Coyotes’ Mike Smith puts mediocre season to rest with gold medal

Mike Smith lifts the trophy after his team defeated Russia in the Hockey World Championships gold medal match.

Petr David Josek/AP

Coyotes goalie Mike Smith stopped 11 of 12 shots on Sunday as Canada defeated Russia, 6-1, in Prague, Czech Republic to capture its first IIHF World Championship gold medal since 2007.

Attach the requisite qualifiers if you must. Many of the best NHL players weren’t on hand, and this wasn’t the more prestigious Olympics, but Smith couldn’t care less. Gold medals are hard to come by, so after Sunday’s win, it was time to party. 

Prague is a really good place to party.

"I’m not gonna lie," Smith said Tuesday on a conference call from Toronto. "There wasn’t much sleep going on that night."  

Canada went 10-0 in the 16-nation tournament in which Smith ranked second in goals-against average (1.50) and third in save percentage (.930). He entered Sunday’s game with a shutout streak of 137:16 and extended it to 190:03 before Russia’s Evgeni Malkin scored with 7:13 left in the third period.

Smith admitted that it took time to adjust to playing on the larger international ice sheet behind a team that didn’t allow as many scoring chances as the Coyotes did. 

"I’m used to playing tight games and being pretty busy," he said. "There wasn’t much action in my end, and when there was, you were called upon to make saves that the flow of the team wasn’t what I was used to."

Then again, there were benefits to playing behind Canada.

"We scored six goals a game," Smith quipped. "That obviously helped."

In turn, Smith said the tournament helped his confidence. 

"It reiterates that I’m a pretty good goalie," he said. "I put a mediocre season to rest. It was nice to finish a not-very-good season off with a very good ending — to go into the summer feeling good about my game again."

Smith also won a gold medal last year as Canada’s third-string goalie at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but this one carried a little more weight.

"The Olympic stage is obviously a lot different, but for me to be honest, on a personal note it’s more rewarding this time around just because I had more to do with it than in Sochi," he said. "To be in the net for the majority of the games and to really have something to hang my hat on as far as winning, it definitely will hold a special place in my heart for a long time."

Smith said he was "50/50" when he was asked to participate, mostly because of the distance and the time away from his family. As it turned out, his family went with him, including his mother- and father-in-law, who were on the ice for the postgame champagne celebration.

Smith will spend most of the summer in Toronto in a new house with his family. He plans to train with his longtime goalie coach, Jon Elkin, who has mentored Smith since he was 12, but he’ll take a few weeks off to relax and reflect on his most recent accomplishment.

"The goal as a kid is to win a Stanley Cup and to win an Olympic gold medal," he said. "I never thought I’d have a chance to do one of those. Now there’s opportunity to do more."

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