It seems like these two teams cannot play a bad game when it comes to the World Junior Championship. No matter when they meet or what is at stake the games end up being nail biters. As an organizer you almost hope that Canada and Russia meet in the gold medal game because you know it is not going to disappoint. That being said the stars did align and Canada and Russia did meet with gold on the table last night and it was a great game.
Such a good game that attempting to describe it with only words seems inadequate. Last night’s final was all about the visuals – looks on player’s faces, crunching body checks, seeing eye shots, wild scrambles in front of the net, coaches trying to remain calm, fans going wild in the stands, and even some tears at the end. The game was all about wild momentum changes and goals coming in bunches. One team (Canada) thinking that a 4 goal lead was safe and then quaking in their skates while trying to protect the slimmest of leads while the other was down, then up and then down again. A wild, wonderful affair.
In front of their fans Canada got off to the dream start. By the time most are just getting into their seats in front of the television Canada had already busted out of the gates with an early 2-0 lead. First was by Anthony Duclair with a quick and precise wrist shot to the far side off a smart little pass from his linemate Max Domi only 23 seconds into the game and then a mere 2 minutes and 9 seconds later Nick Paul redirected a lovely backhand pass from Brayden Point. The two quick goals forced Russian coach to pull starting goaltender, Igor Shesyorkin and putting in Ilya Sorokin. Just like that fans were ecstatic and dreaming of an easy victory. Those dreams were tempered when the Russians got on the board at 9:20 with a goal by defenseman Dmitri Yudin.
In another flurry of goals at the midway point of the 2nd period the Canadians pushed their lead to 5-1. This time it was Connor McDavid, Max Domi and Sam Reinhart scoring and the party was on again in a span of just over 7 minutes. Now, everyone in their right minds had to believe this was game over. A 4 goal lead for a team that had only allowed 4 goals all tournament. Seemed insurmountable. Well, if you believe in that sort of thing, momentum swung again. To show that whatever Canada did they could do better, Russia scored 3 of their own in just over 3 minutes. Some of the damage was self-inflicted by the Canadians as two of the goals were on the power play, but full credit to the Russians for not giving up.
This one goal lead meant for tight collar times during the 3rd period. It was a 3rd in which the Russians kept knocking on the door outshooting the Canadians 11-4. Somehow the boys in red managed to hold on to the 5-4 lead. The drought was over and it was gold for Canada!
Canadians like to boast that hockey is our game even though our national sport is lacrosse. A big part of our national identity springs forth from the idea that we are the best in the world at hockey. So you can only imagine how painful it has been that for five long years we have not won gold at the World Junior Championship. Even worse is that we have not even won a medal of any colour for two years. As such a lot of pressure is put on the shoulders of these 16-19 year olds and even more so this year as they were playing on home soil. Not only did the team this year withstand that pressure and emerge victorious they are now in discussions as the best Canadian team at the World Juniors ever.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees – Marcus Vinnerborg (Sweden) and Tobias Wehrli (Switzerland)
Linesmen – Miroslav Lhotsky (Czech Republic) and Andreas Malmqvist (Sweden)
Goals: 1st Period:
0:23: Canada – Anthony Duclair assisted by Max Domi
2:32: Canada – Nick Paul assisted by Brayden Point and Jake Virtanen
9:20: Russia – Dmitri Yudin assisted by Anatoli Golyshev and Alexander Dergachyov
5:08: Canada – Connor McDavid assisted by Josh Morrissey
7:22: Canada – Max Domi unassisted
12:30: Canada – Sam Reinhart assisted by Max Domi
14:21: Russia – (pp) Ivan Barbashyov assisted by Dmitri Yudin and Pavel Buchnevich
14:53: Russia – Sergei Tolchinski assisted by Nikolai Goldobin and Rinat Valiev
17:37: Russia – (pp) Nikolai Goldobin assisted by Sergei Tolchinski and Vladislav Kamenev
-Shots on Goal: Canada – 21
Russia – 30
-Players of the Game: Canada – Darnell Nurse
Russia – Ivan Barbashyov
-Final Score: Canada – 5
Russia – 4