Canada wins World Junior gold medal
Canada held off a second period Russian charge to take the 2015 IIHF World Junior gold medal with a 5-4 win on Monday in Toronto.
The victory marked an undefeated (seven wins) ending to the tournament for the men’s junior team from Hockey Canada, and its 16th title, but it didn’t come without a major scare.
Canada had powered to a commanding 5-1 lead by 12:30 of the second period and it seemed the rest of the game would be a mere formality. However, Russia showed its resiliency and pushed back quickly.
A power play goal at 14:21 by Ivan Barbashev and an even strength tally 32 seconds later from Sergei Tolchinski suddenly saw Russia cut the deficit in half to 5-3. Then, with 2:23 remaining in the second period, the Russians were one goal back thanks to Nikolai Goldobin.
That effectively canceled out Canadian goals from the first period by Anthony Duclair and Nick Paul, and two more in the second from Connor McDavid and Max Domi. Dmitri Yudin grabbed a first period goal for Russia after Duclair and Paul had put Canada up 2-0 in just two minutes and 32 seconds from the opening faceoff.
A hooking penalty to Sam Reinhart – scorer of Canada’s fifth goal and ultimately the game winner – at the end of the second period saw Russia start the third on a power play.
Canada managed to kill off the Russian man advantage en route to victory following an 11-save third period from Zach Fucale. Canada had just four shots in the final 20 minutes.
“Relief and excitement” is how Reinhart described his feelings on the final outcome. He is one of three Canadian players to finish with tournament-leading 11 points, though his five goals gives him the top scorer honour ahead of teammates Nic Petan and McDavid in the leaderboard.
Head coach Benoit Groulx used the spirit of the Sochi 2014 men’s ice hockey gold medal win as an example for his young squad, saying “if we believe our team is a dream team at the junior level… what’s a better example than the (Sochi team)?”
Canada had dominated the 2005 tournament with most of the same players from Sochi, such as Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, that led the men to the top of the Olympic podium in Russia.
“Let’s use them as a model,” Groulx said. “I thought that team was unbelievable. Our team was pretty good too.”
Easy going team captain Curtis Lazar said he felt “all joy” when asked if he was relieved to have put the Russian rally behind him.
“We turned it into a positive,” Lazar said of the comeback. “If we relied on the pressure and the distractions then things could’ve gone pretty ugly.”
Canada had buckled against Russia in a similar gold medal situation in 2011. Lazar had an explanation for why the 2015 team wasn’t going to let that happen.
“The unity and the chemistry we have in the dressing room. I mean everyone got along. Myself being captain, I take it upon myself to bring everyone together. I joined the camp late but by that time everyone was a part of it, that’s big. You go on the ice, you’re playing for each other.”
“This is the end result.”