(Photo - Garrett James)
As of December 26, 2019, no Merritt Centennials player had ever suited up in the World Junior Championship.
On December 27, 2019, Daniel Tkac changed that.
Tkac joined Q101 to discuss the tournament and the feeling of dawning his nation's sweater on the World stage.
“It’s something you always dream about, it’s an unbelievable feeling when you get to play on that stage, it’s just unreal. Just amazing,” said Tkac.
And the ‘Slovakian Superman’ didn’t just play, he performed, finding the back of the net for the game-winning goal over Kazakhstan.
“It was a nice pass, even though it hit a couple of sticks and feet, but it was bouncing, and I just tried to get my stick on it. Once it hit my stick, I guess it just floated into the net, it took a while, once it went in, I was pumped and excited,” said Tkac. “The body took over (after I scored), pure reaction.”
Tkac would add an assist in the second game of the Juniors and continue to gain the trust of the Slovakian staff, be utilized on the power play, penalty kill and at even strength.
“It felt good. You always want to be one of those guys to be trusted. I’m glad he trusted me in those types of situations, it was a good experience,” added Tkac.
As for playing against some elite talent, including Alexis Lafreniere and Team Canada in the quarters?
“It was nice to play against those types of players, see where you’re at,” began Tkac. “It’s not every day you get to play against those types, it’s nice when you get the chance, try to keep up with them and do everything you can.”
“It is a confidence booster, I can feel it I think, I’m not going to lie it’s a confidence booster,” added Tkac.
Staying out of the box was the biggest lesson Tkac learned from the tourney, saying when you give those caliber players a chance to score, they find a way and take advantage.
Tkac’s lasting memory from the tournament certainty wasn’t a surprise.
“The overall experience, but also definitely the goal, that’s going to be a big one. Enjoying the moment, soaking everything in, it was awesome,” concluded Tkac.
Tkac will be lacing them up for the Cents tonight for the first time since December as Merritt welcomes West Kelowna to the NVMA.
Catch the broadcast on Q101 beginning at 6:45 with Jared Thomas and Michael Reeve.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt