In his four years with the London Knights, Max Domi has had a career that would be the envy of many.
As a player with the Knights, he has been part of back-back OHL championships, made three trips to the Memorial Cup with the team and was selected 12th overall in the first round of 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. The 19-year-old son of former Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer Tie Domi has also seen action at the World U17 Hockey Challenge and was part of Canada’s gold medal squad at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. The leading scorer for London in both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 season’s, Domi also earned the honour of being named team captain in this, his final year with the club.
But for Domi, as good as all that is, it will be his gold medal with Team Canada at the recent 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships that is likely going to shine as the crowning achievement of his junior hockey career.
Taking some time out before Friday’s (Jan. 9) game against the Erie Otters, Domi talked about his experience with Team Canada.
Kicking the tournament off against Slovakia, Domi and his fellow teammates knew they were living out “every kids dream,” something that was made more special playing it in their own back yard. To do it with the whole nation behind you and supporting you, Domi said, is a feeling that is something very hard to explain, “You can’t really put in words, you have to go through it, to experience it — it was just awesome and something I am never going to forget.”
But right from the get-go, he said there was a confidence among the players and a chemistry that brought them together.
For Domi, a lot of that chemistry was with his linemates Sam Reinhart and Anthony Duclair, a duo he combined with to score five goals and assist on five others.
Notable for Domi was an empty netter late in the game during the traditional New Year’s Eve contest against their perennial rivals, Team USA.
With less than a minute to play in regulation time and the Americans trailing by a single goal, Domi said he saw Reinhart with the puck and took off down the ice. Thinking he was going to come up the middle of the ice like any other hockey player would have done, Domi said Reinhart made the play that no one else could do and banked it off the boards right on the tapes of his stick. “I was opps, thank-you. It was like a late Christmas gift and an empty netter, so obviously I was really fired up.”
But in a tournament like the World Juniors where every game is crucial and there are few if any second chances, Domi said as a team, they played every game like it was game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. Personally he described it as both the most intense month of his life and at the same time, the most fun he has ever had, “It was pretty special.”
“Everyone talks about pressure like it is a bad thing,” remarked Domi. He added that in reality, pressure is a good thing that helps you stayed focused. “You just have to realize your playing the game you love and we are all lucky to be here. Enjoy every second of it and live in the moment — that’s what we had to do.”
But now with a gold medal locked away in his trophy case, the reality of what Domi has left to do is help guide his fellow teammates on the London Knights through the bottom half of the OHL regular season and on into the post season.
Eager to get back at it, Domi feels the Knights have a team to win. “We just have to start believing that and keep working at it everyday.”
The first test of that belief came Friday against Western Conference foes, the Erie Otters.
Leading London by six points in the standings headed into the game, Erie wasted no time in capitalizing on their chances to widen that margin.
Opening the scoring just over two minutes into the first frame on a power-play goal by Komoka’s own Kyle Pettit, Erie widened the gap to two when Domi’s fellow Team Canada alumni, Connor McDavid, made it look easy with his 18th of the season.
One more Otters marker before the first period was out and another early in the second all but put the game away for Erie.
Julius Bergman, who was also just returning to the Knights lineup after a stint with the Swedish national squad at the World Juniors, finally managed to give London fans something to cheer about, banging home a loose puck from a scramble in front of the Erie net for his fifth goal of the season.
Domi too got in on the action late in the third period, teaming up with Mitch Marner to set up Matt Rupert for his 15th of the season, unfortunately though, not before another pair of Otter markers sealed off their side of the 6-2 final score.
With the loss, London stays at 51 points for the season with a record of 24-12-0-3.
The Knights will be looking to avenge the loss when they head off to do battle with the Otters once again, this time at the Erie Insurance Arena on Sunday (Jan. 5).