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Surrey goalkeeper enjoys hockey gold medal with Team Canada after US player’s nationality questioned

“I used it as motivation to perform at my best, especially in the finals,” says 18-year-old Aalamdaya Kailay.

The Canadian U18 men’s hockey team had a golden journey home from the ISBHF world championships played in Slovakia over four days concluding on Sunday, July 7.

Team Canada, led by Surrey goalkeeper Aalamdaya Kailay, defeated Team USA 5-1 in the final, played in sauna-like conditions at an arena in Zilina.

On Wednesday (July 10), several of BC’s seven players celebrated with their trophies at the North Surrey Sports and Ice Complex on the first day of the Western Challenge Cup, another tournament held there.

In Slovakia, 18-year-old Kailay won the award for best goalkeeper of the six-team tournament, conceding just one goal in the final match, defying xenophobic comments.

“It was the opening ceremony when I was chosen as the flag bearer. I felt very honoured to do it,” Kailay recalls.

“I waved the flag a little bit, and a kid from the U16 USA hockey team stood right there and said in front of me, in front of my whole team, ‘You’re not even from Canada.'”

Kailay said she didn’t care about the comment at first.

“But then when we played the Americans, especially the last league game and the final, I used that as motivation to play my best, especially in the finals.”

Surrey-based manager Jon Silcox said he was proud of the goalkeeper, known as Aalam to his teammates.

“I was pretty emotional when that comment was made at the opening ceremony,” Silcox said. “As a coach, you always want to defend your players and you feel helpless in that moment. But I asked him if he was OK and he told me that when it’s game time, actions speak louder than words. He stepped up and carried the team and played in that final game, it was surreal.

“He just put it behind him and did his job,” the coach added. “He’s everything you could want in a player who represents the Canadian Top Hockey Association and wears the jersey with pride. Not just him, but all the other players as well.”

Team Canada’s roster includes 22 players, three coaches, the general manager and technical staff.

“It feels really good to win and the boys have done a lot of preparation,” Silcox said. “We lost our first game to the Czech Republic and from that moment on we knew we were going to be on life support throughout the tournament and we worked really hard and paid a lot of attention to detail.

“When the final whistle blew and we had the 5-1 win and the guys piled on the bench, I had tears in my eyes,” he added. “As a coach, you want more than anything for your team to succeed. It felt really good to see them achieve something they’ve been working on and also to fulfill a lifelong goal for a lot of hockey players; to put on that Canadian jersey, finally lift a trophy and win a gold medal.”

Kailay, who will attend UBC next fall, said North Surrey is her “home ground” for hockey.

“I’ve been playing in goal since I was five, I’ve been playing with my brother and cousin since I could walk, I’ve been playing street hockey with them,” he said. “They forced me into goal. I hated it at first but now I love it.”

He added that winning the gold medal with Team Canada was a huge thing.

“Going out and representing your country makes you want to run through a wall, doesn’t it? It was my first time playing at national level and actually my first time in Europe. It was a great experience.”

Team Canada’s 22-man roster included Kailay, Carter Arnold, Jack Barrington, Kainoah Brankovic, Jaden Bulmer, Mason Burke, James Zazula Campbell, Kyle Greene, Maxx Hamelin, Will Hopcraft, Andy Knight, Jackson Lovett, Taylor Mackie, Trey Markus, Liam Noble (tournament MVP), Brandon Osborne (tournament all-star), Austin Pacik, Dustin Putos, Jack Schierau, Ryan Scott, Griffin Tarling and Kyle Tucker.

In the final, Knight, Brankovic, Lovett, Hamelin and Tucker scored five goals, while Kailay made 20 saves to win the gold medal.