Paul Bittner opens the season with Portland Aug. 30

Canada shut down Team USA 4-0 Saturday in the gold medal game of the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in Piestany, Slovakia.

Crookston native Paul Bittner, who opened many eyes by finishing the tournament with two goals and an assist, spoke with the Times from the Denver airport Sunday evening on his way home.

"I will definitely sleep all day tomorrow," he said. "Our expectations were high and we had a really good team and a great group of guys. We wanted to get that gold and we gave it all we had, we just fell short. I had great expectations for the team and great expectations for myself."

Canada outshot USA 30-21 and held the Americans to very few quality scoring chances. USA was exhausted from its semifinal win Friday over Czech Republic in Breclav, Czech Republic.

"It was hard because the day before we played the semifinal in Breclav at the Czech's home rink," said Bittner. "That was loud. They had drums and they were chanting every second. It was very hot in the locker rooms and you could barely see the puck on the ice it was so foggy. Playing five games in six days, we were gassed. But we gave it all we had against Canada. We battled to the last minute. We were right there and we had a shot at the gold medal. Canada had to play five games in six days too."

Bittner said right now the loss to Canada still hurts but he is very proud to bring a silver medal home.

"Right now I'm still not happy," he said. "You can't draw it up any better, Canada and USA. That is one game we really wanted to win. It's one of those games you really want to have, but when I look back I left it all out there.

"I was really happy with the way I played," Bittner continued. "I started a little slow at the beginning, but I found my game in the second period of the first game against Finland. My first goal lifted my spirits up."

Bittner said the team chemistry was definitely there.

"I thought it would be harder than what it was," he said of the team bonding. "It was really satisfying. Everybody was Snapchatting on the team. Everybody liked everybody. We bought into what the coaches taught us in DC and we brought it to the tournament."

Bittner opens his season with the Portland Winterhawks on Aug. 30.

"I'm really excited. I'm pumped," Bittner exclaimed. "We hope to go back to the Memorial Cup, for sure. Hopefully we will win it but we'll see what happens. I want to be a team guy and be there for the team and do what they ask. Try to be everything they want me to be and try to win another championship this year."


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