Canada’s Team Owen Purcell orchestrated its own Miracle on Ice at the 2023 Lake Placid FISU World University Games with a come-from-behind bronze-medal win on Friday evening at Saranac Lake Civic Centre.
Canada skip Purcell, vice-skip Jeffrey Meagher, second Adam McEachren, lead David McCurdy, alternate Caelan McPherson, coach Anthony Purcell and team lead Helen Radford had their backs against the wall late in the bronze-medal game. Switzerland had all the momentum after blanking the seventh end and taking the last rock advantage into the eighth. Canada had to steal to find its way onto the podium.
It had all the makings of a sporting miracle, akin to the American hockey team’s Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, also hosted in Lake Placid.
There were some errors by Canada in the eighth. But when Purcell stepped into the hack for Canada’s last shot of the end, there was still a difficult but makable shot that would force Switzerland into making its final shot of the game.
A triple takeout; running a Swiss rock in the top 12-foot into two others staggered in the four-foot. It needed to be a powerful throw. It needed to be precise. It needed to be perfect, and it was. Purcell cocked his arm during the delivery and threw a five-and-a-half second (hog-to-hog) hit, removing those three stones from play and leaving Canada as shot rock.
“I saw that last triple and I thought that the angles weren’t exactly in our favour for it, but I knew that if I threw it hard and if I hit the right angle on the run, I thought that we could have a decent shot at making it,” Purcell said. “It’s obviously pretty hard to throw it accurately when you’re pulling the rock in and giving it a shove at the end. But I managed to somehow hit the broom and made a pretty good shot and they had to make their last one.”
The team from Dalhousie University in Halifax celebrated and was fired up after making the shot. But there was still one more element needed for this miracle — a Switzerland miss.
Team Iseli had to draw to the four-foot for the win. The Swiss sweepers backed off the stone about three-quarters of the way down the sheet. The throw looked heavy but still had a chance to stop. Once it hit the tee line, Meagher got on the sweep and it slid to the back eight-foot for the win and cued thunderous applause from the Canadian fans in attendance.
It is the second bronze medal Purcell and McEachren have earned for Canada in the past year. The duo won bronze at the world juniors last season and ended a memorable FISU World University games run with another bronze for the mantle.
“It’s huge for us, especially for Caelan and David, our leads. They put so much effort in for this season and I am forever grateful for that. I think that the guys will look back on this moment and say we really put our all into these playoffs. There’s no other group of guys that I’d rather do this with. They’re just fantastic guys on and off the ice and it’s been a really good journey. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for us,” Purcell said.
Switzerland started the game with hammer and blanked the first two ends seeking an opportunity to score. The Swiss couldn’t find a suitable time to convert and were forced to one point in the third end.
The Canadians looked to be in a good position to score during the fourth end, but Switzerland came away with a stolen point. Team Iseli made a perfect hit-and-roll behind to sit shot stone in the eight-foot. Switzerland returned the favour and forced Canada to one in the fifth end, and Canada stole the sixth end to tie the game.
Canada had to set up a steal to win and did just that. It would have been easy for many teams to give up, but the Canadian squad put everything it had into the final end.
“We managed to hold it together really well and that’s actually something that we’ve been improving at a lot over this tournament,” Purcell said. “This has been an experience like no other and I definitely wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,”
The results of the FISU Winter Games 2023 are available here. Catch all the action on TSN.ca or the TSN app.