A chorus of stick-tapping kicked off Hurricanes practice on Wednesday afternoon as Dylan Cozens and Calen Addison returned to Lethbridge ice after being away for nearly six weeks.
But the 10-game absence was forgiven by those around the Canes as the pair won gold with Team Canada at the 2020 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in the Czech Republic.
For Hurricanes fans, the image of Addison handing the World Junior trophy to Cozens will forever be a classic moment.
“You know, to hand that trophy off to him after that game was… a feeling I’ll never forget,” said Addison, “and it was definitely the best feeling of our lives.”
The moment was also historic for the Hurricanes franchise, as the pair become the first Canes teammates ever to capture World Junior gold with Hockey Canada.
“That made it so much more special,” said Cozens, the seventh overall pick of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
“Getting to be with him… he’s become one of my best friends over these last couple years, so to get to go through all that with him was awesome.”
Both Cozens and Addison were instrumental in Canada’s come-from-behind gold medal win over the Russians.
Cozens got Canada on the board in the middle frame with his second goal of the tournament, and Addison — a second round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018 — assisted on each of Canada’s three third-period goals.
Both finished the tournament with nine points in seven games, and Addison said being able to showcase himself offensively is something he came away very proud of.
“It’s a tournament I’ve dreamed about playing in my whole life, I grew up watching every year,” he said. “Being there in the first place was the biggest accomplishment of my life.
“It’s a battle to make the team, and then it’s a battle for ice time. It’s a battle for everything while you’re there and the opportunity. And you know, they gave me lots of opportunity from the start, and I felt we both did really good in that tournament.”
Cozens was shuffled between a number of line combinations throughout the tournament, but saw time alongside the likes of Alexis Lafrenière — the projected first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft — at times.
“Just playing with some of those guys, it made it so easy to play,” said Cozens. “I think that I did get better as it went on, just more comfortable… to the style of the European teams, and I think I adjusted pretty good.”
Canada’s power play may have looked familiar to Hurricanes fans, with the duo both a part of the top unit throughout the tournament; it was a group of five that proved deadly, scoring at a rate of more than 41 per cent.
“Being on that big power-play unit was obviously a huge opportunity for me,” said Addison, who quarterbacked the top unit.
“I was looked upon to play good defence too… and you know, I think I stepped up my two-way game for that tournament, and we made teams pay on the power play for sure.”
Returning to Hurricanes practice on Wednesday, the duo will now have to switch gears as they focus on the rest of the WHL season.
Back on home soil, their Canes teammates did an impressive job in their absence, going 7-1-2 since the pair last played with Lethbridge on Dec. 7.
“I think they did better without us,” laughed Addison, who said he and Cozens kept a close eye on the team while in the Czech Republic. “Hopefully we can keep that going here in the next few games.”
There’s just 26 games remaining on the regular season schedule for the Canes, and Cozens said that after getting a taste of winning at the World Juniors, he’s now hungry for more.
“Obviously that win was special, that tournament was special,” said Cozens, “but you know it’s behind us now, and we have a new goal in sight, and that’s to be WHL champions.”
Cozens and Addison will get into their first WHL game since the World Juniors on Friday night, when the Hurricanes host the Red Deer Rebels.