Gudbranson brothers lean on each other
The Gudbranson family's holiday season had two very different endings, with Erik claiming a silver medal after Team Canada lost the final of the world junior hockey championship in Buffalo, and younger brother Alex winning gold for Team Ontario at the world under-17 tournament in Winnipeg.
They may have spent Christmas apart, but the Gudbranson brothers are very close. After capturing gold in Winnipeg, Alex travelled to Buffalo to cheer on Erik in Canada's gold-medal game against Russia.
Alex, who along with Erik plays defence for the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs, said later that he could anticipate his brother's moves on the ice.
"I was watching him out there and I knew where he was going to go," Alex said before Kingston's home game against Owen Sound on Friday night. "Some might have thought he was going up, and I knew he was going to the side or something.
"It's things like that, you know we have such a similar hockey style. There's obviously some differences, but for the most part I could anticipate what he was going to do in the long stretch passes and stuff."
Even after wearing the Maple Leaf himself, the OHL rookie was motivated by his brother's efforts at Buffalo's HSBC Arena.
"I felt like I wanted to get out there myself," Alex said. "Putting on that jersey is something special and something different, and watching Erik play was amazing. Watching him represent this country and hearing people chant his name when he hit somebody was special."
Team Canada held a 3-0 lead against the Russians entering the last 20 minutes of play before suffering one of the worst collapses in Canadian hockey history and losing 5-3.
Despite the crushing defeat, Alex made sure to congratulate his brother after the game.
"I gave him a big hug and told him to be proud of himself. It's not easy losing, especially in a country that expects gold in every tournament. It's not easy but he should keep his head held high."
Erik, who in 2008 captained his own team to a world under-17 title, was proud of his younger brother's gold-medal win with Team Ontario.
"As soon as I saw him after the game, I said 'Congratulations.' I was really proud of him," said Erik, a Florida Panthers draft pick. "I obviously was trying to get away from the thought of us losing, but I sat down beside him, congratulated him and told him I was really proud of him."
Brotherly success in junior hockey isn't anything new. In 2008, Luke Schenn took home gold with Team Canada at the world juniors, while younger brother Brayden Schenn won bronze at the world under-17 tournament with Team West in the same year. In 2009, goaltending siblings Chet and Calvin Pickard captured, respective, gold with Team Canada at the world juniors and bronze at the world under-17s.
Even with his brother's success, Erik said losing gold for Canada will always be a painful topic.
"It was awful. To be honest with you, we felt as though we let everybody down. It's tough to go through that. You can't look at it from a positive standpoint after the game. It's even tough now.
"It was pretty brutal in the [dressing] room [after the game]. It wasn't a good scene, but the guys rallied around and said their goodbyes and what-not and moved on."
Gilmour glad to have Gudbransons
The Frontenacs held a pre-game ceremony Friday to congratulate the Gudbransons and goaltender Phillip Grubauer, who represented Germany at the world juniors. Kingston then snapped a four-game losing skid with a 4-2 victory over Owen Sound.
Head coach Doug Gilmour said he's glad to have the Gudbranson brothers back on the blue-line.
"It's huge for us, after [Mitch] Gaulton got hurt on our point and we only had four D. You can just tell the confidence they both have. Little Guddy, that was one of his best games he's played all year. And Erik, he's just a force out there all the time."
Gilmour said it's hard to categorize the Gudbranson brothers, but they have something in common in their work ethic.
"I've played with different guys over the years, like the Sutters, and these guys are a little bit different right now," Gilmour said. "Older Guddy is a little bit more offensive and little Guddy is only a 16-year-old, he's a rookie here, and he's got some great skills too.
"They both compete hard and that's what I love about them."
Erik, who notched a goal and an assist in Friday's game, absorbed a lot from his world junior teammates, but said losing the gold has changed his perspective on the game.
"I was able to learn a lot of things there, a few little tidbits on the ice, but I think the biggest thing is the bitter taste in my mouth.
"I never want to taste that again."