Carson Lambos and Max Streule had five days to get over the disappointment of the sudden cancellation of the world junior hockey championship.
Their sorrow still seemed pretty raw Monday afternoon.
"I think there was a bit of a common worry between everybody if it was going to come to that and our nightmare kind of came true when we heard about it...," said Lambos, a Team Canada defenceman, in a Zoom call with reporters in Winnipeg where he has rejoined the WHL's Ice.
"To see a lot of the those guys that are a year older than I am and they don't have the chance to be on that team next year. Hopefully, they can work something out for the summer, but you know, that's pretty devastating."
Slovakian goaltender Simon Latkoczy blasted the IIHF for "terrible" organization of the event staged in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta. The tournament was deep-sixed after positive COVID-19 tests prompted the forfeiture of three games, including Slovakia being awarded a 1-0 win over Russia.
Lambos had no interest in piling on.
"He has his opinion, he's a goalie and very outspoken by the sounds of (it)," he said. "I saw what he said but you know, at the end of the day, it is what it is and different people have different opinions. I'll just kind of move on with my life and not focus on ripping something apart or tearing something down."
"at the end of the day, it is what it is and different people have different opinions. I'll just kind of move on with my life and not focus on ripping something apart or tearing something down." — Carson Lambos
Streule, a hard-hitting blue-liner on the Swiss team and Lambos' teammate in Winnipeg, felt the cancellation was the proper decision.
"I'm not trying to pick sides here," he said. "At the end, it wasn't possible to play the tournament how it was supposed to be played, so I think it was a good health decision to make."
Streule, an 18-year-old WHL rookie with two goals and seven points in 28 games, is in his NHL Draft year and relished the opportunity to showcase himself on a world stage.
Lambos, a first-round pick of the Minnesota Wild with 18 points in 19 games, had a long cherished goal to play for his country at the world junior championship. There has been speculation the IIHF could reschedule the tournament to be completed this summer.
"I'm pretty sad about the whole thing and... definitely upset and still getting over it," he said. "You know, a lot of work and a lot of effort goes into getting there and being a part of that team."
Streule and Lambos will now turn their attention to the Ice, which is currently leading the WHL with a 27-5-2-0 record. Winnipeg posted a 6-1 victory over the host Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday night with a decimated lineup on the back end.
In addition to Lambos and Streule, Winnipeg was missing veteran defencemen Karter Prosofsky and Ben Zloty and goaltender Daniel Hauser.
"At the end, it wasn't possible to play the tournament how it was supposed to be played, so I think it was a good health decision to make." — Max Streule
In their absence, the Ice used 16-year-old rookie Omen Harmacy and Jonas Woo, 15, and 16-year-old Ashton Cumby, a pair of affiliated players, in a five-man defensive rotation.
However, with three games already postponed due to capacity restrictions in the province including Monday's scheduled matchup with the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors and Saturday's game against the Calgary Hitmen, the Winnipeggers are hoping to play a two-game set against the Regina Pats on Jan. 15 and 16 at Wayne Fleming Arena.
"I'm looking forward to play again in the doubleheader against Regina," said Streule. "And I think everyone that's involved is doing the best they can — the WHL and the commissioner — to get that going and to help us to get a healthy season."
Lambos hasn't suited up for a WHL game since injuring a shoulder on Nov. 19 but he wasn't concerned with the layoff between games, however long that may be.
"I think being on the ice at the world juniors with the best of the best there really pushed me every day and I think I feel pretty good about where I'm at right now," said Lambos. "It's unfortunate that our games are being postponed, but you know, as a team, I think we're gonna work on getting better every day in practice."
Despite the pain they endured over the last week, there is a clear upside to returning to play for a championship contender.
"Me and Max and our whole team are pretty fortunate to have the team we have," said Lambos. "It's lots of fun going to the rink every day."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.