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Miles Morrisseau
Indian Country Today

It looked like it was all over for Team Canada at the International Ice Hockey Federation championship in Helsinki, Finland, until Indigenous hockey player Zach Whitecloud gave them one last chance for gold.

There were just more than two minutes left on the clock, and the Canadian net was empty so that an extra skater was out on the ice. Everything was on the line when 25-year-old Whitecloud of the Vegas Golden Knights put on a world-class performance.

He started the play up the ice with a crisp pass to Adam Lowry of the Winnipeg Jets and picked up the pass from the corner, firing a perfect shot past Finnish netminder.

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The celebration of his singular shot was quickly tempered, with the goal put under review in a game that already had had some questionable calls.

Finland began the third period with three straight power plays, including a 5-on3 power play that gave the team the opportunity to score two goals in the third period to take a 3-1 lead. Canadian broadcasters calling one of those penalties a “phantom call."

Whitecloud’s goal was eventually allowed to stand, however, and the game continued. With 1:24 left on the clock, Canadian Max Comtois scored to tie the game and send it to overtime. Then, with just more than five minutes left in overtime, Canadian Captain Thomas Chabot was called for hooking and Finland’s Sakari Mannimen put the game on ice for the hometeam.

Finland won gold, and Canada took silver.

The series was Whitecloud’s first international competition representing Canada since he came into the National Hockey League.

Whitecloud came into the league in 2017, and that year was the youngest player selected to play at The Karjala Cup, an annual tournament hosted by Finland. The right-shooting defensemen is 6-foot-two and weighs 210 pounds, according to his home community website.

Whitecloud grew up in the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in Manitoba, Canada, and is believed to be the first Dakota Sioux to play in the National Hockey League.

After joining the NHL, he was up and down to the Chicago Wolves until the 2020-2021 season, when he played 51 games for the Golden Knights, finishing the season with two goals, 10 assists and a plus-minus of 12.

This past season, he posted career highs in points with 19, scoring eight goals and chipping in with 11 assists. He also had his first two-goal game in the NHL when he scored a pair against the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 18. He accomplished it again when he scored two goals against the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 12.

Whitecloud’s Vegas Golden Knights did not qualify for the 2022 playoff round despite finishing with a solid record of 43 wins, 31 losses and 8 ties, posting a respectable 94 points. It would not be enough in the highly competitive Pacific division.

The NHL season concluded on April 29 and the roster for Team Canada was announced on May 9. Czechia won bronze earlier in the tournament with an 8-4 win over Team USA.

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