shaky at times.

But on Monday, he looked like a goalie on the verge of adding his name to the long list of gold-medal winning Canadians in this event, which includes current Montreal goalie Carey Price.

Visentin even picked up the assist on the eventual game-winning goal by Quinton Howden in the first period when he made a breakout pass along the right wing to Brett Connolly. Connolly took the hit to make the feed to Howden.

But as nice as Visentin said it was to earn an assist, it was even better beating a rival.

"Payback was big time for us this year," he said. "Obviously it was a heartbreaker losing to them in the finals [last year]. It was a feeling watching on TV I never wanted to feel again."

e-mail: mrodriguez@buffnews.com

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